Home > Poets > Smith, Vivian

Vivian Smith (1933 – )

Vivian Smith was born in Hobart on 3 June 1933 and attended school there, publishing his first poems in the Sydney Bulletin while still a schoolboy. Subsequently he attended the University of Tasmania, graduating with a MA in French. He taught French there for ten years, before moving to Sydney in 1967. After completing a PhD in English at the University of Sydney, he taught English and Australian literature there for many years, retiring as Reader in English in 1996.

Smith has not been a prolific poet, publishing five further collections at fairly long intervals since his first, The Other Meaning, appeared in 1956, together with a Selected Poems in 1985 and a New Selected Poems a decade later.  Place and landscape have always been important to Smith's poetry; initially the focus was on Tasmania, with more emphasis on Sydney following his relocation there. His poems are generally short and traditional in form, though more complex than may appear at first glance, with undercurrents of deep thought and emotion beneath their precise observation of a particular scene.  His fourth collection, Tide Country (1982), won both the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award for Poetry and the Grace Leven Poetry Prize.

 In addition to his poetry, Smith has been active as an editor, researcher, critic and reviewer. From 1975 to 1990 he was the literary editor of the journal Quadrant. He edited The Letters of Vance and Nettie Palmer (1977) and contributed the poetry section to The Oxford History of Australian Literature (1981). He received the Patrick White Award in 1997 for his contributions to Australian literature.

Poetry Collections

The Other Meaning (Sydney: Lyre Bird Writers, 1956).

An Island South (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1967).

Familiar Places: poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1978).

Tide Country (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1982).

Selected Poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1985).

New Selected Poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1995).

Late News (Sydney: Vagabond Press, 2000).

Along the Line (Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2006).

The Other Side of Things (Mosman, NSW: River Road Press, 2008).

Suggested Further Reading

Christopher Koch, 'Vivian Smith and the Lost Island,' Southerly 56.2 (1996), pp. 27-32.

David McCooey, 'Still Life: Art and Nature in Vivian Smith's Poetry,' Australian Literary Studies 17.2 (1995), pp. 278-81.

Geoff Page, 'Vivian Smith,' A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 157-65.

Noel Rowe, 'An Interview with Vivian Smith,' Southerly 56.2 (1996), pp. 27-32.

Noel Rowe, 'The Place of Poetry: the Work of Vivian Smith,' Southerly 56.2 (1996), pp. 46-66.

Noel Rowe, 'Vivian Smith,' in Selina Samuels, ed., Australian Writers 1975-2000 (Detroit, USA: Gale Research, 2006), pp. 303-09.

Vivian Smith, 'Writing in New South Wales,' Poetry Australia nos.107-108 (1986), pp. 109-11.