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Peter Goldsworthy

(b. 1951)

"In every line the poet strives to make language elegant enough to do justice to the world as comedy."- The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry

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Recordings

These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • If, then: poems and songs, Melbourne, Angus & Robertson, 1996
  • Navel gazing: Essays, half-truths and mystery flights, Camberwell, Victoria, Penguin, 1998
  • This Goes With That: Poems 1974-2001, Lichfield, Leviathan, 2001
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  • New Selected Poems, Sydney, Duffy & Snellgrove, 2001
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  • Peter Goldsworthy Reading from his poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
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Peter Goldsworthy (b. 1951) has been described as "one of the most skilled and satisfying poets in Australia," (A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry). Born in Minlaton, S. Australia he grew up in country towns before studying medicine at the University of Adelaide. He continues to balance his medical and writing careers. A fine fiction writer, Goldsworthy has published five novels and four collections of short stories as well as his four collections of poetry. He has won many awards including The Commonwealth Poetry Prize and the Australian Bicentennial Literary Award.

Goldsworthy's quick-witted quality is to the fore, his precise tones and hard-edged accent working in harmony with the clarity of his words. This is a sure-footed reading, as he picks his way between line-breaks and negotiates the leap from one idea to the next. The immediate impression is of confidence, a stylistic ease informed by the colloquial and combined with a rueful humour that's immediately appealing. However, this surface glitter has substance, a probing intellect which attempts "to do justice to the world as comedy." (The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry). Goldsworthy knows that humour can be a serious business, masking "the thing/we are each most afraid of" ('Jokes'). There's a pressing sense of mortality in his work and a desire to ask the big questions, even as he satirises them. Drawn to the discipline of science, Goldsworthy's poems are full of the language of the laboratory - matter, evidence, elements, chemicals - the stuff we are made of, but at the same time frustrated by these limitations into asking what else we might be. He's interested in 'The Dark Side of the Head', the things we can only know in flashes, like glimpsing a skink, but he also retains a rationalist's scepticism of the ecstatic - that "thoughtlessly exquisite" evening sky in 'Sunset' won't fool him into rapture. In these poems Goldsworthy investigates several different versions of the afterlife - is it a Swiss Patent Office ('In Paradisum')? Or simply "a fair and even distribution of matter" ('What Comes Next')? For now, the only answer he has is the tip of the broken-off lizard's tail, which is at least "a proof,/very nearly." ('Skink')

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 16 June 2003 at A.B.C., Adelaide, Australia and was produced by Mike Ladd.

Prizes

1982 Commonwealth Poetry Prize

1988 Australian Bicentennial Literary Prize for Poetry

2004 The FAW Christina Stead Award

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