'That was Edgar Allen Poe, writing in 1848. Only seven years later, Poe's fellow-American, Walt Whitman, published at his own expense the first version of Leaves of Grass, which had as its central and major achievement an undisputably long poem, Song of Myself, consisting of 1346 lines, divided into 52 sections. Not only is Whitman seen today as the great father of American poetry; he is also seen as one of the main originators of a form of long poem which has had such distinguished offspring as The Waste Land. Four Quartets. The Cantos, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction and Paterson in one generation: and Howl, The Maxi-mus Poems. Dream Songs, History, Tape for the Turn of the Year. and The Book of Nightmares in the next. Far from being dead, the long poem has become the vehicle chosen by many major poets for their most deeply imaginative and seriously considered statements. ' (Publication abstract)
This paper was presented at Monash University's inaugural conference of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature at May 1978.
Epigraph: "For once not travelling to arrive" (Les A. Murray)
I hold that a long poem does not exist. I maintain that the phrase 'a long poem', simply is a flat contradiction in terms.'