Winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Poetry and Christopher Brennan Award (for lifetime achievement in poetry) and shortlisted in the Steele Rudd Prize for a collection of short fiction, John Kinsella returns with a not-to-be-missed addition to the canon of one of Australia's most original and incisive writers.
A man who never sleeps takes a cross-continent train journey into landscape and memory. A gregarious woman and a reclusive man move to an Irish village where history and tradition (the famine pit nearby, the festival of Halloween) enact their dark forces. In an Australian town dying from the encroachment of salinity, a young girl attempts to bring life to a dead dog. Whether documenting love or horror, or finding quotidian absurdities in Australia or the world , the powerful stories in Crow's Breath capture the precariousness of everything we most value with unsettling tenderness and beauty.
John Kinsella's most recent volumes of poetry are The Vision of Error: A Sextet of Activist Poems (Five Islands Press, 2013) and Sack (Freemantle Press and Picador, UK 2014) His collection, Jam Tree Gully (WW Norton, 2012), won the 2013 Prime Minister's Prize for Poetry. His volume of stories In the Shade of the Shady Tree (Ohio University Press, 2012) was shortlisted for the Steele Rudd Award. Tide, a collection of stories, was published by Transit Lounge in 2013. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia, and Professor of Sustainability and Literature at Curtin University.
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: John Kinsella
Question: How would you describe Crow's Breath?
John Kinsella: A book of short stories focussed on moments in characters' lives, especially in the context of place. In this case, wheatbelt Western Australia, the Nullarbor, Carnarvon, Ohio, West Cork (Ireland), Reunion, etc.
Question: What was the main motivation for Crow's Breath?
John Kinsella: I am driven to write stories from experience. I see moments in people's lives " or 'glimpses', as I call them " as I spend time in different localities and take those moments and ask 'what if' and travel in the story from there. I am compelled to write " the motivation is necessity and a desire to paint the world as I see it, in all its beauty, trauma, weirdness and ordinariness.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
John Kinsella: All my characters are 'snippets' of people I meet and interact with. But they are all themselves in the stories. As we often only see/read of a moment or two in their lives, they become very much 'of the event' being examined or glimpsed.
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
John Kinsella: I am an activist kind of writer and issues are always present in my mind. But the characters in these stories are in their own moments, not mine, and their losses and epiphanies are theirs and theirs alone. If they wrestle with 'issues', they do so alone " I just convey their experiences. Though I am always looking at the way the physical world around them affects what they're up to!
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
John Kinsella: Never give in! Follow your belief " don't ever be guided by what's flavour of the month. Have your own vision of what matters in your writing.
Interview by Brooke Hunter