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Slessor – a biography

A full biography available at: http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/

Born in Orange NSW, in 1901, as Kenneth Adolphe Schloessor , moved to England briefly and then to Kogarah when he was 13 and then to Chatswood at 15. He attended the Church of England Grammar School - Shore .

Throughout most of his career Slessor was involved in journalism either as writer or editor and in 1940  he became Australia’s official war correspondent.

In the early ‘twenties Slessor was beginning to publish poems: and the magazine “Vision” offered him a channel for publication. Poems from this era reflect two conflicting impressions. A lustiness and decorative excess where image jostles image and texture is crusted with over-richness ... and the second an emptiness which underlies these sensuous feelings and ideas, a lack of inner solidity, a perception of the abyss that increases gradually into terror.

 

It seems about this time that Slessor began to feel dissatisfied with his own poetry; the rich illustrative vein of the early poems, was no longer capable of expressing what he had to say. About 1927 he turned his attention from decoration to technical experiment and accomplishment.

Slessor chose Wilfred Owen as a master and he took a path that English poetry, on the whole, during those years rejected. Slessor also owes a debt to T.S. Eliot. Slessor’s chief reason for his admiration for Owen was that he saw the emotion behind the verse working to alter the shape and sound of the verse itself. “The emotion of a poem” he says in an address, “must make the experiment, not the experiment the poem.”

Like Eliot, Slessor recognised that the poet has no monopoly on the meaning of his poems when in 1965 he stated:

“It is difficult for any writer to discuss his own verse, mainly because of the problem of deciding where the boundary lies between the personal associations and meanings which certain words produce in him and those which they produce in the reader.”1

 

Looking back over the poetic life of Slessor, it seems as though silence was always in the background of all he has said, and has finally triumphed over his brilliant and feverish imagery..

 

Slessor wrote his last poem in 1948 and died in 1971.

 

1 .  From a talk given at the University of NSW in 1965., reprinted in Bread and Wine, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1


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