My project explores the work of four contemporary Australian poets who have had relatively little critical attention: Judith Beveridge, Kevin Hart, Robert Gray and Michael Heald. In the work of all of these writers, the relationship between poetry and experience is a crucial and generative theme. The bearing of each poet’s individual spiritual beliefs and practices on their poetry is a major part of this investigation: if poetry is a matter of experience, the root of the word experience, “trial”, suggests that it offers situations for the transformation of the self. This is a quest that motivates their commitment to spirituality and meditative techniques as well as to writing, and in analysing such situations, the most intense of their kind in Australian poetry, I hope to reach a deeper understanding of these important poets than has yet been achieved.
'Drawing on the relationships between the testimony of mysticism, the Buddha’s teaching as recorded in the Pali Canon, and aspects of phenomenology and pragmatism, this study addresses the spiritual qualities of awareness, equanimity and ethics in contemporary Australian poetry with a particular focus on their non-sectarian nature. The poets of this study are Buddhist, Catholic or committed to Vipassana meditation, yet they share similar concerns about experience and the reading, writing and consequence of poetry, and the status of experience within the spiritual traditions they are affiliated with. More subtly, the importance of experience is implied within their poetics: the subjects, the structures and imagery within their poems and, particularly, their attitudes to metaphor. Ultimately, this study’s questioning of the experience of poetry addresses the meetings of knowledge, meaning and being, and the nature of the self within which they meet.' (Thesis abstract)