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Eric Beach (1947 – )

Eric Beach was born in Hastings, New Zealand, in 1947. He began to write as a young child and became interested in poetry in his later teens; his first poems were published in his school magazine. After finishing school, Beach went to Wellington in 1966, where he briefly attended Victoria University. In Wellington he became involved in poetry readings, and in 1968 he self-published his first collection, Lyrics & Blues, which he sold door-to-door in Auckland. Married at 20, Beach worked in odd jobs in Wellington and other cities before leaving New Zealand for Melbourne in early 1972.

In Australia Beach quickly established himself as an energetic and somewhat eccentric figure on the poetry scene, and was heavily involved in organising poetry festivals, workshops and readings, and contributing to small magazines. He was well known for his own poetry readings, and became renowned for writing his poems on scraps of paper which he kept crumpled in his pockets. He published several poetry collections through the 1970s including Saint Kilda Meets Hugo Ball (1974), In Occupied Territory (1977), and A Photo of Some People in a Football Stadium (1978), and also published poems in a wide selection of Australian literary journals and magazines. In 1977 he was one of the founding members of the Poets Union. Besides Melbourne, he also lived in Brisbane and Adelaide, and supported his family by working on the railways.

In 1989, Beach moved to Hobart, where he continued his involvement with local writers’ groups and poetry workshops. In 1996, he published his major work, Weeping for Lost Babylon. As well as garnering much favourable critical attention, the book also won the Dinny O’Hearn Poetry Prize for 1996 and was joint winner of the Kenneth Slessor Prize the same year. His poems, sometimes experimental in form, and sometime using the forms of dramatic monologue and prose poems styles, often have a political emphasis. Besides poetry, Beach has also written a number of dramatic works.

Poetry Collections
  • Lyrics & Blues ([Wellington, NZ]: [the Author], [1968])
  • Henry Lawson Petfoods (Sydney: Fragment Press, 1974).
  • Saint Kilda Meets Hugo Ball (St Lucia, Qld: Makar Press, 1974).
  • In Occupied Territory (Cammeray, NSW: Saturday Centre, 1977).
  • A Photo of Some People in a Football Stadium: Poems (Melbourne: Overland, 1978).
  • [with Shelton Lea], Fond Far Wells (Poowong, Vic: Clough Press, [198-]).
  • I Want to be Normal ([Glebe, NSW]: [the Author], 1993).
  • Weeping for Lost Babylon (Sydney: Angus and Robertson and Paper Bark Press, 1996).
  • Red Heart My Country (Lauderdale, Tas: Pardalote Press, 2000).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Eric Beach, ‘Oral/Aural Poetry,’ Off the Page Dummy Run (1990).
  • Geoff Page, ‘Utterly From the Heart,’ Five Bells 3.8 (1996): 9–10.
  • Myron Lysenko, et al., ‘Eric Beach, the Man who Talks To Going Down Swinging,’ Going Down Swinging no.14 (1994): 93–113.
  • Michael Sharkey, ‘An Interview with Eric Beach,’ Overland no.111 (1988): 64–71.
  • Michael Sharkey, ‘Beach’s Whimsy,’ Australian Book Review no.182 (1996): 54–55.