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Interview: Aden Rolfe

Aden Rolfe is a writer and editor whose practice includes poetry, performance writing and criticism. His poems have been published in the Age, Best Australian Poems 2011 and Best Australian Poetry 2009, and were featured in Overland’s Emerging Poets Series. He was recently awarded the Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship for Poetry. Find out more at

Catch Aden @ QPF 2013 in First Thunder Spoke (Theatre Space, Saturday 24 August, 10.30am) & Into The Squall (Theatre Space, Sunday 25 August, 3.15pm)

Who is one of your favourite contemporary poets, and why?

John Ashbery is my go-to man. He expresses the symbiosis of contemporary confusion and clarity like no other, all from the back of your mind.

You’ve had poems Commended in the Judith Wright Poetry Prize three times. How do you use such an experience to move forward as a poet?

It certainly changed the way I saw myself and my work. After reading my first shortlisted poem, Gig Ryan told me she liked it, which was a pretty amazing vote of confidence. Since then, it’s been a delicate tightrope: entering poems good enough to be commended but not to win. I’m hoping to make a career out of running up.

As the 2010 editor of The Emerging Writers’ Festival’s publication for emerging writers, ‘The Reader’, what advice can you offer to emerging poets?

Read poetry. If you can’t read, consider another profession. Just stay away from running up.

You write in a variety of genres and forms. What is it about poetry that keeps you coming back?

Poetry and radio are my main creative outputs. On the surface they’re very different, but once you dig a little deeper you can see what they have in common: namely, they’re superior to all other art forms.

Tell me something about a poet whose work you’ve been reading lately.

I’ve been reading a lot of Anne Carson again. Her work, if you don’t know it, sits between essay, memoir, poetry, lecture, criticism, even travel writing. It’s exactly where I’d like to pitch my own writing.

How would you describe your own poetry?

The poor stepchild of Carson and Ashbery.

What can we expect to hear from you at QPF?

I’ll be reading excerpts from Anamnesis, a project which combines poetry and essay to explore the role of memory in identity formation.

Interview by Tiggy Johnson / photograph by Jessie Borrelle