What is Queensland Poetry?

The definition of ‘Queensland’ poetry has troubled anthologists and critics for 80 years. I think there are two reasons for this. First, much of Queensland’s population growth has been due to migration. Secondly, at least in the years up to 1959, many young people of promise who grew up in Queensland sought opportunities interstate or overseas.   

To deal with the work of immigrants and emigrants, Stable, in his introduction to A Book of Queensland Verse (1924), took ‘Queensland Poetry’ to:

 

‘include the work not only of those who belong to the State by birth and life-long residence, but also of those who have identified themselves in a distinctive way with the interests of the Queensland-born’.

Kellow, in Queensland Poets, (1930) took a narrower, residence based, definition: 

‘a “Queensland poet,” as the term is understood in this book, is one who, while resident in Queensland, has produced and published either the whole of his known verse or a sufficiently large proportion of it’.

If poets passed this test, then they were examined in Kellow’s book regardless of whether particular poems were written in Queensland or dealt with recognisably Queensland subject matter. 

Hornibrook (1953) took a more generous view: 

 

‘As no clear line could be drawn between Queensland verse and other Australian verse, all writers have been included who lived in Queensland for two or more years’. 

This results in some anomalies being included in his bibliography, such as Flexmore Hudson, who left Queensland at the age of four and must have been very precocious indeed if he wrote any Poetry in Queensland. 

Perhaps the simplest and the best definition is the most recent, that of Neilsen and Horton (1998): ‘in short, a poet who spent a significant time living and writing here qualifies’.

This web site is one amateur’s attempt to give a curious reader access to the thoughts and feelings (as expressed in poetry) of people who lived in Queensland for a substantial part of their lives. 

If a poet passes this test, I have not been concerned whether a poem was written in Queensland, or about Queensland subject matter. 

Thus Edgar Holt’s Lilacs out of the Dead Land (1932) was published 3 years after he left Queensland, and contains no Queensland subject matter. However, I have taken it as given that in writing the poems he was either drawing on or trying to reject his Queensland life experiences. Peter Austen’s The Young Gods (1919) contains poems that were obviously inspired by his first world war experiences, and of course this was a formative experience for many Queenslanders. 

Holt and Austen, one way or another, explore themes that have preoccupied poets since the time of the first Queen Elizabeth. In this website I do not contend that any poet discussed in this site necessarily writes in a way that is somehow representative of a special ‘Queensland’ psyche. Instead I simply suggest that their experiences of this place and its people must have influenced their work, and that their work, in its own small way, influenced the place and people.