We are, it seems, in the middle of “Anthology Season” in Australia. So far there doesn’t seem to be a Hallmark card or a supermarket display to clue everyone into this, but nonetheless those in the know can tell you: the anthologies are upon us.
Of course this time of year sees us anticipating the release of the Black Inc trio of Best Australian Essays, Best Australian Short Stories and—of particular interest to me, obviously—Best Australian Poems. But this year there have been others coming into the fray: the enormous Australian Poetry Since 1788, UQP’s update on the format demonstrated by Calyx ten years ago with 30 Australian Poets (to disclose: I am among the 30 poets born since 1969 that have been included in this collection), and now, from John Leonard Press, Young Poets, representing the work of seven Australian voices in the early stages of their careers.
And this is, too, a year I have been thinking a great deal about anthologies as I’ve been writing about the great Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz for this work as an anthologist. My thinking about anthologies has been especially influenced by Milosz’s A Book of Luminous Things, which is among the anthologies that most clearly wear their idiosyncratic vision on their sleeves. Milosz confesses many things in this book: that he’s drawn to shorter poems. That he has a particular interest in Polish poetry, American poetry (his home when in exile from Poland) and, through the influence of colleagues, the poetry of East Asia. While some critics reacted against his introductions to each poem (he writes a few sentences or a paragraph about almost every one of the over-300 poems in the book) as being too personal, in fact those introductions are the point, and the charm, of the collection. Having acted as a tastemaker and “canoniser” with his famous anthology Postwar Polish Poetry, Milosz here is mere demonstrating his own tastes, sharing his own loves.