Academic journal article Antipodes

Receiving Unintended Gifts: An Interview with Kevin Hart

Academic journal article Antipodes

Receiving Unintended Gifts: An Interview with Kevin Hart

Article excerpt


KEVIN HART was born in the UK in 1954, and grew up in London and Brisbane. He was educated at the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne. He is married and lives with his wife and two daughters in Virginia, USA. An award winning poet, he teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and has written extensively on critical theory, modern poetry and eighteenth century literature.

Kevin's latest poetry publication is Young Rain which was published in Australia by Giramondo in 2008 and by Bloodaxe Books in the UK in 2009. Flame Tree: Selected Poems was published in Britain and the USA by Bloodaxe Books (2002) and in Australia by Paperbark Press (2001).

Six other collections of his poetry have been published: The Departure, 1978, University of Queensland Press; The Lines of the Hand, 1981, Angus 6k Robertson; Your Shadow, 1984, Angus 6k Robertson (won both the 1985 Victorian and New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards for poetry); Peniel, 1991, Golvan Arts Publishers (shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards and the Adelaide Festival Awards in 1991); New and Selected Poems, 1995, Angus 6k Robertson; and Wicked Heat, 1999, Paper Bark Press. Kevin has translated The Buried Harbour: selected poems of Guiseppe Ungaretti published by Leros Press in Australia in 1990 and he edited The Oxford Book of Australian Religious Verse in 1994.

Kevin Hart has been awarded the Christopher Brennan Award by the Fellowship of Australian Writers. This Award recognises a poet who has made a sustained contribution to Australian poetry.

Pradeep Trikha: 1 think we might start with your anthology, The Oxford Book of Australian Religious Verse, which appeared in 1994- It was seen as a major event. Would you like to comment on your aims in editing it?

Kevin Hart: Unlike individual collections of poems, anthologies have the chance of breaking into a world other than the tiny one of poetry. In editing The Oxford Book of Australian Religious Verse I wanted to give some Australian poems the opportunity of being read by people, Australians mostly, who were committed to religious practice but who were not likely to be deeply or widely read in poetry. This happened. Shortly after the anthology was released, I started to hear that poems in it were being read in all sorts of Christian churches - Catholic, mainstream Protestant, even evangelical - and some were read in meetings of other religious groups, though I heard far less of them. Some priests and ministers incorporated poems into their liturgies: one or two poems were read during the service, or just after. And some priests and ministers introduced poems in their homilies or sermons. So, I think that the anthology has enriched the liturgy of the churches, mainly in Melbourne and Sydney, as well as extending the prayer life of individual believers. Also, though, in editing the anthology I wanted to give readers of Australian poetry a stronger sense of the range of religious poems that have been written in Australia. We usually think that Australia is an advanced secular country, and so it is in many ways; but it also has some deeply felt, and richly imagined, religious poems: from Aboriginal song cycles to Judith Wright's piercing lyric "Eli Eli" and Robert Gray's marvelous poetic essay on Zen, "Dharma Vehicle."

PT: I am intrigued by the fact that you moved from being a nature poet to becoming a "religious poet." Was it an inevitable change or a deliberate one?

KH: I don't think I was a nature poet in my first poems, or ever have been one since. When I think back to the first poems I wrote when I was thirteen or fourteen, they are continuous with the poems I am writing now and have been writing since The Lines of the Hand (1981), at least in the sense of mystery that they try to probe. To be sure, the poems I write now have a different pitch to them; but they have kept faith with the awareness of mystery that accompanied me as a child in London and as a teenager in Brisbane. …

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