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Kris Hemensley (1946 – )

Kris Hemensley, photograph by Inge Schulze-Ardey-Timm Kris Hemensley, photograph by Inge Schulze-Ardey-Timm

Kris Hemensley was born in 1946, on the Isle of Wight, UK. The child of an Egyptian mother and an English father, he spent his early years in Alexandria, Egypt, where his father was stationed with the Royal Air Force. He first came to Australia as a sailor in 1965, then emigrated in 1966 on an assisted passage. He quickly became involved in Melbourne’s performance poetry scene, conducting workshops at La Mama Theatre in 1968–1970. He also began a career as a broadcaster on ABC radio, working on his own program, Kris Hemensley’s Melbourne (1969–1970), and as Melbourne correspondent on the Books and Writing program (1978–1981). From the late 1960s until the mid 1980s, Hemensley was an energetic editor and publisher of experimental literary magazines, based both in Australia and in England, including Our Glass (1968–1969), Earth Ship (1970–1972), The Ear in a Wheatfield (1972–1976), and The Merri Creek or Nero (1981–1984). He was poetry editor of Meanjin from 1976 to 1978. Since 1984, he has managed a specialist poetry bookshop in Melbourne.

Hemensley began publishing his own poetry in the late 1960s. In 1968, he issued a roneographed joint collection, Two Poets, with Ken Taylor, and the following year published another collection, The Going and Other Poems, as part of Michael Dugan’s roneoed literary journal Crosscurrents. Through the 1970s he published prolifically, issuing eleven poetry collections, including a volume of selected poems, Domestications (1974). Most of his work has been published through independent publishers and poets’ networks. His poetic output has slowed since the late 1980s, but he continues to publish his work occasionally in Australian poetry magazines. In 2004, Hemensley was awarded the Fellowship of Australian Writers Christopher Brennan Award for his contribution to Australian poetry.

Poetry Collections
  • [with Ken Taylor] Two Poets ([s.l.: s.n., [1968]).
  • The Going and Other Poems (Heidelberg West, Vic: Michael Dugan, 1969).
  • Dreams (London: Edible Magazine, 1971).
  • The Soft Poems: For Timothy (Bexleyheath, UK: Prison Clothes/Joe DiMaggio Press, 1972).
  • Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians (Bexleyheath, UK: Joe DiMaggio Press, 1973).
  • Love’s Voyages (St Lucia, Qld: Makar Press, 1974).
  • Domestications: A Selection of Poems 1968–1972 (Melbourne: Sun Books, 1974).
  • Sulking in the Seventies (Clifton Hill, Vic: Ragman Productions, 1975).
  • The Poem of the Clear Eye (Carlton, Vic: Paper Castle, 1975).
  • Beginning Again: Poems 1976 (Sydney: Sea Cruise Books, 1978).
  • The Moths (Carlton, Vic: Paper Castle, 1978).
  • The Miro Poems (Alverstoke, UK: Stingy Artist, 1979).
  • A Mile From Poetry (Sydney: Island Press, 1979).
  • Trace (Port Melbourne, Vic: Ingles St Press, 1984).
  • Sit(e) ([Weymouth], UK: Stingy Artist/Last Straw, 1987).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Martin Duwell, ‘Kris Hemensley,’ in A Possible Contemporary Poetry: Interviews with Thirteen Poets from the New Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: Makar Press, 1982), pp. 50–66.
  • Carl Harrison-Ford, ‘Poetics before Politics: A Note on Kris Hemensley’s “New Australian Poetry”,’ Meanjin Quarterly 29.2 (1970), pp. 226–31.
  • Kris Hemensley, ‘First Look at “The New Australian Poetry”,’ Meanjin Quarterly 29.1 (1970), pp. 118–21.
  • Kris Hemensley, Introduction, The Best of the Ear: The Ear in a Wheatfield, 1973–1976: A Portrait of a Magazine (Clifton Hill, Vic: Rigmorale Books, 1985).
  • Kris Hemensley, ‘ “…The Wild Assertion of Vitality” ’ Australian Literary Studies 8.2 (1977), pp. 226–39.
  • Marcus O’Donnell, ‘Kris Hemensley: Reflections on Three Generations,’ The Small Press Times (1992), p. 1.
  • Ken Taylor, ‘Kris Hemensley’s Melbourne,’ Melbourne On My Mind (Melbourne: ABC, 1976), pp. 49–63.
  • Jim Tulip, ‘Towards an Australian Modernism: New Writings of Kris Hemensley,’ Southerly 37.2 (1977), pp. 142–51.

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