Lawrence, Anthony

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Nationality: Australian. Born: Tamworth, New South Wales, 1957. Career: Has worked as a jackeroo. Taught and wrote in Wagga Wagga before moving to Western Australia. Awards: Harri Jones prize, for Dreaming in Stone; Gwen Harwood memorial prize, 1996; Newcastle Poetry prize, 1997; Kenneth Slessor prize, 1997, for The Viewfinder.Address: P.O. Box 75, Sandy Bay, Tasmania 7006, Australia.



Dreaming in Stone. North Ryde, New South Wales, Angus and Robertson, 1989.

Three Days out of Tidal Town. Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1992.

The Darkwood Aquarium. London, Penguin, 1993.

Cold Wires of Rain. Ringwood, Victoria and New York, Penguin, 1995.

The Viewfinder. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1996.

New and Selected Poems. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1998.


Critical Studies: In Overland, 117, February 1990; "Singing in Their Chairs: A Conversation between Anthony Lawrence & Brian Henry," in Island Magazine, 75, winter 1998.

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There is a robust sensitivity in Anthony Lawrence's poetry that is imprinted on his graphic depictions of place and atmosphere. His world is filled with birds and creatures as well as with the experiences of a free-ranging lifestyle that has taken him to the outreaches of his country, from the seascapes of Western Australia to the wildernesses of Tasmania. Lawrence is also a well-traveled writer internationally, and he has the capacity to inform his poems with personal and observational detail. Technically, he has not hesitated to use various verse forms as well as the distinctively rich blank verse that is his usual means of expression.

Lawrence published his first book, Dreaming in Stone, which won the Harri Jones prize, in 1989. Since then he has published further collections, of which The Viewfinder won the 1997 Kenneth Slessor prize for poetry in the New South Wales Premier's awards. New and Selected Poems, which came out in 1998, is a substantial book and confirms that Lawrence is both a prolific and striking writer who has made rich use of his reading in contemporary Australian poetry as well as his personal experiences.

Perhaps the writer who has had the most enduring influence on Lawrence's work and his direction has been Robert Adamson, who has honed the metaphor of landscape into a personal statement. Lawrence has a greater flexibility and natural exuberance than his mentor, and there is in his writing a narrative quality as well as a pervading lyrical cadence. The result can be refreshing and idiosyncratic. If the range of references in Lawrence's poetry is often wide and reflects the catholicity of his reading, in a sense it always comes back to the precision of observation and experience, as in his poem "The Sapphic Stanza":

   You can sit through all night music television
   waiting for one song that contains a Sapphic stanza,
   but you'll go to bed or out for the morning
   papers disappointed. Though perhaps, in some
   independent label's low-budget video showing
   four women parting a wave of chest-high fennel
   by a thin industrial river, you could hear
   the natural world's equivalent of that poetic form:
   a woman unslings a semi-acoustic guitar
   as a large waterbird labours over, its wings going
   trochee trochee dactyl trochee trochee…
   But by then you'll be so numb from hours
   of streetwise chic and barren warehouse theatrics,
   you'll most likely fail to recognise the connection,
   and so be driven to play a Randy Newman record,
   or lie down in silence, with just enough hall light
   to keep you safe and awake until the cars start up
   and go.

—Thomas W. Shapcott

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Lawrence, Anthony

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