Poets in the corner

February 2, 2012

not everyone is such a publicist...

No, this is not a post about naughty poets (I told you to stop playing with Augusta, George*!) but about three sculptures that were just unveiled in Canberra’s Garema Place, in an area now known as Poets’ Corner. Judith Wright, David Campbell and A.D. Hope make up the triptych.

I attended the launch, and forgot to take photographs, but anyone interested can follow this link to a Canberra site called The RiotACT see what the sculptures look like. (Not everyone is as forgetful as I am.)

There were excellent poems read at the launch, and an appearance was made by Jon Stanhope, a former Chief Minister of the ACT (sort of a cross between Mayor and School Principal and Premier) who was also Arts Minister.  He was supportive of this project.

While many poets pushed for something like this, I left feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Do poets need any memorial outside their words? I don’t think so. And the sculptures (while competent) show the poets at once staring into the middle distance and totally wrapped up in an internal world, with little awareness of the actual world around them. I’m afraid that’s probably how most people see poets, anyway. The idea that the real poets of the world are the dead ones is somehow supported by this type of project, in my opinion.

Byron’s memorial plaque in Westminster Abbey (a somewhat more salubrious location than Garema Place, Canberra) was not installed until the 1969, due to his most naughty reputation. Yet did the reputation of his poetry suffer in the meantime? I don’t think so. The real memorial to these three fine poets can be found in their work. A.D. Hope and David Campbell are represented at the Australian Poetry Library.  Judith Wright doesn’t seem to be (copyright?) but examples of her work can be found on the net.

*Byron’s Christian name, as you all undoubtedly knew.  And Augusta was his half-sister.

4 Responses to “Poets in the corner”

  1. Tim Jones said

    I don’t know about statues of poets, but a physical memorial of poets and writers that I do think is worthwhile is the Wellington Writers’ Walk – in which the poets and authors are celebrated by their words rather than their likenesses:


  2. pscottier said

    This does sound more appropriate Tim. Hard to get a feeling for it without knowing the harbour, and how the walk relates to it, but I’ll take your word that it works. If I’m ever there I’ll do the walk (after sufficient delving into the authors’ books of course). The three statues I talked about do have a poem on each of them, but the likeness dominates, and they seem a little lost.

    I wish people wouldn’t put statements like this up though: ‘…it is listed in the Automobile Association’s One Hundred and One Things to Do in New Zealand.’ Is that a good thing? Makes me think of Dalmatians.

  3. Hal Judge said

    Poetry is marginal in our society. The positioning of those statutes right in the epicentre of Canberra will bring poetry to the attention of passersby who stumble across them.

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