In Tribute: Melbourne Poets Lost and Loved – Part 1

Words by Steve Smart

During a performance at Slamalamadingdong in Carlton last year, I performed a piece in tribute to a number of Melbourne poets who have passed away in the last 20 years or so. Afterwards Benjamin Solah suggested I curate a series of articles for MSW based this theme. So this is the beginning salvo in a war against forgetting!

I will say that I’m pretty nervous about this project. I’ve ummed and ahhed and put it off because in comparison I often still feel like a stupid kid. But I’m not a kid anymore, and as I grow older I feel more keenly the responsibility to help keep the words of others alive. This isn’t about me, this is about us

I’m gonna throw a list of names at you and see which ones you recognise. My thanks to Pamela Sidney for publishing the original list, which I’ve added to. The list is in (hopefully) chronological order of passing but isn’t a reflection of the order in which the articles will be written. That one will be a bit more random.

A.P. Johnson * John Anderson * Alan ‘All-Ego/Word-Warrior’ Gregory * John Forbes * Mal Morgan * David Branson * Adrian Rawlins * Glen Tomasetti, Sandon McLeod * Doris Leadbetter * Patrick Alexander * Odin Karlsson * Amanda Wilson * Jenny Boult * Shelton Lea, * Michael Duggan * Lisa Bellear * Ted Lord * Joyce Lee * Geoffrey Eggleston * Jonathan Dark * Dorothy Porter * Martin Downey * John West * Aileen Kelly * Cornelis Vleeskins * Leon Shann * Ken Taylor

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. I’m sure there are names missing. Nor is it an Australian dead poets list. In order to maintain focus and not spend the next 30 years of my life doing this (though I will anyway), I’ve kept it to Melbourne poets or poets who had a particularly strong connection to Melbourne.

Several of the poets on the list are my friends and mentors, and I don’t feel I should discount them on that basis. I am in no way objective. This must be very clear.

A number of the poets on the list I didn’t actually know personally at all but have read, heard stories about and come to feel an affinity with them. A few of them I know very little about and am excited to discover who they were.

To make this happen I’m going to be conducting interviews to fill in the enormous gaps in my knowledge. If you are friend or foe to any of the poets mentioned, or you know of anyone who should be covered in these articles, step forward. Don’t be shy. Any photos, video/audio or written anecdotes would also be much appreciated.

The first article will be on Sandon Mcleod. The reason for this is simple; she was my best friend and I feel most confident to do her justice. Also so many of the research materials are already right in front of me. I’m looking at the boxes right now, time to dive in.

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