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Shelton Lea Shelton Lea i(A20341 works by) (a.k.a. Shelton Giles Kimball Lea; Shelton)
Born: Established: 25 Aug 1946 Fitzroy North, Fitzroy - Collingwood area, Melbourne - North, Melbourne, Victoria, ; Died: Ceased: 13 May 2005 Melbourne, Victoria,
Gender: Male
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Poet Shelton Lea was adopted into the Lea family (famous for Darrell Lea sweets) and grew up in Toorak, Melbourne, but at twelve he ran away from home and school and lived on the streets, stealing to survive. He was detained in various reform schools and in Pentridge jail. It was in prison that he discovered poetry, later writing that poetry 'allowed me to live for several years inside/ because it altered my point of view' ('doing times'). He was later to be influential in raising the minimum age for jailing teenagers, speaking in an interview on the ABC's programme Stateline in 2004.

On his travels around Australia he formed bonds with Indigenous people and was 'adopted' into an Aboriginal family. He had a life-long commitment to write about Australia's black and white troubles, and his book Totems contains all the poems he wrote about black/white relations between 1988 and 2004.

The poet PiO recognised and encouraged Lea's talent when Lea was still in his teen years, publishing his Drunk and the 'Steve' Poems in 1962. In the 1960s he lived in Kings Cross, but later moved to Melbourne, where, as part of the Heide set, he worked with his life-long friend and mentor Barrett Reid on Overland.
Lea regularly performed his works, sometimes with a jazz group. He read at festivals and in pubs, schools, prisons, universities and under trees around Australia, and also represented Australian poetry overseas. He received two Australia Council grants and Arts Victoria funding to read his work throughout rural Victoria. He published several chapbooks of verse as well as his larger collections. He has been referred to as 'the godfather of Melbourne poetry'. His bookshop DeHavillands on Wellington in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, traded in fine books, specialising in Australian poetry, and his Eaglemont Press published six books, including the first bi-lingual Romani/English poetry book (Lee Fuhler's Dogstown, 1996).

Most Referenced Works


  • Lea's first chapbook, Asmodean Poems was published in 1962. It has not been traced.

    Lea established Eaglemont Books in the 1990s to publish his own poetry (along with the work of other local poets). He also self-published a number of broadside poems, amongst them The Maggie Poem (1980s) and I Like People (1999). A further title, The Fish Poems, for which a prepublication record exists, seems not to have been published.

Known archival holdings

University of New South Wales Australian Defence Force Academy Australian Defence Force Academy Library (ACT)
State Library of Victoria (VIC)
Last amended 14 Jun 2018 13:59:38
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