If he were a jazz musician, he would be the kind who, when playing after hours, leads all the others to pack up their instruments and listen.
— Clive James
I can’t think of anyone writing poetry in English… who renders the natural world with the voluptuous precision of Stephen Edgar.
— August Kleinzahler
Welcome to Stephen Edgar’s site. The content here includes sample poems or excerpts from each of his book collections, some prose commentaries, and links to further resources.
Stephen Edgar’s latest collection, Ghosts of Paradise, was published in November 2023 by Pitt Street Poetry (Sydney). See under Sample Poems here to read the title poem and two others. The book is available from the publisher’s site. In this collection, three clusters of fourteen poems are threaded together in a thought-provoking array of people, places and moments in time.
His previous collection, The Strangest Place, is published by Black Pepper Publishing in 2020 and won the Poetry category of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The Strangest Place (over 300 pages) offers a retrospective on his career — an opening, book-length section of new poems, followed by selected poems from each of his previous ten books. It is available from the publisher's website: http://blackpepperpublishing.com/edgarTSP.html.
His collection Transparencies (2017), is published in Australia by Black Pepper Publishing and available from the publisher’s website: http://blackpepperpublishing.com/edgart.html.
His collection Exhibits of the Sun (2014), is published in Australia by Black Pepper Publishing and available from the publisher’s website: http://blackpepperpublishing.com/edgareots.html.
His collection Eldershaw (2013), is published in Australia by Black Pepper Publishing and is available from the publisher’s website: http://blackpepperpublishing.com/edgare.html.
His American collection, The Red Sea, selected and new poems (2012), is available from Baskerville Publishers (USA).
His previous two collections, History of the Day (2009) and Other Summers (2006), are published in Australia by Black Pepper Publishing and available from the publisher’s website: http://blackpepperpublishing.com/edgarhotd.html and http://blackpepperpublishing.com/edgaros.html. His collection Lost in the Foreground, originally published in 2003, was published in a second editon (Picaro Press, 2008) and reissued in 2017 as an imprint of Ginninderra Press (search for title). Earlier books are available from the author via the email link at left; see the Bibliography page for further details.
The following poem is taken from Lost in the Foreground.
The Complete Works
Over the city’s basin, clouds progress:
Continents, Himalayas which bear down
Tectonic force, then evanesce;
Of turbulent dark marble which would drown
Oblivious dreamers in their flimsy walls,
But lack the gravity of their excess
And are shrugged off by foothills. One immense
Atomic tree form lifts its roiling bole,
Gripping the roofs of residence
It blows asunder,
While in its canopy tumble and roll
The smithereens of suburbs which lie under
That swelling umbrage: world-ash in either sense.
Such scenes of life and death — all make-believe,
An atmospheric horseplay flung together
That fifteen minutes can’t retrieve.
Don’t know their elements. They make bad weather.
A wind from nowhere just as soon invents
The evening’s empty, lemon-lit reprieve.
Here by the window in the fuchsia’s top,
A little wattlebird hangs, acrobatic,
Whose feathered tongue-tip probes to mop
The silly drug
Of its high spirits up. With instamatic
Eyes, it keeps taking snaps, the shutterbug,
Of fantasies that drift and rise and drop
Within the surface of that doubtful mirror:
The marbled sky’s distant and vague champaign,
The see-through garden and this clearer
Twin; or it pores
On what the window’s stranger deeps contain —
A figure drowning in interiors
Who sometimes floats up menacingly nearer.
What can it know of the image which adheres
To a page inside a book on that man’s shelf
(Its own image, so it appears)
Which can attest
More detailed knowledge than the bird itself
Of where and what it is? Who could have guessed
This world it’s flying through was once Shakespeare’s?
Now fast within themselves the couples lie,
While through this autumn night the lightless cloud
Above their beds breeds in the sky
And earthly trees in darkness, bird-endowed,
Attempt to memorize a wind that spills
From the salt water, making the same cry.
What can they know, as pictures and remarks
Seed in their heads, occasionally to flower
In a dark endearment, or the quirks
Of eye and limb,
About their bodies’ other plans, the power
That writes their names, their hidden homonym,
Simple as clouds and birds, complete as Shakespeare’s works.