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When Peter Rose published his first book of poems, The House of Vitriol, in 1990 Peter Porter welcomed it thus: ‘Nothing I have read in contemporary poetry in Britain, the States and Australia quite prepared me for the impact of Peter Rose’s book … Rose is out to stir the settled waters of poetry.’ That collection went on to become one of the most celebrated first books of the 1990s published in Australia. Since then, Rose’s poetry (sardonic, cosmopolitan and witness to the sadness of things) has continued to range across a variety of personal and satirical subjects. His voice, in the new poems that open Rattus Rattus, evinces a new opennness and intimacy, while still encapsulating in individual and arresting forms the tenuousness of things, the fragility of bonds, and metaphysical estrangement. Elsewhere, in the best-selling memoir Rose Boys, Peter Rose has written about family and the difficulties that afflicted one celebrated Australian family, so it will be fascinating for readers unfamiliar with his poetry to encounter the memoirist in a different guise. To ‘I Recognize My Brother in a Dream’ (an early poem that informed Rose Boys) he adds a new long poem about his late brother and father, ‘Ladybird’. Rose also goes on adding to an early series of satirical poems in the Catullan style, titled ‘The Catullan Rag’. In this new book we can enjoy almost twenty of these satires of contemporary literary society, of which Geoff Page remarked, ‘It is as if Catullus had somehow resurfaced from Caesar’s Rome with all his powers intect’. No one with a serious interest in modern Australian poetry will want to miss this sophisticated, elegiac and witty Selected Poems.
‘Nothing I have read in contemporary poetry in Britain, the States and Australia quite prepared me for the impact of Peter Rose’s book The House of Vitriol. To be infinitely knowing, yet engagingly vulnerable, to exceed so happily that succeeding becomes of secondary consideration, and to entertain so hugely – Rose is a real shock to the system.’ —Peter Porter
‘These are utterly beguiling poems of elegiac lyricism, in which Cavafy wanders among the crepuscular barbecues with Catullus and Leopardi.’ —Chris Wallace-Crabbe
‘Peter Rose repeatedly proves the possibility of elegance within free verse. His technique lends his poems the kind of suppleness – a posture of ease – that we find in poets like John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara.’ —Brian Henry
‘If you want Australian poetry which is all at once gay and tough, a poetry that is willing to take on a world of sentiment and sensation without surrendering to the conventional, a poetry that is always as much about the battle with words as it is about the battle the world but is all the more real for that, then Rose will provide you with an enduring pleasure.’ —Peter Craven, Spectrum
‘Peter Rose is a master of obliquity.’ —David McCooey, A2