Ken Bolton cuts a fine literary figure in Australia as a poet, publisher, critic, bookseller and curator of the legendary Lee Marvin readings. I first met Ken at one of those readings, back in the early 2000s, when he surprised me with his intros to the night’s list of Adelaide’s more intellectually inclined literati. It might have gone something like this: ‘Brian Castro is well known as a novelist and the Head of the Creative Writing program at Adelaide Uni, but you might remember him in the film I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-girl Crew’. These readings are symptomatic of Ken’s approach to literature: absorb it respectfully, thoughtfully, seriously, but don’t regard it solemnly.
'He is iconic, as far as Australian poets go, yet he remains a figure somewhat on the outer. For instance, he was not included in the comprehensive Australian Poetry since 1788, yet it was noted in the Australian that he should have been. His books, though shortlisted, have never won a Premier’s prize, yet Monash University held ‘A Ken Bolton Day: a symposium celebrating the writings and influences of poet, art critic and publisher Ken Bolton’. His style of poetry is uniquely his, termed as ‘Boltonian’ , and has been imitated by many a poet, with the catchy addendum to the poems’ titles, ‘after Ken Bolton’.
'In the late 70s, Ken’s first book, Four Poems, was published by Sea Cruise press, a press which he helped to establish. Back then he was also the editor of the journal Magic Sam, where he regularly published his own work alongside his poet-friends. What Ken was doing with poetry at the time was unconventional; someone had to publish it so why not him? Clearly the lifestyle of writing and publishing writing worked for him because he has since had more than twenty books of poetry published (including a Selected Poems, put out by Penguin in 1992 and another from Shearsman in 2012), started another publishing press (Little Esther Books) and edited another journal (Otis Rush). He also edited the anthology Homage to John Forbes. His art criticism has been collected (as Art Writing, 1990 to the 2000s, published by the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia) and much of it collected and regularly updated on the AEAF website as The Formguide.
'In this interview, Ken talks about his poetry, other people’s poetry, humour and John Jenkins and how the two often connect, art, the 70s, Sydney and Adelaide, and plagiarising his own words.' (Introduction)