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Mark O'Connor (1945 – )

Mark O’Connor was born in Melbourne in 1945. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a BA (Hons) degree in English and Classics in 1965, and subsequently taught English Literature at the University of Western Australia and the Australian National University. He began publishing poetry in the early 1970s, his work appearing in numerous Australian literary magazines and journals including Poetry Australia, Makar, Hemisphere and Quadrant. Since deciding to make his living as a professional poet O’Connor has won a number of poetry prizes and has been the recipient of numerous writers’ grants and fellowships. In 1977 he was awarded a Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship, and travelled mainly in Greece and Italy until 1980. In 1983 he was writer-in-residence at a number of Australian Universities, and in 1984–1985 held a New South Wales National Parks Writing Fellowship. He moved to Canberra in 1988, where he has been based since, though he has continued to travel, representing Australia at a number of international literary conferences and events, and holding overseas writing fellowships: in 1990 he was writer-in-residence at East China University, Shanghai, and 1994 Humanities Research Fellow at the University of Oregon, USA. In 2000, he received a grant from the Australia Council to write poetry on the Sydney Olympic Games and to write work on regional Australia.

A dedicated environmental poet, O’Connor’s poetry collections are often thematically devoted to specific regions of Australia and their unique ecosystems, and several have been produced in conjunction with photographers as text/photo collaborations. His first collection, Reef Poems, was published in 1976, and he has published twelve further collections including two volumes of selected poems (1986, 1990), and a volume of collected poems, The Olive Tree (2000). His dedication to the Australian environment and conservationism is also evidenced in his non-fiction publications This Tired Brown Land (1998) and Overloading Australia (with William Lines, 2009), which warn against the environmental impact of overpopulation. O’Connor has also been active as a reviewer and literary critic, and was the editor of the Oxford University Press anthology Two Centuries of Australian Poetry (1988). He has also written a play in verse, Planting the Dunk Botanic Gardens (2006), based on experiences as a gardener on Dunk Island, Queensland, in the late 1970s.

Poetry Collections
  • Reef Poems (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1976).
  • The Eating Tree: poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1980).
  • The Fiesta of Men (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1983).
  • Poetry in Pictures: the Great Barrier Reef (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1985).
  • Selected Poems (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1986).
  • Poetry of the Mountains (Leura, NSW: Second Back Row Press, 1986).
  • The Great Forest: Poetry (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1989).
  • The Ship Trans-time: Words for a Museum (Melbourne: Museum of Victoria, 1989).
  • Fire-Stick Farming: Selected Poems 1972–90 (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1990).
  • Tilting at Snowgums: Australia’s High Country in Poetry and Photos (Palmerston, ACT: Tabletop Press, 1996).
  • The Forever Lands: Australia’s Northern Territory in Words and Images (Camberwell East, Vic: Beyond Images, 2000).
  • The Olive Tree: Collected Poems 1972–2000 (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 2000).
  • Pilbara (Melbourne: John Leonard Press, 2009).
Suggested Further Reading
  • ‘A Symposium: Mark O’Connor’s The Fiesta of Men,’ LiNQ 11.2 (1983), pp. 123–32.
  • Paul Kavanagh, ‘Fiestas of Life: An Interview with Mark O’Connor,’ LiNQ 12.1-3 (1984), pp. 29–38.
  • Mark O’Connor, ‘Beyond the Canon: Preparing an Anthology of Australian Poetry,’ Australian Studies no.12 (October 1989), pp. 23–31.
  • Mark O’Connor, ‘The Olympic Poet Idea,’ Thylazine no. 12 (2007). http://www.thylazine.org/thyla12/thyla12k.html
  • Mark O’Connor, [website], http://pandora.nla.gov.au/nph-arch/2000/Z2000-Sep-11/http://users.actweb.net/_marko/index.html
  • Mark O’Connor, Mark O’Connor: Australian Poet, Internet, http://www.australianpoet.com/
  • Geoff Page, ‘Mapping Australia,’ Australian Book Review no.225 (2000), pp. 50–51.
  • Geoff Page, ‘Mark O’Connor,’ A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 213–17.
  • Shalini Sharmi, ‘O’Connor’s Poetic Credo and Vedic Literature,’ in Anurag Sharma and Pradeep Trikha, eds., Caring Cultures: Sharing Imaginations: Australia and India (New Delhi, India: Sarup, 2006), pp. 71–83.