Kenneth Slessor and the Grotesque


VINCENT Buckley has observed of Slessor that he is 'a man with a feeling for the grotesque', and that the element of the grotesque is 'not simply a foible of his early days, but is rather a recurring and directing element in his poetry'; but he produces no other evidence to support his contention than to detect a 'hint of romantic grotesquerie' in the titles of Slessor's poems. Max Harris also finds in Slessor's poetry a penchant for the grotesque, and Charles Higham and A. D. Hope4 support the view by inference. Close examination shows that Slessor's poetry is in fact characterized by this element of the grotesque, an element which appears in the early poems (primarily those written in the early nineteen twenties) as a garish and superficial ornamentation, a precious style, and a deliberate search for the unconventional, but which he learns to control and utilize with considerable effectiveness about the time he writes 'Captain Dobbin'.

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Published 1 December 1964 in Volume 1 No. 4. Subjects: Australian poetry, Imagery, Poetic techniques, Vision School, Kenneth Slessor.

Cite as: Mitchell, Adrian. ‘Kenneth Slessor and the Grotesque.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 1, no. 4, 1964, doi: 10.20314/als.e69538ddb8.