Monday, December 19, 2011


I do not teach truth as such; I do not transform myself in a diaphanous mouthpiece of eternal pedagogy: I settle accounts , however I can, on a certain number of problems; with you and with me or me, and through you, me and me, with a certain number of authorities represented here. I understand that the place I am now occupying will not be left out of the exhibit or withdrawn from the scene. Nor do I intend to withhold even that which I shall call, to save time, an autobiographical demonstration, although I must ask you to shift its sense a little and to listen to it with another ear. I wish to take a certain pleasure in this, so that you may learn this pleasure from me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Attitudes to poetry part three: The Prime Minister's award for poetry

This from Australian Poetry:

The annual Prime Minister's Literary Awards will now include a poetry category. Collections of poems first published in book form between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011 are eligible for entry. The winning entry will receive $80 000 tax-free and the shortlisted entries will receive $5000 tax-free. This major award is a great step forward in recognising and promoting poetry's contribution to Australia’s literary landscape.

So firstly, honestly, without irony, best of luck to whoever wins it.

But I think it's obscene.

Many (most?) working Australians don't earn 80,000 after tax. And don't start on about "Writing is work and should be paid". That sum bears no relation to sales of poetry books in Australia. It's unlikely that any poet is going to earn that in royalties from one book in a year. (Most won't see that in a life time). The government might as well give a lottery ticket to every poet who publishes a book. (And given the way literary prizes are handed out, it'd be more fair as a comment on the quality of the book.)

WIll it encourage more people to read or buy more poetry books? No. WIll it help struggling independent publishers keep their heads above water? No. (They could split the prize. three quarters to the publisher on the condition they use it to publish new books and the rest to the poet.) WIll it help provide new paying markets for poets? No.

it will give someone the right to put a sticker on a book.

Apparently what it will do is allow Australian Poetry to continue to keep making bizarre statements like: This major award is a great step forward in recognising and promoting poetry's contribution to Australia’s literary landscape..

How does it do that by throwing an obscene amount of money at a single book? It only highlights the fact that in the Australian literary landscape no poet can make this kind of money?