Kenneth Slessor Biography
(1901–71), Vision, The Thief of the Moon, Earth Visitors, Cuckooz Contrey, Trio, Five Bells
Australian poet, born in New South Wales. He was a journalist and became joint editor with Norman Lindsay of Vision, in which his earliest poems appeared. His experience as official war correspondent in 1940–4 resulted in ‘Beach Burial’, one of his finest war poems. Early poems, such as those contained in The Thief of the Moon (1924) and Earth Visitors (1926), made effective use of imagery and were often romantic in tone. He began to experiment with form in Cuckooz Contrey (1932) which contained ‘Captain Dobbin’, celebrating an eccentric seaman. His ‘Five Visions of Captain Cook’ (in Trio, 1931) was one of the finest and earliest of the ‘voyager’ poems in Australian literature. In the title poem of Five Bells (1939) Slessor weaves into a complex structure personal responses to a drowned friend with haunting images of Sydney harbour. His collection One Hundred Poems 1919–1939 (1944) was reissued as Poems (1957) with two additional poems. Although he wrote no new poetry after 1944, Slessor remained active in literary life, editing the journal Southerly from 1956 to 1961, as well as several anthologies, including Australian Poetry (1945) and The Penguin Book of Australian Verse (1958). Posthumous publications include War Diaries (1985, edited by Clement Semmler), War Despatches of Kenneth Slessor (1988), and Sea Poems of Kenneth Slessor (1991).