‘Australian Poetry Journal’, Volume 10.1 – ‘modern elegy’, features work by more than 60 poets, guest-edited by Ellen van Neerven, Felicity Plunkett, Eunice Andrada, and David McCooey. A note from the editors, below, who also each provide individual Forewords to their suites.

If elegy is a traditional way to seek solace in the face of loss and death, it is also a mode that has long been at odds with its own consolatory project. Self-elegy and anti-elegy, in particular, are central aspects of modern elegiac practice.

While elegy is an ancient genre, elegy and the elegiac mode are particularly pertinent to this contemporary moment. The Anthropocene and its associated events mean that we live with loss, change, and mortality on both global and local scales. Contemporary elegy is both personal and public, it is concerned with change and endurance, and it is deeply traditional and wildly experimental. Australian Poetry Journal 10.1 – ‘modern elegy’ seeks work that responds to these urgent, paradoxical impulses of elegiac expression.

We can also consider other centres of loss—the human and the non-human, the intergenerational and the collective, the digital and the physical, past and future. How can we make space for the kind of mourning that is beyond our selves—the persistent yet unnoticed loss to which we live adjacent? The time of loss we live within?  

Jahan Ramazani, author of ‘Jahan Ramazani: Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney’ (University of Chicago Press, 1994) suggests that the modern elegy has extended and diversified its range, ‘incorporating more anger and skepticism, more conflict and anxiety’. And Denise Riley writes that it challenges ‘the linguistic limits of what can be conveyed’ and can become part of ‘a literature of consolation, what that could be, or what it might do.’ 

In other sections of the book we feature poetry by Behrouz Boochani, translated by Moones Mansoubi; a suite of Australian Poetry/MWF festival event poems from Melbourne Writers’ Festival in 2020; and a suite of poems commissioned by Melbourne’s City of Literature Office. We are deeply grateful for the profound work in this volume, and the ethical, gifted striving of all editors and contributors.

Designer: Stuart Geddes
Publisher: Australian Poetry
Cover artwork: punctuation drawn from a 10.1 poem, by Lisa Gorton, created by Stuart Geddes.

Published with the support of Australia Council for the Arts Projects Grant 2020, the Cultural Fund, and Creative Victoria multi-year funding.

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