Vivian Smith’s The Other Side of Things

The first poem I recorded of Vivian Smith’s was A Pair of Scissors. On paper this is a poem of considerable charm. In real life VS is a match for his scissors. Smith’s poems are quiet colonisers; they work like his brown coastal ants in the poem Night Life, conveying things from one place to another. If you’re lucky the other place will be you. These poems have an adroit resonance, their words and ideas come back, like phrases of music, when you stop to hear yourself think. Smith is often characterised as a lyricist, but this undersells his humour, his satirical eye and vivid imagination. For him an acute observation is very often a point of departure for the real business of the poem. We see this in The Man Fern Near the Bus Stop, where like a fanciful botanical fabulist, Smith conjures a dozen intriguing and accurate puzzles from the fern: a pineapple, an embryonic mouse and a seahorse emerge while an enigmatic slippered man waits near us for the bus that never arrives.( The Tasmanian man fern is known as a tree fern in Sydney).

These poems, to paraphrase Smith, are freighted with surprisingly robust fragilities. In the odd way of poetic things, we find these perceptions are sharpened by slight contradictions that bring the whole into finer focus. But why a CD? Simply to hear a national treasure, a voice that is entirely individual.

Who is Vivian Smith? Vivian Smith has travelled widely in Europe, Asia and South America, and lived at various times in Paris, London, Vienna and Naples, but most of his life has been spent between Hobart, where he was born, and Sydney where he taught for many years at the University of Sydney. He has published seven books of poetry, most recently the collection ” Along the Line” (Salt, 2006) and edited a number of anthologies of Australian poetry, most recently as co-editor of “Windchimes: Asia in Australian Poetry” (Pandanus Books, 2006). His various awards include the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and the Patrick White Literary Award. Further Information on Vivian Smith can be found in his entry in The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature and Austlit. (


  1. Summer of the Ladybird 1:34
  2. The Names – Boxes 1:01
  3. The Names – Album 0:59
  4. The Names – Backyard 1:07
  5. The Names – Port 0:55
  6. Late April, Hobart 2:07
  7. Early Arrival, Sydney 1:26
  8. Death Bed Sketch 4:47
  9. History 1:34
  10. Night Life 1:19
  11. At an Exhibition of Historical Paintings, Hobart 2:58
  12. At the Parrot House, Taronga Park 1:34
  13. The Man Fern near the Bus Stop 1′18
  14. Convolvulus 1:04
  15. Remembering WHS 1:301
  16. Return to Hobart 1:19
  17. Slope with Boulders 1:06
  18. Still Life 1:17
  19. Tasmania 0:53
  20. A Pair of Scissors 1:20
  21. Traveller’s Tale 1:20
  22. Sydney, Perhaps 1:16
  23. Tune 1:51
  24. Happiness 0:52

Running Time: 38.5 minutes