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Thomas Shapcott Biography

(1935– ), Time on Fire, A Taste of Salt Water, Inwards Towards the Sun

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Australian poet and writer, born near Brisbane, educated at the University of Queensland. From 1983 to 1990 he was Director of the Literature Board of the Australia Council, of which he wrote a history in 1988. Early poetry collections such as Time on Fire (1961), A Taste of Salt Water (1967), and Inwards Towards the Sun (1969) established Shapcott's poetic gift for blending traditional forms and themes with a willingness to experiment. He confirmed this position in his editions of New Impulses in Australian Poetry (1968; with Rodney Hall), Australian Poetry Now (1970), and Contemporary American and Australian Poetry (1976), all influential collections in confirming possible new directions for Australian poets. In 1981 he edited Consolidation: The Second Paperback Poets Anthology. Shapcott's lasting fascination with his childhood background found expression in Shabbytown Calendar (1975). Later collections of verse include Turning Full Circle (1979), Welcome! (1983), Travel Dice (1987), Selected Poems 1956–1988 (1989), In the Beginning (1990), and City of Home (1995). His writing ranges from children's fiction, through experimental ‘prose inventions’, to his best-known novel, The White Stage of Exile (1984), a closely researched study of the exile of an art collector after the failure of his museum in Budapest; another novel, The Search for Galina (1989), concerns the narrator's search for a Russian poet. Mona's Gift (1993) is a love story set in war time Sydney, told via letters and diaries. What You Own (1991) is a collection of short stories. Biting the Bullet: A Literary Memoir (1990) includes essays, speeches, and reviews. He has also written a monograph (1967) and a biography (1990) of the painter Charles Blackman.

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