Recognised as one of Australia’s foremost contemporary poets, Gray writes about what he knows, the Australian littoral landscapes; where land and water meet. Born in Port Macquarie, raised in Coffs Harbour, worked in Sydney and now teaching in America, Gray presents an eclectic view of the world.
While not a rabid environmentalist, Gray appreciates the landscape and how it affects people’s outlook but is concerned about man’s destructive capacity. He is also concerned about commercialism and the degradation of our towns and cities.
Gray’s technique is noted for his clarity of vision – the best eyes in Australian Poetry. He has a painter’s eye for light and colour – “calico beach” reflected also in the brilliant imagery of his poetry. He has a precise grasp of sensory detail, often using all of the five senses. Yet it is the detachment and panning of a camera – a cinematic camera of moving images, often capturing the fleeting transitoriness of the passing moment. He combines the abstract universal contemplative issues with mundane grungy day to day living; allusions to Art and Literature related to local landscapes.
As a modern poet, Gray relies on the linguistic features of strong verbs, truncated sentences and ellipsis – messages are implicit and we need to fill in the gaps. The sparse or minimal wording requires us to engage our faculties to process our own interpretations. Like Emily Dickinson he uses punctuation; lots of commas, hyphens, dashes as a minefield of pregnant pauses forcing us to reflect on possible meanings. This can provide us with a deeper and longer lasting satisfaction as we read and contemplate the rich textures and possibilities.
His overriding themes include: commercialism and its destructive effects on the environment and degradation of the human spirit, urbanisation and its dehumanising effects, the journey motif as a voyage of self - discovery and personal isolation; our fragility, aloneness as we stare into the void, the emptiness, the abyss.
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