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2017 - Shortlisted
John Kinsella’s thirty-fourth book of poetry, Firebreaks, is a masterful work that confirms his reputation as one of the most significant Australian poets of his generation. Firebreaks is a return to the relaxed, well-paced observations of books such as Full Fathom Five and Eschatologies. It contemplates his beloved Western Australian landscape — as well as Ireland’s southwest-coast Mizen Head — as sacred country worthy of a life of care and patient, reflective heeding.
The poems do more than bear witness: they bear testament. Kinsella’s signature verbal immediacy is transformed into a fierce, loving protectiveness of the land and every animate and inanimate fellow traveller. The vitality of the writing cuts through a range of orthodoxies to reveal an especially Australian vernacular and sensibility, echoing with the romantic, modern and postmodern traditions of the international scene. This is Kinsella’s most readable collection in recent years, his complex moral vision enthusiastically sharing the potential for transfiguration and restitution, a focus that has always been at the heart of his anarchist, activist tempest.