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Michael Dransfield (1948 – 1973)

Michael Dransfield, cover of Michael Dransfield, cover of "Drug Poems" book, photographer unknown

Michael Dransfield was born in Sydney on 12 September 1948. He attended Sydney Grammar and (briefly) Sydney University. He worked for a while in the Australian Taxation Department as a clerk before drifting into the counter-culture and adopting the role of wandering minstrel, living mainly in the inner-city suburbs of Sydney but also travelling frequently between Queensland and Tasmania. He was a prolific writer of lyrical poems which gained wide attention early, and which later in his brief career came to focus more and more on drug experiences. Plagued by ill health and drug addiction, Dransfield died at the age of 24, on 20 April 1973, before his talent had fully matured, leaving behind close to a thousand poems.

Dransfield began publishing his poetry while still a teenager, his work appearing in poetry magazines and literary journals including Poetry Australia, Meanjin and Overland. His first poetry collection, Streets of the Long Voyage, was published by the University of Queensland Press in 1970, and he published two further collections during his lifetime; an almost complete manuscript was posthumously published as Memoirs of a Velvet Urinal (1975). Three further collections have appeared since Dransfield’s death, including his Collected Poems (1987), edited by Rodney Hall, who as poetry editor of the Australian newspaper had been among the first to publish Dransfield’s work. Dransfield remains a figure of intense critical interest among modern Australian poets.

Poetry Collections
  • Streets of the Long Voyage (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1970).
  • The Inspector of Tides (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1972).
  • Drug Poems (Melbourne: Sun Books, 1972).
  • Memoirs of a Velvet Urinal (Adelaide: Maximus Books, 1975).
  • The Second Month of Spring (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1980).
  • Michael Dransfield: Collected Poems (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1987).
  • Michael Dransfield: A Retrospective (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2002).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Livio Dobrez, Parnassus Mad Ward: Michael Dransfield and the New Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1990).
  • Patricia Dobrez, Michael Dransfield’s Lives: A Sixties Biography (Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1999).
  • Michael Dransfield, ‘Letters to Nigel Roberts,’ Aspect: Art and Literature 2.2 (1976), pp. 12–14.
  • Vrasidas Karalis, ‘The City as the Topos and the Habitus of Modernity in the Poetry of Michael Dransfield,’ Literature and Aesthetics 15.2 (2005), pp. 217–26.
  • John Kinsella, ‘Michael Dransfield as Landscape Poet,’ Antipodes 17.2 (2003), pp. 142–47.
  • Geoff Page, ‘Michael Dransfield: The Poetry Not the Myth,’ Quadrant 21.4 (1977): pp. 66–69.
  • Felicity Plunkett, ‘Haunting an Old House: The Posthumous Career of Michael Dransfield,’ Southerly 56.4 (1996), pp. 164–79.
  • Pip Proud, ‘Drugs, Dransfield, Women and Songs,’ Meanjin 67.2 (2008): pp. 36–42.
  • Caitlin Punshon, ‘The Emerging Landscape: Perspective and Perception in the Landscape Poems of the Generation of ’68,’ Journal of Australian Studies 80 (2004), pp. 53–63, 236–238.
  • Jennifer Strauss, ‘Colonial Poet to City Theorist? Michael Dransfield’s Incomplete Evolution,’ in Anna Rutherford, ed., Populous Places: Australian Cities and Towns (Sydney: Dangaroo Press, 1992), 58–75.
  • Michael Sharkey, ‘Poetry: Entirely Useless; Out of Date,’ Ulitarra 16 (2000), pp. 134–42.

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