Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: UWA Publishing


This substantial volume, Poems 1957–2013, contains all of the poetry written by Geoffrey Lehmann considered by the poet to be worthy of inclusion.

He has taken the prerogative of the mature artist looking back to revise poems, sometimes substantially, and to restore lines and passages he had removed from earlier versions. Displaying the breadth and depth of his poetry, Lehmann explores human nature in settings as diverse as ancient Rome and rural New South Wales, from searing satire to the domestic life of a family.

About the author

Geoffrey Lehmann

Geoffrey Lehmann is an Australian poet and former taxation lawyer.

He grew up in Sydney and attended the University of Sydney where he completed a combined degree in Arts and Law. He also co-edited the university journals Arna and Hermes with fellow student and poet Les Murray.

Lehmann's poetry was first published in The London Magazine when he was eighteen and he was the first Australian poet to be published by the London publishing house Faber and Faber with his first volume of poetry The Ilex Tree, published jointly with Les Murray, which went on to win the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry in 1965. He was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 1994. Since then he has published seven further collections of poetry, as well as a Selected Poems (1976) and a Collected Poems (1997), which won his third Grace Leven Poetry Prize, after Nero's Poems: Translations of the Public and Private Poems of the Emperor Nero also won in 1981.

In addition to his poetry, Lehmann has written a novel and edited several anthologies of Australian poetry.

Judges’ comments

Despite the high achievements of his work, and the unquestioning respect accorded to it by his contemporaries, it can be argued that Lehmann has been a neglected figure, not least in regard to the familiar measure of literary prizes.

Poems 1957–2013 is an unusual collection, in that it is not, as at first appears, a standard 'Collected Works' of the author; it is instead a complete reshaping of Lehmann's lifetime of poetry.

Many of the earlier poems have been so substantially re-written as to amount to new poems, while entirely new poems have been added to sequences such as the 'Simple Sonnets' and 'Spring Forest'. At the end of the book are enough new poems to constitute a new collection, while the last of all the poems, 'Why I Write Poetry', is not only one of the very best but a fitting summary of all that has gone before it.

The great strengths of Lehmann's work are his narrative talent and the classical austerity of his style.