Will Yeoman, journalist for The West Australian and director of the York Festival, interviews Wheatbelt resident and habitué of York, John Kinsella. Listen to John Kinsella's episode Writing the Wheatbelt on York Stories: The York Festival Podcast.
John Kinsella discusses his first volume of collected poems, his connection to York and Western Australia, his activism, Dante Alighieri, and his life career as a poet. John Kinsella has written over 20 books of poetry, as well as plays and fiction; he also maintains an active literary career as a teacher and editor. His’s many volumes of poetry include the prize winning collections Peripheral Light: New and Selected Poems and The New Arcadia. He is an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and a Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia.
The Ascension of Sheep is the first volume of a three-volume Collected Poems by John Kinsella that dates back to when he was seventeen, and moves on through forty-one-plus years of writing and memorising poetry. Collected in one place for the first time are poems that have appeared in chapbooks or other publications outside Australia, or that are out of print. Kinsella’s major poetic concerns have been how to write place without claiming place (he acknowledges he lives on stolen Aboriginal land), how to write of being part of many place-experiences at once, and how to write the biosphere with ecological and humanitarian justice in mind. Further, his poems consider how we might be regionally communal and internationally responsive at once, without ever succumbing to economic globalism: a mode of living he refers to as ‘international regionalism’. Always attuned to the natural world, his activist poetry examines how humans respond to a world that they themselves have placed under pressure. But his concerns are many, and literature, art and music are ever-present in a poetry that affirms the creative as a potential force for positive change. His embracing of many different poetic forms, along with a merging of the 'lyrical' and 'experimental', seeks to reinforce that diversity is to be celebrated. These volumes of poetry are a landmark addition to Australian literature.