‘Best’, the editor of this collection tells us, is a difficult concept, because once you pass the number two , the comparative disappears into a mass of superlatives.With forty poems included in this collection, there are a lot of ‘bests’, but Porter (the aforementioned editor) tells us he had an embarrassment of riches to choose from and has chosen from them those he sees most worthy of the title. As an expatriate Australian with eighteen published volumes of verse and prizes including the Forward Prize and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Porter is well qualified to act as Guest Editor and judge of what constitutes the best of Australian poetry.
To qualify for selection in the volume, poems must have been written by Australian poets and published in an Australian journal in the preceding year. The poems selected came from forty poets, published in 14 different journals – ranging from The Age and The Australian to Island, Meanjin and Southerly.
The poems on offer range from short and whimsical (in Bee Season Kirwan Henry that he likes bees
If not for their sting
Then for their stripes.)
to the long and serious, such as Under the Shaded Blossom in which John Jenkins details an imaginary meeting between poet Wallace Stevens and mafia boss Meyer Lansky.
For those who like to read and digest poetry, this is a fine collection and for those who would like a taste of what is on offer, this is an excellent starting point. Other poets represented here include Fay Zwicky, Les Murray, John Kinsella and Bruce Dawe.
The Best Australian Poetry 2005, Guest Editor Peter Porter