Shortlist year: 2022

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Pitt Street Poetry

This new collection of poems from magisterial Australian poet John Foulcher celebrates his recent transition from a busy working life in Canberra to the rural tranquillity of a new home — a rescued church in a tiny village south of Braidwood.
In the transition his writing takes on new depth, new breadth, new worlds, as from that quiet corner he contemplates an extended, brooding photographic sequence first encountered in London, a brief visit to a Greek island and an even briefer trip to the moon. As always in his work: aging, death, the conundrums of faith. And the transcendent importance of a momentary frenetic boogie with a quantum physicist in a wheelchair:
. . . I thought of the atoms in my eye,
spinning and spinning, and the torrent of light
surging through me, soaking me to the bone
as I stood looking up, with my bloodied knees.

About the author

John Foulcher

John Foulcher graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours and a Diploma of Education. He has been a teacher in NSW and the ACT.

His work has been widely anthologised and published in national newspapers and journals including The Age, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin, Quadrant, Heat, Poetry Australia and Meanjin.

His poetry is described by the Oxford Companion to Australian Literature as 'simple, direct and convincing'.

Judges’ comments

John Foulcher's 'Dancing with Stephen Hawking' has all the wild comedy its title suggests. Foulcher is acrobatically comic, with a sense of the ludicrous that touches sublimity—because there is such a reviving deployment of craft to take the mickey out of the grand signposts of the popular culture inside which we dwell.

John Foulcher is everywhere aware of the absurdity inherent in the mythologies without which we cannot live. He is an effortlessly urbane poet, dry when he is not hilarious. He has a scathing honesty which gives equilibrium to a technical expertise that emphasises with an enviable smoothness of effect the kind of jokes and poignancies that language can achieve (rather than what can be done to language).

'Dancing with Stephen Hawking' is a companionable book—because it is so inward with the world of collective experience that its shocks of recognition are laugh-aloud when he's playfully parading an infatuation with rockstars, and have a telling truth when he touches on grief and destruction with such a poker face.