Mark Tredinnick

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Mark Tredinnick

Mark Tredinnick (born 1962) is a celebrated Australian poet, essayist and teacher.

Dr Mark Tredinnick OAM, winner of the Montreal International Poetry Prize in 2011 and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 2012. He is the author of thirteen books, including four volumes of poetry (Bluewren Cantos, Fire Diary, The Lyrebird, The Road South); The Blue Plateau; The Little Red Writing Book and Writing Well: the Essential Guide. "For twenty years he has taught poetry, grammar, creative nonfiction and business prose in Sydney and around the world. Once upon a time he was a lawyer."


“A poem puts your pain and delight back among ‘the family of things.’ For a poem uses language connected to ecosystems of being and meaning and form and sense where one can feel whole, where one’s sorrow has context, where one’s solitude has company. And not merely social.” —Mark Tredinnick From the intro to A Gathered Distance.

“Each tongue, it has been wisely said, speaks galaxies. And when a language dies, a world—and all that has No other being elsewhere—fails; a silence falls Where there was song, where there was something known no other Lyric grasps.”––Mark Tredinnick from Litany: An Elegy

"The poet’s pen," Shakespeare has Theseus say, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, gives shape "to the forms unknown.’ The poet "gives to airy nothing/ a local habitation and a name.”––Mark Tredinnick from 2014 Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology, Once Wild

“Shaping. Naming. Placing. This is the work of poetry. A good poem is a charged place: a literate geography, a forest, a field, a city block , a suburb, for instance. A poem is a place made of speech. A poem outs the inner life of what afflicts, affects, addicts a poet, one human heart, one human mind. A poem names what its almost unknowable, says what is almost unsayable, and it makes a small habitation—a tent, say; a car; a library; a boat—of what it says. And in that small locality a reader can sometimes come to know something they have often felt, but have not known how to call forth from within or beyond—have not known how to shape or name or hold or value. Till now.”––Mark Tredinnick from 2014 Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology, Once Wild

“The work of grief’s the hardest work we get/ To do. It is ten thousand miles to go… Hope’s the only harder/ Work I know. The stars in sorrow’s sky.”––Mark Tredinnick from “Grief’s Work”

“A poem is an architecture of utterance—an act of speech become a nest or a pot. What a poem is, is not just what it says or how it sounds, but also how it looks—its form. Most of a poem's poetry is how a poet's language, like an organism, adapts to where it finds itself—to how it improvises in response to how it is constrained by its form.”––Mark Tredinnick from "The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"

"Poems—such small things, like birds and bombs—are a lot bigger than they look; they go off! They make more noise (not to mention mess and other kinds of useful damage) and they travel farther than seems possible. A poem is much larger and wilder, if it’s any good, on the inside than the outside. A poem dances down the cage that keeps it—the cage (the poem’s form) that its making has depended on. What you see is the cage; what you get is the poem escaping it."––Mark Tredinnick from “The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"

"I’m generalising, but not, I think, unfairly: poetry tells the big story small; fiction (most fiction) tells a small story big. Robert Bringshurst puts it this way: “thought is a thread, and the raconteur is the spinner of yarns—but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver.” Textus, from which we get “text”, means (or meant) “cloth”. The poem is a cloth, then; a textus, woven with pieces of a hundred threads (thoughts and stories and hypotheses and epigrams), amounting, at once, to less than any of them, and more than all of them. Leaving nearly all of what it says unsaid."––Mark Tredinnick from “The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"

"A poem is a leaf that tells a book; a page that tells a library. A poem is a hint that nails a thesis to a door." ––Mark Tredinnick from “The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"

“Writing is talking tidied by art and set down on paper.” The Little Red Writing Book

“The struggle to improve our sentences is the struggle to improve ourselves.”––Mark Tredinnick from The Little Red Writing Book

“Write with your days the lines/ That run between the stars.”––Mark Tredinnick from “What the Light Tells”

“There is a practice of belonging, and it begins with forgetfulness of self.”––Mark Tredinnick from The Blue Plateau

“I am made of pieces and of the spaces between them where other pieces used to be and no longer are.” ––Mark Tredinnick from The Blue Plateau

“I am a landscape of loss. Most of me is the memory of where else, and who else, and with whom, I have been and no longer am. And so it is with the Plateau; she too, is a landscape of loss. We are not––not I nor this place––ever whole; we are never of a piece. Who we are is how what’s left of us falls back toward some kind of coherence much older than we are.” ––Mark Tredinnick from The Blue Plateau

“Despair like Job’s may be understood, whatever causes it, as a falling out of wonder with the world, out of awe, a catastrophic failure of conviction about one’s own miraculous part in the larger scheme of things. Life loses shape and refuses form; the hearth that held you lets you slip. One is unhoused from one’s days and tortured by one’s nights. One is beyond one’s own or anyone’s reach. My version of Job’s lot has felt like profound disenchantment with myself and my work. Even the world of birds and ridgetops and rivers and trees lost its magic. Each morning I wake and my life is something less than a theoretical proposition. My unhearthing is a spiritual distemper; it is a loss of one’s grip on the meaning of a life, a nihilism to which, perhaps, those of us most dedicated to the making of meaning are most vulnerable. And it falls especially hard on those who never learned how to care for themselves, who never, early, learned to feel what they said they knew—that the nature of the universe is love, and that some of that love is meant for oneself, a birthright, and secure.”––Mark Tredinnick 2018, “Temple of the Word”

“Lived as a place, not just a story, lived as country, perhaps a life may become more habitable and happy. Perhaps a place is a mind one can learn to share. Perhaps a place is a body one can inhabit and care for as if it were one’s family, one’s lover. One’s self.”––Mark Tredinnick 2018, “Nourishing Terrains”

“Perhaps a place is a mind you can learn to share.”––Mark Tredinnick from “Nourishing Terrains”

“Darkness is the original country, and it is alive with stories."––Mark Tredinnick from Bluewren Cantos

“Poetry is for soul making, Keats thought. And he was right. He still is. It still is. How you write is who you are, says Joan Didion. So, who are we and who do we want to be? Poetry's a way to work that out. Each of us. All of us."—Mark Tredinnick, Meanjin interview, 2014[specific citation needed]

“And with each dialect drowned, each lexicon beached, the world that is a universe of all these knowing realms knows less, the living world grows less alive.”––Mark Tredinnick from “Litany: An Elegy”

“Most of it is black, and the beginning goes on/ And on.”–– Mark Tredinnick from “What the Light Tells”

“I have a general theory: keep going.”–– Mark Tredinnick from “The Rules for Walking”

“It’s frightening to contemplate the havoc already at play and terrifying to think about how much worse it could all get and not merely for oneself. If one’s ethics extend beyond one’s self and even beyond the merely human realm, it’s chastening, it’s mortifying, to think that how you have lived your life, how you’ve fuelled your prosperity and ease, has induced a change in the weather the consequence of which could be, already is, massive species extinction including ultimately perhaps our own.

We are already living through the sixth mass extinction event we know about in the history of the earth. Much of it is caused by how immoderately we have thrown our weight around, how many habitats we’ve rendered unliveable, how many food chains we’ve cut; but some of it also and most of it in the years ahead will be caused by the changing weather, much of which we seem to have caused too.”––Mark Tredinnick 2012, “A Poet's Guide to Climate Change” “Every climate crisis starts at home.” “The Fire & the River & the City & the Bush”––Mark Tredinnick

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