Alan Wearne Profile

Alan Wearne is one of those Australian poets who, like Les Murray and Dorothy Porter, has tackled the demanding strictures of a verse novel. Wearne took seven years to write The Nightmarkets, his tale of Melbourne, which won a Banjo Award and an Australian Literature Society Gold Medal back in 1987. As his new collection of poetry, The Australian Popular Songbook is published by Giramondo Publishing, the poet is profiled by Caroline Baum in "The Sydney Morning Herald".

He has orchestrated his love of music into The Australian Popular Songbook, a collection with a soundtrack that captures the era of his adult life - popular songs from the charts, refrains and choruses providing a counterpoint to snatches of his own life and the lives of friends and a cast of imagined characters. Pop songs are not what Wearne listens to at home - his "uber hobby" as he calls it, is classical music. His normally diffident demeanour evaporates on the subject of Bob Dylan. "The most overrated person of the 20th century!" he pronounces, screwing his eyes tightly shut, as he often does when making a point.

He has the acute ear of the cultural anthropologist who specialises in urban tribes. Some of the lines in Wearne's latest collection may belong just as well in an episode of Kath & Kim (which he says he has never seen). Words such as "swatvac" and "ridgey didge" may not be normally associated with sonnets but they're there, as are references to Ikea and Target. He peppers the lot with political figures from both sides: Billy McMahon, Don Dunstan, Gough Whitlam, Harold Holt, positively bristling at the suggestion that he is some kind of unofficial poet laureate of the left. "I know where the bullshit stops and starts and it's on the right but I'm not of the left, I'm an individualist, a radical. Sure, on social issues, I am left of centre but I don't like the left's preachy side," he says.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 14, 2008 9:48 AM.

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