‘SOUTHERN BARBARIANS’ BY JOHN MATEER / ELIZABETH CAMPBELL
To be a poet is not my ambition,
It’s my way of being alone.
Alberto Caeiro (Fernando Pessoa), trans. Richard Zenith
To travel! To change countries!
To be forever someone else,
With a soul that has no roots,
Living only off what it sees!
Alvaro de Campos (Fernando Pessoa), trans. Richard Zenith
You spoke my name in King Joao Library,
the hall closing in around us, the gilt-lined tomb
of a sinking carrack …
… You spoke
JOHN MATEER into the dark of King Jaoa Library
and were closer to my name than I will ever be.
from ‘Eduardo,’ Southern Barbarians, p 48
Many contemporary Australian poems tour foreign locations, throwing in place names and foreign words, often in a decorative manner. This vein of poetry may set out to signal the poet’s own well-travelled cosmopolitanism and appropriate post-colonial modesty but sadly mostly ranges between the merely dull, and the dully Orientalist. The politics and psychology of foreignness, of otherness, of empire, is rarely touched in any but the most gestural ways. Those matters, in all their real complexity, form the core concerns of Mateer’s oeuvre . With Mateer, travel seems continuous, and continues in the various countries of his residence.