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Claire Miranda Roberts, Kangaroo Paw

Shortlisted for the 2024 Victorian Premier's Awards (Poetry)

'Kangaroo Paw is tightly focused on observing indigenous and introduced flora; it is a collection reminiscent of a series of miniaturist artworks. The writing is characterised by controlled intensity and formal play – renewing a sense of how words work to sort and label – while its visual patterning typifies mathematical precision. The poems in its opening sequence adopt an unusual formal approach: they create gaps within poems which characterise and embody the growth patterns of open bushland. In contrast, other poems mirror non-indigenous flora through the use of more enclosed traditional forms. We were struck by the collection’s insistence on poetic form (inflected by Roberts’ training as a visual artist), in this era of often looser poetics. This is a subtle and enigmatic work that invites re-reading.' 2024 VPLA Judges' report

Kangaroo Paw journeys through two poetic landscapes: the informal and the formal. The latter leans into traditional verse through the sonnet, cento, procedural works and half-rhyme. This is a stylised garden, complete with introduced plant species, yet troubled by the lyrebird and rainbows that fall to the earth. In contrast, the opening sequence travels through open bushland via a series of fragments, stopping at the smallest wildflower, taking form from the split in a branch and the gaps in the canopy. Here, poetry is localised and tied to the author's lived experience, wherein personal revelations ‘fall like looped jade’. In Kangaroo Paw, fragments shift into lyrics and lyrics into prose. Throughout, Roberts' is attentive to nature, phenomena, beauty, and the Whitmanian 'life below'.

‘In love with restraint and paradoxes of scale (‘the largest eucalypts have the smallest flowers’), these minimalist, phenomenological lyrics in the spirit of Dickinson and Niedecker revere their interstices, enigmas and openings; the poem between ‘iris and the iris-image’, ‘a pact with the aerial/ferns that bud’. Using the page/book as sensorium and laboratory to conjure ‘life/below life’, ‘thinking about living’, Roberts explores the poetic interface and in-florescence of subjectivity, language and nature.’ Helen Anne Bell Poetry Award Bequest 2022 judges’ commendation

Claire Miranda Roberts was born in Melbourne and has lived in the UK, where she completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews. Claire's poetry has been published in many highly regarded literary journals, including Antipodes, Communion (Walleah Press), Plumwood Mountain, Text: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, and Westerly Magazine, among others. She has also been shortlisted and commended in a number of international poetry competitions, including the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize 2020 and the Stephen Spender Prize 2021. Most recently, her manuscript was shortlisted for the 2021 Helen Anne Bell Poetry Bequest Award – Australia's richest poetry prize for women. Claire's poetry has been described as 'haiku-like, observational of nature, each image seemingly occurring as the eye falls on it ... a mastery of not only poetic language but also poetic placement' (Terry Jaensch, 2020). Claire also has a strong interest in Australian history and genealogy, which she explores on her blog The Other Beauty


Claire Miranda Roberts, Kangaroo Paw
2023. 127mm x 178mm. 80pp.
ISBN 978-1-925735-53-6
Release: February 2023


This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

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