Sunday, December 10, 2006

Kabita Down Under

'Kabita Down Under' is the name of the anthology of Australian poetry being published by Patralekha for the International Book Fair in Kolkata India during January 2007. The trio of editors; Ankur Saha, Subrata Augustine Gomes, and Shoumyo Dasgupta have selected more than 200 poems by 70 Australian poets for translation into (Bangla) for this Anthology, starting from Barron Field and ending in Jaya Savige.

Barron Field was Charles Lamb's and Wordsworth's friend. He was a judge of the Supreme Court in Sydney when he self published 'First Fruits of Australian Poetry' in 1819 containing two poems - the long poem Botany Bay Flowers and The Kangaroo.

In 1825 Field's New South Wales was published and included the poem Sonnet. In 1888 the anthology A Century of Australian Song appeared, containing the three poems, one in the text and two in an appendix at the end of the collection.

I'm really impressed that the editors for the Kabita Down Under Anthology have included poetry and poets from our early history. I am also a little intrigued about the arrangement of work and how it might suggest a journey through Australian poetry from its 'first fruits' up to the present day. My own work will appear on pages 30 and 31.

It seems a bit of a shame that an Australian publisher couldn't pick up on this anthology and publish an English language version, or an expanded and more sprawling version, or a dual English/Bangla version. There is certainly room for Australian poetry anthologies to engage with our early poets, our poetic history by including well-known and lesser known poets from that period forward and I wonder that this isn't a priority. In fact, after reading the Weekend Australian review on Saturday, Peter Rose (editor of the Australian Book Review) might agree with me, or I might agree with him.

Discussing his reading selections, he mentions The Oxford Book of American Poetry (OUP) edited by David Lehman and including more than 200 poets in 1200 pages. Quoting his comments in full, 'There are weighty selections from giants such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery. Any young reader with an imagination should receive a copy this Christmans. If Australian poetry is to have a life beyond the internet and the cognoscenti, we urgently need an anthology of this kind: vast, catholic, inexpensive and widely available.'

He won't get any arguments from me on that, although if someone with his obvious connections can't push that idea forward, one wonders who could.

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