Sunday, November 1, 2015

Book Review–First Light : a selection of poems by Philip Hodgins

first-light

It’s perhaps a sign of how divorced from the larger Australian culture poetry is, that I missed Philip Hodgins’ rise and impact on the scene. 

The accolades don’t seem to gel with my experience: - “one of the major poets of his generation”, “a leading poet in any terms”. 

I knew nothing of him until two years ago.  And in my work as a relief teacher I have not once come across him being studied in classrooms (a crying shame considering the content and variety of his form).

This is not a criticism of the poet nor of the scene.  It is, I think the times we live in and they way that poetry survives as an art form in this country.

While much of Hodgins works can be viewed for free at the Australian Poety Library, First Light gives the reader the chance to hold a curated collection in their hand.  Something that’s suprisingly hard to do (there’s only one copy of one collection in the entire South Australian Library system)

I had searched the country for second hand copies of his Selected Poems to no avail.  That First Light is produced by an American publisher is also curious for a poet that is held with such high regard.

I am, however, an unabashed fan and although I think we may have had some differences of opinion on some things, he is my favourite Australian male poet.  I have read a library copy of New Selected Poems and in comparison First Light does as good a job of showcasing Hodgins’ best work: the skill with which he uses form and free verse, his updating of the realities of farming life in the poetry cannon and his poems on the subject of his own death.

I’ll leave you with links to some select poems contained within this collection:

Shooting the Dogs

Bucolica

I think any serious Australian poet should know of Philip Hodgins, particularly any one writing of a rural experience. First Light is a good compact collection that I think would appeal to lovers of more traditional form, rhythm and rhyme as well as free verse. 

First Light is available at all good bookstores and online via Booktopia.

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