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New Australian Poetry Website

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The Australian Poetry Library is a collaboration of the Copyright Agency Limited, the University of Sydney and the Australian Research Council, a statutory authority within the Australian Government's Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (IISR) portfolio.

The website aims to make a wide sweep of Australian poetry readily available to a mass audience.  It covers the full range of historical poetry from Barron Field in the 1810s to Judith Bishop, Michael Brennan and Kate Lilley from the 2000s. Along the way the usual suspects (Lawson, Paterson, Dennis, Dyson, Slessor, Hope, Wright, Murray etc) are covered in detail.  Poems are indexed by title, poet, decade, gender, form, and theme which strikes me as being pretty comprehensive.  I've started linking to the site on my poetry blog Rhymes Rudely Strung.

There are a number of notable omissions, the most obvious being Mary Gilmore, but I would guess this has far more to do with the current copyright holder withholding permission than a deliberate oversight.

If you have any interest in Australian poetry at all then I suggest you pay this website a very long and comprehensive visit.

The Great Divide

The Great Divide - People and Places is an interesting weblog that I've come across recently. Its main aim appears to be to post short biographies of interesting Australians from all walks of life, including Literature, Music, Exploration and general history. Each biography is timed to roughly correspond with an anniversary of the subject's birth. For example, yesterday's entry concerned Francis de Groot, infamous for being a member of the proto-fascist group New Guard, and who, while on horseback, upstaged the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 by riding through the assembled dignatories and slashing the opening ribbon with his sword. One of my favourite larrikin acts from Australian history.

On the Australian Literature front, the weblog has featured biographies of such people as Hugh McCrae, Coralie Rees, D'Arcy Niland, and Miles Franklin. This is one to visit on a regular basis.

Black Words

Austlit, the major Australian literary bibliographic index housed at the University of Queensland, has started up Black Words, a literary website specialising in Australian Indigenous works.

The University of Queensland news webpage has further details about the site and its history.

The Big Book Club

Their website probably says it best: "The Big Book Club Incorporated is a not for profit arts organization. Our mission is to promote reading, the discussion of books and the promotion of South Australian and Australian authors.

"The Big Book Club Incorporated manages two major projects:

"The Big Book Club for adults
The Advertiser Little Big Book Club for parents of children aged between 0 - 5 years. "

Subtitled "South Australia Reads Together" it's a bit like those "one city, one book' events we hear about from time to time. This month's featured book is Margaret Whitlam - A Biography by Susan Mitchell.


Wikipedia is a new type of encyclopedia which has only come into existence since the development of the Internet. It describes itself as follows:

"Wikipedia is a Web-based, multi-language, free-content encyclopedia written collaboratively by volunteers and sponsored by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. It has editions in roughly 200 different languages (about 100 of which are active) and contains entries both on traditional encyclopedic topics and on almanac, gazetteer, and current events topics. Its purpose is to create and distribute a free international encyclopedia in as many languages as possible. Wikipedia is one of the most popular reference sites on the internet, receiving around 60 million hits per day."

The idea is that individual writers sign up and contribute articles on various people, subjects or topics, which are then held up to discussion and debate by other Wikipedia contributors. In this way, hopefully, a quite decent amount of material is built up on all manner of things, some of it very timely indeed.

As an example of that take the current case of " vs Garrison Keilor". I guess most of us are aware of Keilor as the host of the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show and author of several novels., on the other hand, is small weblog that has found itself in a spot of bother. It seems the blog's proprietor decided to have a bit of a joke and produced a number of T-shirts (not sure how many) bearing the logo "A Prairie Ho Companion", with a big black line drawn straight through the middle of the words. It's a joke. A parody. He's just taking the piss. But Keilor didn't think so, and sicced his lawyers onto with a "cease and desist" order. They have - they really had no choice. As in all legal matters, money rules. Anyway, you can read the whole gruesome story, including the letter from the lawyers and a photo of the T-shirt on the blog under the heading "A Prairie Homeboy Companion" - which I think is just as good as the T-shirt logo.

