7 March 2005

Review of Andrew Sant's Tremors

Tremors by Andrew Sant. Black Pepper, A$ 27.95.

Reviewed by Nicholas Birns

Tremors, handsomely produced by the admirable Black Pepper, contains selections from six of Andrew Sant's books published originally from 1982 to 2002, accompanied by fourteen new, previously unpublished poems. This book makes a strong argument for Sant's stature in contemporary Australian poetry, placing him in the center of one of its most energetic strands. It is surprising to realize how many 'cosmopolitan' poets Australia seems to have. There is, of course, Peter Porter, now granted his Australian identity by critics even though he is a long-term expatriate in London, and, in the younger generation, Peter Rose, Adam Aitken, as well as Sant himself. One might judge this strain in Australia poetry as stemming from A. D. Hope. Yet cosmopolitanism is not the same as classicism, as is shown by the fact that even the committed experimentalism of John Tranter has a cosmopolitan overlay in his work. Nor is it the same as being massively learned and curious. Cosmopolitanism implies a steadiness of tone, an imperturbability. American equivalents (Frederick Feirstein?) would be hard to find. Sant was born in England and individual poems of his are reminiscent of the work od Andrew Motion, Douglas Dunn, Roy Fuller, and James Fenton. Even more, Christopher Reid's blurb makes one give a 'Martian' reading to some of Sant's lines, e.g., “As if the world / is merely an object / whose diversity holidays / in learned journals.” But Britain does not quite have a poet like Sant. New Zealand (the early David Eggleton, perhaps?) and Canada (F. R. Scott?), with introspective lyricism still at the core of their poetic traditions, have very little of this cosmopolitan tradition. (That all of the aforementioned examples are white, male poets raises yet further questions.)

Link to the rest of the review.

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