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Joanne Burns

joanne burns’ poetry collections include apparently, shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Poetry Awards, footnotes of a hammock, joint winner of the Judith Wright ACT Poetry Prize, an illustrated history of dairies, shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Poetry Award, amphora, and brush, which won the 2016 NSW Premier’s Poetry Award. Her poems are studied in high schools and have been produced for radio and theatre.



Joanne Burns

96 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published April 2019
ISBN 9781925818093

The poems collected in apparently appear like visions, intensely experienced but barely real. Where does a poem come from? Over four sections this question is considered. The first section gathers poems spring-boarding from the clues and solutions to crossword puzzles; the second recounts unsettling dreams in the form of prose poems or microfictions; ‘dial’, the longest section, acknowledges the bewildering sense of daily time and the dizzying spectacle of social and worldly matters contained within. Finally, from a more restful or relaxed vantage, ‘the random couch’ presents a number of drifting poems, written while the poet was lounging on the sofa.


Joanne Burns

96 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published October 2014
ISBN 9781922146717

The title of Joanne Burns’ new collection brush highlights the reader’s first experience of a poem, its initial electricity; and the way the poem offers a surface of words that  proceeds to reveal their possibilities or intentions. The central sequence ‘road’ is an animated display of the fashions of being in contemporary life – these poems are cheeky, playful, mercurial, surreal. Then there is the sequence called ‘bluff’, which excoriates twenty-first century financial culture with bite, hilarity and a sense of the absurd. There is a section devoted to personal memoir, including a five-part poem featuring Bondi beach, and a suite of memory fragments  depicting twentieth-century modes of travel. The final group of poems, ‘wooing the owl(or the great sleep forward)’, explores the night, sleep and dreams, with their strange tones and surprising perspectives. There are 80 poems in the collection, most of them short, stressing the compressed pleasure that only poetry can offer.


Joanne Burns

136 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published May 2011
ISBN 9781920882631

The poems in amphora seize on the miraculous moments contained in life and language, interrogating them with scepticism, celebrating them with a comic sense of wonder. Their focus ranges from the magical exploits of saints recalled from the poet’s Catholic childhood in the opening section ‘ichoria’, to her variations on the Zen koan, customised as koannes, in the sequence ‘streamers’, which both mocks and appreciates the wisdom of paradox, to the accidental ‘out of the blue’ poems in the final sequence, ‘this week, next week, the week after’, which strike ‘domestic beatitudes’ from balloons and shoulders, dolls and stains and chairs. From such common things, from familiar words and phrases, and from the unfamiliar too, Burns draws attitudes which define a way of living – gladness, openness, curiosity, acceptance, and above all sensual delight, in the abundance of the world’s offerings and the possibilities of language: ‘may the polysemic flower bloom’.

An illustrated history of dairies

Joanne Burns

112 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published October 2007
ISBN 9781920882228

Joanne Burns’s strongest collection yet offers a range of styles, from condensed narratives which tilt towards film, airport novels and science fiction, to poems in prose that read like personal or reflective essays, to short elliptical verses, almost haiku, which open the details of domestic or city life to large and dramatic perspectives.

Her poems are often comic: but darker tones infiltrate their private and public landscapes. The surreal quality of their imagery, and Burns’s often oblique line of attack, take the reader to ‘a dairy at the edge of the mind’ unlike any dairy with real cows one is ever likely to encounter.


YouTube video of joanne burns reading at Poems to Share – Red Room Company event – Sydney Writers Festival 2011

Joanne Burns Reading from Writing & Society Research on Vimeo.

Joanne Burns Interview from Writing & Society Research on Vimeo.

YouTube video of joanne burns reading on The Wordshed Episode 5 – The Red Room Company, in partnership with Writing and Society Research Group University of Western Sydney, and TVS Broadcasting 2006

Image gallery

Selected Writing by Joanne Burns

Writing from Life – Southerly V.56 No.4 /1996-7 – pp 78-82

Space Dust – Poetry and Gender ed. Brooks & Walker – University of Queensland Press 1989 – pp 28-9

The Poetics of Anger – ed. transcript of paper given at Anger in Australian Culture Conference – Australian Author V.22 No.4 Summer 1991 – pp16-17

poem is in the prose – The English Teacher May 1994

Wit, Wisdom and the Vernacular – panel paper Australian Poetry Festival 2008 – Five Bells journal V.15-16 No. 4/1 Spring Summer 2008 – pp 66-9

Mouthing Off [on use of the monologue] – Scarp journal – University of Wollongong – No.23/1993 pp 24-6

Not Another Poem – how poets work feature – Five Bells journal Vol.11 No. 3/Winter 2004 pp 36-7

pits – a response to ‘why do you write poetry’ feature – ed. Adam Ford – Going Down Swinging website blog May 2013

a statement on joanne burns’ use of the lower case in Heroines – a Contemporary Anthology of Australian Women Writers ed. Dale Spender Penguin 1991 pp 401-2

Suddenly it’s cool to doff your caps – Kelly Burke – Sydney Morning Herald 18.10.1995

what a capital idea! – Fast Forward ed. Cassie McCullagh – Good Weekend SMH 12.11.1994

What a Difference a Dot Makes : Poetry and Punctuation – Practical Poetics ed. Ron Pretty Five Islands Press 2003

Over the Page – a ‘poetic’/ prose poem essay – Australian Book Review No. 176 November 1995 pp 36-9

Interviews with Joanne Burns

Another Kind of Feminism – interviewer Rae Desmond Jones – Makar 13.3 /1978 – pp. 3-9

The Impulse of the Times – interviewer Bernard Cohen – Australian Book Review No:143 August 1992

4 Australian Poets – interviewer Sandra McGrath – Vogue Australia February 1975 – p 64

Shelf Life – interviewer Rachael Morley – Shelf Life 2 Episode 26 /2011 – TVS/University of Western Sydney

Essays and Articles on Joanne Burns

Commentary on joanne burns – A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry – Geoff Page UQP 1995 pp35-6

A literary biography of joanne burns – Margaret Bradstock – Australian Writers 1950 -1975 1. Selina Samuels – Gale Research, Detroit MI USA 2004 pp 36-42

Humour and the Imaginative Journey : joanne burns’ ‘mere anarchy’ – Margaret Bradstock Five Bells V.14 No.1 2006 pp 13-15

Straight through the Page – ‘aerial photography’ joanne burns – Louise Wakeling – mETAphor journal Issue 2/ April 2002 pp 31-3

joanne burns’ poem ‘footnotes of a hammock’ – Cultural and Poetic Responses to Australian Poems – Louise Wakeling Five Bells V.13 No.3 Winter 2006 pp 13-15

The Humour of joanne burns – Margaret Bradstock – Humour in Poetry issue Five Bells V.11 No.2 Autumn 2004 pp 13-15

Launch speech for ‘an illustrated history of dairies’ Giramondo Publishing – Hazel Smith October 2007

Extracts from launch speech for ‘amphora’ Giramondo Publishing – Greg McClaren June 2011

Links to audio resources

Lyrikline – Berlin – joanne burns reading, text of poems and literary profile – translation of some poems into German, Persian.

The Poetry Archive – UK – poems: text and audio, with literary profile.

The Poetry Foundation – USA – poems: text and audio, with brief literary profile.

A Pod of Poets – Poetica – ABC Radio National Audio download of joanne burns reading, and transcripts of poems with some commentary