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Kocan, Peter 1947- (Peter Raymond Kocan)

PERSONAL:

Born 1947, in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

CAREER:

Poet, author, playwright.

AWARDS, HONORS:

New South Wales Premier's Literary Award for Fiction, 1983, for The Cure; FAW Christina Stead Award for Fiction and Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Award fellowship, 2005, both for Fresh Fields.

WRITINGS:

POETRY

Ceremonies for the Lost, (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1974.

Twelve Poems, Saturday Centre (Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia), 1975.

The Other Side of the Fence, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1975.

(Editor) The Modest Art: New Poems, Saturday Centre (Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia), 1976.

Armistice: Poems, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1980.

Freedom to Breathe, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1985.

Flies of a Summer, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

Standing with Friends, William Heinemann Australia (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1992.

(With Hal Colebatch and Andrew Lansdown) Primary Loyalties: Poems of Politics and Society, Arawang Communication Group (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia), 1999.

Fighting in the Shade, Hale & Iremonger (Alexandria, New South Wales, Australia), 2000.

OTHER

The Treatment, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1980.

The Cure, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1983.

The Treatment [and] The Cure, Taplinger Publishing (New York, NY), 1985.

Fresh Fields (novel), HarperCollins (Pymble, New South Wales, Australia), 2004, Europa Editions (New York, NY), 2007.

Work represented in anthologies, including Poems, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1980.

SIDELIGHTS:

Australian poet and author Peter Kocan was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, and raised in Melbourne. He left school at the age of fourteen to work, and in 1966, at the age of nineteen, he was sentenced to life for the attempted assassination of Arthur Calwell, the leader of the Federal Labor Party. Kocan fired at Calwell with a sawed-off shotgun, and Calwell suffered wounds to his face but lived. He later forgave Kocan.

Kocan was pardoned after serving ten years, first at Long Bay and then at the Morrisset Psychiatric Hospital, during which time he began to publish his poetry. He also wrote two novellas, The Treatment and The Cure, which were later combined into one volume. The first story begins with the fictional protagonist, Len Tarbutt, also nineteen, serving a life sentence in a mental hospital. The Treatment and the award-winning The Cure follow Len's struggle to survive imprisonment.

Fresh Fields is similarly a novel based on life. At fourteen the unnamed "youth," his mother, and younger brother flee from his violent stepfather. He works first on a farm, then becomes a drifter, taking work in both the country and the city. He is homeless, often sleeping in telephone booths or on abandoned furniture. He has a crush on actress Grace Kelly, and he cuts her pictures from magazines but strives to overcome his feelings of tenderness in favor of toughness and emulates a character he once saw in a movie, a German soldier named Diestl. He is alone, with no one to look out for him. Although there are agencies that could help, he knows nothing of their existence. As the story progresses, influenced by the specter of Diestl, the youth buys a gun.

Quadrant reviewer Hal G.P. Colebatch commented: "One of the many remarkable things about this novel is the way it completely avoids self-pity. There is no simplistic Marxist exegesis along the lines that the youth is crushed by socio-economic forces. He soon sees that life is more complex than that. ‘The system’ is not to blame for what is unfolding: some people, some of them grappling with tragedies and terrors of their own, offer help and kindness, but the youth is in no condition to understand or accept this."

Colebatch wrote that Fresh Fields "confirms absolutely Kocan's place in prose as in poetry as one of the foremost writers in the English language today. As I know of no other contemporary poet who can combine profundity and clarity like Kocan, so I know of no other contemporary novelist in the English-speaking world who can so use his art to heighten and sharpen realism. Kocan, whose poetry often shows him to be the most romantic of contemporary writers, has both broken the ‘serious’ novel out of the mire of ‘social realism’ and beaten the social-realist writers at their own game."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Antipodes, December, 2006, Steve Goerger, review of Fresh Fields, p. 205.

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, December, 1981, Ivan Potas, review of The Treatment, p. 287.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2007, review of Fresh Fields.

Library Journal, November 1, 1985, Paul E. Hutchinson, review of The Treatment [and] The Cure, p. 110; May 15, 2007, Lawrence Rungren, review of Fresh Fields, p. 81.

Psychology Today, May, 1986, Susan Pollak, review of The Treatment [and] The Cure, p. 71.

Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1985, review of The Treatment [and] The Cure, p. 62; March 12, 2007, review of Fresh Fields, p. 36.

Quadrant, April, 2005, Hal G.P. Colebatch, review of Fresh Fields, p. 91.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1988, review of The Treatment [and] The Cure, p. 26.

ONLINE

Age Online,http://www.theage.com.au/ (July 3, 2004), Jane Sullivan, review of Fresh Fields.

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Kocan, Peter 1947- (Peter Raymond Kocan)

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