Peter Skrzynecki, Travelling Among the Stars
'Peter Skrzynecki’s Travelling Among the Stars is a book full of memories and their effects. In fact his poetry, since his third book, Immigrant Chronicle, has been located in memories of the past. These have often been deployed for their recording quality – the word “chronicle” in the title is significant here – and for their social relevance as part of the attempt to understand and celebrate the effects and achievements of post-war immigration from Europe. In a sense there is nothing new in Travelling Among the Stars but the importance of the book is that it shows us – or, at least, me – that Skrzynecki’s poetry is not a comfortable repetitive mining of a standard stock of memories but rather a poetic oeuvre built out of obsession: these are memories that don’t go away though they may derive from experiences more than half a century old.'
Martin Duwell in Australian Poetry Review (Read more ...)
‘Travelling Among the Stars is a long way from the adventures of a young boy crossing the Red Sea with his parents and compatriots, but it is very much born out of, and threaded by that adventure. In this new collection Skrzynecki returns his reader to the all-important present. This older and wiser poet is circumspect about the time that has passed since that first journey from Naples and is significantly more skilled at negotiating silences than his four-year-old self. Almost as if in response to the men who bartered trust for silence on the voyage out of Naples, Skrzynecki now attempts to exchange silence for (more) time, for a glimpse at fading or forgotten memories, and for an opportunity to experience the incorporeal, primordial world that calls out to him. Here is a poet who has lived in all preparedness for the ‘impermanence of each day’ (‘Not Always but often Enough’); who has worked out his own salvation and readied his epitaph, seen in these lines from ‘Epitaph’:
Germany, Australia –
where to next?
Soul and body, holding hands,
travelling among the stars.
The irony is that there is no ‘next’, and no past or future, only the now; all that is fleeting is but a sign of something else.'
Reviewed by Helen Koukoutsis in Sydney Review of Books (Read more ...)
In Travelling Among the Stars, one of Australia’s best-known poets, Peter Skrzynecki, ranges across the course of his life, gathering recurrent images and memories, places and moments into a whole. The title of the collection is from ‘Epitaph’ the last poem, written in response to a moment of satori on the tarmac at Sydney airport. Skrzynecki’s poetry emerges from the natural world, from a lifetime moving back and forward across New England, the landscape inhabiting him as much as he inhabits it. These poems give the shape of a life looked back on, traces the cycle of seasons, the cycle of the years, the simple lived truths of growing up and growing old. The realization of the roles of parents in one’s life and the awareness of ageing in one’s own body run through the collection, and alongside them an acceptance for the impermanence of things. Family, nature, spirituality, the elements and seasons, and dreams co-mingle, pass by and return – culminating in acceptance and submission to a force beyond the tangible and visible, the light in the darkness before the first bird sings. From one of Australia’s best-known poets, Travelling Among the Stars offers a summation of a life lived devoted to poetry and bears witness to the impermanence at the heart of wonder and the simple daily awe of being human.
Peter Skrzynecki was born in 1945 in Germany and came to Australia in 1949. He has published twenty books of poetry and prose and won several awards including the Captain Cook BiCentenary Award, the Grace Levin Poetry Prize and the Henry Lawson Short Story Award. In 1989 he was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit by the Polish government, and in 2002 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his contribution to multicultural literature. In 2018 he received the Gold Cross of Merit from the Polish president. Immigrant Chronicle, a book of poetry, was a set text for study on the New South Wales HSC syllabus for many years. A memoir, The Sparrow Garden, was shortlisted for the National Biography Award and is now available as an E-book. Old/New World: New & Selected Poems was published in 2007 and became a set text on the VCE syllabus in Victoria. He has edited two collections of contemporary Australian writing, including Joseph’s Coat: An Anthology of Multicultural Writing in Australia (1985). His collection of short stories, The Wild Dogs (1987) was translated and published in Poland to enthusiastic reviews. He has also published two children’s books, The Rainbow-birds and Other Poems (2015) and The Dog with the Golden Paws (2016), both from Five Senses Education. In 2019 a collection of essays called Of Human Experience about his life and work was published by Boraga Academic. He is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University.
2022. 148mm x 210mm. 208pp.