Page, Geoff(rey Donald)
PAGE, Geoff(rey Donald)
Nationality: Australian. Born: Grafton, New South Wales, 7 July 1940. Education: Armidale School, 1952–57; University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, 1958–62, B.A. (honors), Dip.Ed. Military Service: National military, 1959. Family: Married Carolyn Anne Page in 1972; one son. Career: English and history teacher, Canberra high schools, 1964–74. Since 1974 senior English teacher, Narrabundah College, Canberra. Writer-in-residence, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, 1982, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, 1987, Curtin University, 1990, and Edith Cowan University, 1993. Awards: Australian Literature Board grant, 1975, 1983, 1987, 1993. Address: 8 Morehead Street, Curtin, A.C.T. 2605, Australia.
Two Poets, with Philip Roberts. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1971.
Smalltown Memorials. University of Queensland Press, 1975.
Collecting the Weather. Brisbane, Makar Press, 1978.
Cassandra Paddocks. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1980.
Clairvoyant in Autumn. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1983.
Collected Lives. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1986.
Smiling in English, Smoking in French. Deakin, A.C.T., Brindabella, 1987.
Footwork. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1988.
Selected Poems. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1991.
Grove Corners. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1992.
Human Interest. Sydney, William Heinemann Australia, 1994.
Mrs. Schnell Arrives in Heaven: And Other Light Verse. Cook, A.C.T., Polonius Press, 1995.
The Great Forgetting: Poems. Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1996.
The Secret. Kew, Victoria, William Heinemann Australia, 1997.
The Scarring. Alexandria, New South Wales, Hale and Iremonger, 1999.
Radio Plays: The Line of Least Resistance, 1976; The Life and Death of James Lionel Michael, 1982.
Benton's Conviction. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1985.
Winter Vision. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1989.
Invisible Histories (includes verse). Sydney, Picador, 1990.
Using "The First Paperback Poets Anthology." Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, 1974.
A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1995.
Editor, Shadows from the Wire: Poems and Photographs of Australians in the Great War. Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin, 1983.
Editor, On the Move: Australian Poets in Europe. Springwood, New South Wales, Butterfly Books, 1992.*
Critical Study: By Alan Gould, in Quadrant (Victoria, Australia), 36(6), June 1992.
Geoff Page comments:
It is risky for poets to comment on their own work; that is a matter for their readers. The risks of dogmatism or self-deception are too great. I would simply say that I am happy to be part of a very diverse poetic culture in Australia, where many different ars poeticas contend and/or coexist; happy too that Australian poetry is now being better recognized as an important part of the worldwide tradition of poetry in English. For those who wish to know more, let them buy the books!* * *
Geoff Page emerged later than some of his contemporaries as a poet of importance in Australia. He is underrepresented in anthologies, but he has produced a body of honestly felt and moving work that is impressive in its totality.
His work is characterized by its clarity and succinctness of image, as in these lines from "Flying over the Western Districts"—
through five clear miles of air
the patterns of our tenure
lie strange across the ground
—or in these lines from "Prowlers"—
A floorboard sprung
will bring a groan
vaguely down the hall.
Angles of furniture
hold them strangely.
Books along a shelf give out
their varying degrees of light
as, guiltless yet,
they slip away—
The accuracy and the deceptive plainness of Page's imagery derive from William Carlos Williams, but these combine in Page's work with an Australian concern for landscape, history, and narrative. He is perhaps the most typically Australian poet of his generation, without being in any way nationalistic in his work. His deliberately dry and low-key delivery and the celebration of survival in poems such as "Grit," which praises
the country women
of my mother's generation...
that hard abundance year by year
mapped in a single word,
may be seen by some, particularly outsiders, as archetypally Australian. This is to simplify Australians, however, and Page, himself no simplifier, would see himself and other Australians in more complex terms.
In poem after poem Page is concerned with wastage and lost opportunities, as in these lines from "Break-Up":
Once, quite near the end,
we showered together.
While the soap
clung round your nipples
and the water slid
down either back,
This concern is also seen in his poems about World War I and the death of his grandmother and in "Aubade." Memories of making love conclude on this note: "we listen to the world / fill up with light / and with our losses." Page's determinedly negative stance and his painstaking understatement cumulatively spell out a passionate rhetoric of loss. He is not unaware of the decorative and filmic aspects of his subject matter, however. Thus, in "Daguerreotype Tennis" he writes,
The roller's hauled
one unaware last time
the game postponed.
This self-awareness includes a wry, implicit humor. And occasionally there are overtly humorous poems such as "In Dante's Hell," which deals with the Australian obsession with discussing vintages.