Yeah, so? you ask. Well, the Garrison Keilor entry in Wikipedia has already been updated with a note and links to this dispute. Given the saga has only been running for a couple of weeks and the main story was only posted to yesterday, I'd say we have a good example of the site's timeliness.

I've been using Wikipedia for a while now and find it generally well-written and informative. Plus, it's readable. A good example of what the internet can really achieve. It needs a bit of work on its Australian literature section, and if I find the time I might post a few items there.

[Thanks to Bookslut for the link.]

Meet the Author Website

Winner of the "British Book Award for Innovation in the Book Business 2005", the website Meet the Author has links to 434 video clips (at time of writing) of authors introducing their works. The list of authors is Anglo-centric and the only Australian entry I can find is Gregory David Roberts talking about his novel Shantaram. Worth a look, though.

Website review: Ozlit

A quick check of the OzLit website main page will show you that something over 1.5 million visitors have viewed it. By anyone's estimates that's a pretty good number for an Australian literary site. Which is why it's sad that the site seems have to gone into a period of long-term silence, if not permanent ceasation. The best I can work out is that updates ceased in early 2000. That said, the amount of work that went into this site is simply staggering, and, so long as you keep the cut-off date of 2000 in mind, still very relevant and useful.

Peter and Mareya set out in August 1995 to make OzLit the definitive Australian literary website - listings of writers and their works; links to all literary references in the printed media; and a place where both readers and writers of Australian literature would feel welcome. A huge undertaking. And one that may have spelt the end of the project. As a labour of love it was just too big for two people to handle - ambition overwhelmed capacity. Sometime late in the 1990s Peter emailed me pointing out that we seemed to be covering similar ground: him with OzLit and me with my Literature pages. I replied that while that might be the case superficially, my aim was to delve deeper into fewer areas, while he was trying to cover everything. I thought the two sites complemented each other, rather than competed. I'm sorry that this website isn't being maintained, and over the past year or so I've started to find that some links don't work - so it's starting to fray around the edges. It doesn't matter. I still use it as one of my major Australian literature resources.

Website Review: MetaCritic

This is not an Australian website but as it contains some Australian material I thought it best to review the site here before I started to provide links to it.

MetaCritic describes itself as a website that "compiles reviews from respected critics and publications for film, video/dvd, books, music and games." The book review compilations have only recently been added, hence the note here. Webpages of this sort are very useful in that they allow you to quickly scan extracts from a number of related sites without having to go to the effort of tracking them all down. This was the whole concept behind Yahoo in its initial stages - the web was getting too big to find anything so index sites would be the "next big thing". As you might expect for a website based in the USA the bulk of the material under consideration in the Books section is sourced from the USA and UK. You get the occasional interloper, like Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, but these are few and far between. The only Australian book I can find so far is The Tyrant's Novel by Tom Keneally.

The site aims to provide a score out of 100 based on a weighted average of a book's reviews. Some critics, and some publications, get a higher rating than others, hence the weighting. All of this is pretty subjective, of course, so the more reviews that are included the better. Taking the Keneally novel as a reasonable example: the book's score of 80 (The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst - the 2004 book winner - scored 89) is based on 16 reviews, including notices from "The New Yorker" (US), "The Guardian" (UK), "The Boston Globe" (US) and "The Spectator" (UK). All reviews were from publications or websites based in the US or UK. Sixteen reviews is a pretty good sample (the Hollinghurst score is based on 22) and the final verdicts of the reviews range from "outstanding", from "Publishers Weekly", to "unfavorable", from "The Washington Post."

The site provides a judgement, a brief description, the reviewer's name and a link to the article in question for each review cited. It's early days for the book reviews on this website and we'll have to keep an eye on it to see how it progresses, but I, for one, will be checking it on a pretty regular basis.

Quibbles: I'd like to see a wider range of books under consideration and a wider source of publications.

Kudos: As a review-checking aid it may well prove to be indispensible.

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