Book of Flames: Australian Love Poems 2013

Mark Tredinnick, editor. Australian Love Poems 2013. Carlton South, Australia: Inkerman & Blunt, 2014.
~Reviewed by Rona Shaffran


Australian Love Poems 2013, edited by acclaimed Australian poet Mark Tredinnick, is an anthology that will engage poetry readers who love (love) poetry. But, because it is poetry about love, many non-poetry readers are also more likely to pick it up, read it, hold it or buy it as a gift for others. Widening the readership, appeal and profile of Australian poetry through the expression of love was a key goal in publishing the book.

It is the first publication from Australia’s newest press Inkerman and Blunt. Publisher Donna Ward has said the collection aims to “bring Australians out of the closet on love, and on their love of poetry.” Australians do not see themselves as ones for grand romantic gestures, nor do others see them that way. The collection of 200 poems from 173 Australian poets, puts that myth to rest.

The introduction by Mark Tredinnick is itself a wonderful poetic piece. Treddinick observes, “There has been a good deal more head than heart in Australian poetry… more mind than body, more wit than wisdom.” He offers us, as he states, “…from this fire-prone land, this paradise of flames, this sclerophyll people – … a book of flames.” He writes, “One enters love like the underworld, or the future. … But love is life’s poetry – its sex and its spirit … it is the forest and the fire that burns the forest down. Love stops the clocks; it is eternity in an hour. It is a kind of dying that saves your life. And poetry is its idiom.”

All poetic styles are represented. Poems span the stages and faces of love, organized into sections with brilliant titles taken from lines in the book’s poems, such as “Unruly days,” “It’s time to take off our clothes,” “You are gone again” and “There is another universe in which our song is not yet finished.” Poems range from graceful and dignified to hot and sexy.

After I finished reading the anthology, its pages were heavily tagged with post-it notes flagging poems or lines that struck me. From “Untitled” by Kevin Brophy: “I loved her voice/before I saw her mouth.” From “The Way We Do in Sex,” by Lisa Jacobson: “Ask me when my tugging oil-slick fist/has you tumescent…” Or, from “Love Haiku,” by Emilie Zoey Baker: “after ten years/I still smile/watching him sleep.”

It would be fair to ask what makes these poems distinctly Australian, aside from the nationality of their authors. In one respect, the imagery and the settings create poems distinctly Australian, as in “A Priori,” by Graham Kershaw: “…the glitter and clatter of parrots/in lilacs’ higher reaches.” But in taking love as its subject, the collection seems likely to resonate with readers from any country.


Co-director of Ottawa’s RailRoad reading series, Rona Shaffran is on the organizing committee for VERSeFest. Her debut poetry collection Ignite was published in 2013. A graduate of Humber’s School for Writers and Banff’s Writing Studio, she has read at literary festivals and poetry venues across Canada and is at work on a memoir.


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