Francis Brabazon: A New Measure in Modern Australian Poetry


  • Ross Keating


Brabazon's only claim to fame in Australian literature is one poem published in the 1956 edition of The Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Judith Wright (p.129). There are no poems of his in any other anthology of comparable standard nor is there to be found any critical assessment of his work apart from the occasional book review. These facts indicate either a poet who has been neglected or on whose work has been found wanting. Certainly, Brabazon's output is not excessive but he has produced, along with other works, twelve collections of poetry and his major work Stay With God (1959) had a remarkable six hundred pre-publication sales which for an Australian poet writing in the fifties is quite exceptional. Part of this neglect may be due to the difficulty critics have found in coming to terms with Brabazon's thought and his eclectic references to saintly personages and metaphysical ideas. This has often given him the label of being a mystical poet which he flatly denies. And probably a greater reluctance has come from the fact that he chose to follow an Eastern spiritual Master and openly wrote of this fact. In this regard, Brabazon stands alone amongst his generation of Australian writers with the possible exception of the Buddhist's poet Harold Stewart. In failing to understand or even attempting to understand Brabazon's relationship with his spiritual Master, Australian literary critics have tended to treat his writing as marginal and have on occasion crudely satirised this aspect of his work. What they have tended to miss in the process is the universal scope and depth of his vision and the cogency and clarity of his expression. In this paper I wish to give a brief account of Brabazon's life in Australia and present some of his early ideas on art and creativity.