How many people went out and bought the latest Blue Dog? How many people even know what it is? Sounds like a good name for a beer, and if it was, they’d be selling them by the dozen. Not many looking to get drunk on poetry these days. The blur of words and easy slur of pubs, smoke-free of metaphor or rhyme, is a lot more comfy. But a poetry anthology never was a beaded glass of beer during a rave about the footy final. It was always more of a contraband. Something you needed to walk narrow alleys for, into rooms wrestling with shapes in the smoke, laughter and weeping through the floorboards above or below. Disordered rituals of ingestion as well, a flame and a sugar cube for the absinthe high of a poetic vision. Easier just to get that cold beer with your mates.
Blue Dog is a distillation. More single malt scotch than the careless chuck of hops. Editors around Australia choose from nameless stacks of hand crafted poems the finest examples of poetry they come across. They send these to Grant Caldwell in Melbourne and he chooses from over a thousand good possibilities. Some thirty poems find the pages of these Blue Dog spirits. The Australian Poetry Centre’s finest, but thousands more will read the throwaway programme guide for the Grand final this weekend. At least Blue Dog won’t litter the ground as just so much rubbish a few hours later.
In twenty years from now there will be people reading this issue of Blue Dog. In thirty years they’ll look at the Café Poets and take in a few moments in the considered life of Graham Nunn as he sat at the Cosmopolitan Café in Fortitude Valley, Queensland. In forty the poetic hyperventilation of Jessica Cook at the Fair Trade Café in Glebe, New South Wales. Some time after that, there will be readers of Nathan Curnow and a Ross Donlon sonnet, Judy Durrant’s first published poem, or, a translation of a Tang Dynasty poet called Wen Tingyun. They will be readers of Amelia Walker and Max Ryan, of Josephine Rowe and her visions of poetry through the work of Sarah Holland-Bart. In the next week or so, a few copies of the latest Blue Dog, Anthology of Autralian Poetry, might be sold. Cheers to them.