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Rose, Peter

ROSE, Peter

Nationality: Australian. Born: Melbourne, 8 June 1955. Education: Haileybury College, 1972; Monash University, Melbourne, 1973–76,B.A. 1976. Family: With Christopher Menz since 1998. Career: Academic and reference publisher, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990–2000. Awards: St. Kilda Centenary poetry prize, 1990; Harri Jones award, 1991; Queensland Premier's prize, 1991, 1992. Agent: Jenny Darling & Associates, P.O. Box 235, Richmond, Victoria 3121, Australia. Address: 123 Brougham Place, North Adelaide, South Australia 5006, Australia.



The House of Vitriol. Sydney, Picador, 1990.

The Catullan Rag. Sydney, Picador, 1993.

Donatello in Wangaratta. Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1998.


Critical Study: In Overland, 136, spring 1994.

*  *  *

Peter Craven has commented that Peter Rose has quickly established himself as being "in the mainstream of Australian writing, alongside such accomplished figures as Porter and Murray." Words like "elegant," "cosmopolitan," and "consummate" have been used to describe his work.

Rose spent his boyhood in Wangaratta, a country town in Victoria, and after graduating from Monash University he worked as a medical bookseller before joining Oxford University Press, where he was for a number of years involved in the publishing of general and reference works. His preoccupation with the broad spectrum of European culture is perhaps illustrated by the titles of his books: The House of Vitriol (1990), The Catullan Rag (1993), and Donatello in Wangaratta (1998). But though there is indeed a foreground of art, literature, and the inheritance of Western culture in his poetry, it is placed in the uncomfortable context of a man who will never shake off a lonely and private childhood. The cultural baggage is completely integrated. It is a part of the writer, and his vision is indeed enriched, not decorated, by what has become his basis for comparison and reference. This does not mean that the environment has been relegated, but it is the environment of feeling and the ironic sensibilities that mask feeling.

Rose has an accomplished capacity to weave into his poems subtle suggestions of an ordinary Australian background and an extraordinary foreground of learned reference and emotional smoke screens. This can be seen, for example, in "Greening":

Let's not watch the main event,
let's watch the people.
There we shall be beautifully private,
each lake with its own suicide,
those grand disclosures
aching on a beach.
Your beauty is the last quotation,
an available dark...
So let's postpone matter for a while:
the final caper; an auspicious turn.

It is this heightened awareness of nuance that infuses Rose's poetry with a sort of robust delicacy and assures him a position among the leading Australian poets of his generation. His debt to Peter Porter and sometimes even Hal Porter (a hint of the baroque) has been absorbed into his own distinctive tone.

—Thomas W. Shapcott

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