The Strangest Place, New and Selected Poems


Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Poetry

Published by: Black Pepper

They have their stratagems too, though they can't move.
They know their part.
Like invalids long reconciled.
To stillness, they do their work through others.
They have turned the world.
To their own account by the twisting of hearts.

The strangest place, this world of fact and figment we astonishingly find ourselves inhabiting, is the territory that Stephen Edgar's poetry has been probing and framing for over four decades now, looking out on the evanescent representations of light and inwards on the mind and 'the gyre of its own consciousness', feeling 'toward the labyrinth just behind Creation's serene surface', as Alan Gould described it, and 'trying to keep faith poetically with that strangeness of the world', in the words of Peter Steele.

'The Strangest Place' offers a retrospective on Edgar's career, with selections from each of his previous ten books. Opening the collection is a book-length section of new poems, 'Background Noise', which continues and extends the range of his meditations, with characteristic technical mastery, interspersed with the title's leitmotiv, whether the notes of lorikeets in the morning trees, echoing voices in an abandoned railway tunnel, the mind's running commentary or the cosmic hum beyond the death of the stars.

About the author

 Stephen Edgar

Stephen Edgar

Stephen Edgar was born in Sydney in 1951. Since 2005 he has lived in Sydney. He is married to the poet Judith Beveridge. He has published ten previous collections of poetry in Australia, the three most recent of which were shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards, 'Transparencies' in 2018, 'Exhibits of the Sun' in 2015, and 'Eldershaw' in 2014. He won the inaugural Porter Prize (now the Peter Porter Poetry Prize) in 2005 and the inaugural Australian Catholic University Literature Prize in 2013. In 2006 he received the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for excellence in literature.

Judges’ comments

Stephen Edgar's latest volume is a work of rare and assured poetic authority. Here is verse that, to adapt words from the poet himself, is unfailingly 'fluent and exact', uttered by a voice that is natural yet refined and civilized, graceful yet unpretentious and grounded, poised and disciplined yet passionate and full of feeling. Edgar has a stern, sometimes dismaying, sense of the bleak realities governing human life, and he remains unconvinced by 'The solaces on which we're buoyed', unpersuaded by 'The old persuasions we would live and die for'. Yet the poems' tragic awareness is, for all that, never sour but instead world-loving and tender, exquisitely sensitive to the 'sumptuous regalia' of the natural world and holding dear the beauties of everyday life; it is, in addition, always compassionate towards human suffering. Edgar's urbanity and erudition, his sense of reality and lack of extravagance, his easy and unforced command of the literary and artistic tradition, make him a poet in the true classic vein.