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Geoffrey Lehmann (1940 – )

Geoffrey Lehmann, portrait by Juno Gemes© Geoffrey Lehmann, portrait by Juno Gemes©

Geoffrey Lehmann was born in Sydney on 28 June 1940 and spent his early childhood at McMahon's Point on the northern side of Sydney Harbour. He attended the Sydney Church of England Boys' Grammar School before continuing on to the University of Sydney. He completed a combined degree in Arts and Law, graduating in 1963. During this time he met fellow poet, then also a student, Les Murray, with whom he coedited the university magazines Arna and Hermes.  During this time he was also associated with the Sydney Push.

After graduating, Lehmann practised as a solicitor, becoming a partner with C. R. Willcox. He also lectured in law and taxation at the University of New South Wales. He later became a partner in the international accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers. In addition to his poetry, Lehmann has written a novel and edited several anthologies of Australian poetry.

Lehmann's first volume of poetry The Ilex Tree (1965), published jointly with Les Murray, won the Grace Leven Poetry Prize. Since then he has published seven further collections of poetry, as well as a Selected Poems (1976) and a Collected Poems (1997) that won for Lehmann his third Grace Leven Poetry Prize. The second had arrived in 1981 for Nero's Poems: Translations of the Public and Private Poems of the Emperor Nero. Here Lehmann uses the persona of the Roman emperor Nero as a means to satirise contemporary society, including that of Sydney.  In his earlier long poem, Ross' Poems (1978), he employs the voice of an Australian farmer to explore the ideas of family and community. Spring Forest (1992) repeats and expands this material. Lehmann has also written telling and often amusing poetry about his family and family life in general.

Poetry Collections

[with Les Murray], The Ilex Tree (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1965).

A Voyage of Lions and other poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1968).

Conversation with a Rider (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1972).

Selected Poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1976).

Ross' Poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1978).

Nero's Poems: Translations of the Public and Private Poems of the Emperor Nero (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1981).

Children's Games (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1990).

Spring Forest (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1992).

Collected Poems (Kew, Vic: Heinemann, 1997).

Baking at Night: and other poems (Warners Bay, NSW: Picaro Press, 2003).

Suggested Further Reading

Carmel Gaffney, 'The Fruit Tree and the Veranda,' in Sharyn Pearce and Philip Neilson, eds., Current Tensions: Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature: 6-11 July 1996 (Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology, 1996), pp. 85-94.

Alan Gould, 'Geoffrey Lehmann's History of Morale,' The Totem Ship (Hahndorf, SA: D&S, 1996).

Michelle Mongan, 'A Governor, a Farmer, an Emperor: Rome and Australia in Geoffrey Lehmann,' Australian Literary Studies 11.1 (1983), pp. 14-24.

Geoff Page, 'Geoffrey Lehmann,' A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 171-74.

Michael Sharkey, 'Geoffrey Lehmann's Nero's Poems,' Quadrant 28.6 (1984), pp. 72-75.

Barbara Williams, 'Geoffrey Lehmann,' In Other Words: Interviews with Australian Poets (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), pp. 72-94, 272-73).