I once heard a story about a biology teacher who asked a student to look closely at a fish, then write a description of it. The student took a good look at the fish, then wrote down everything he could think of to say about it.
After the student had brought back his description, the teacher told him to look at the fish again, and to write another description of it. This time the student took it home and went into real depth about everything he could find out about that species of fish, as well as this particular specimen.
When it comes to poetry anthologies, I agree with David Antin’s long-ago quip — “Anthologies are to poets as zoos are to animals” — and I think that journals and magazines are probably better indicators of what’s current in any country’s poetry than grand, often agenda-driven anthologies. Here I am presenting the work of fifty-one contemporary poets from Australia. My aim was to make it broadly representative by including innovation and experimentation alongside quasi-romanticism, elegy, and the almost-pastoral. No one in this group writes like another. The common link is simply that each poet is an Australian whether by birth, residence or citizenship.
A few years ago there was a thrilling article in the New York Times about Will Self’s arrival in the city for some literary event. It wasn’t the fact of his arrival that was thrilling, but how he arrived: on foot. Having walked from his home in London to Heathrow, he sat on a flight to JFK and then proceeded to walk the twenty miles from the airport to Manhattan. This simple act of practical psychogeography, which would have produced such a radically different experience from that of most airborne visitors, was a perfect illustration of the perceptual potential inherent in pedestrian travel. Walking, one of the most fundamental of human actions, is ahistorical, which becomes apparent even through Rebecca Solnit’s rigorous attempt to document its history in her book Wanderlust.