Geoff Page is an Australian poet who has published eighteen collections of poetry as well as two novels, four verse novels and several other works including anthologies, translations and a biography of the jazz musician, Bernie McGann. He retired at the end of 2001 from being in charge of the English Department at Narrabundah College in the ACT, a position he had held since 1974. He has won several awards, including the ACT Poetry Award, the Grace Leven Prize, the Christopher Brennan Award, the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Poetry and the 2001 Patrick White Literary Award. Selections from his work have been translated into Chinese, German, Serbian, Slovenian and Greek. He has also read his work and talked on Australian poetry in throughout Europe as well as in India, Singapore, China, Korea, the United States and New Zealand.
A few of them he’s seen already, arriving in the early dawn, staying in a small hotel not too far from the station. He’s walked their boulevards, their backstreets, the pathways of their parks; he’s strolled beside their rivers, those enigmatic swirlings, and sometimes on the esplanades, dressed a little out of season, wondering at their moody seas. He’s probably seen more than most and yet he’s not well-travelled.
Arriving all his life as rumours, as traveller’s tales or deft allusions, they line up as a reprimand, these classics that he hasn’t seen. Now, with just these ten years left (or weeks or hours) he knows a visit’s less than likely. He thinks about the schedules, the brochures with their gloss and colour — and thus to inconveniences, the quality of coffee, the noise on the piazzas. The weather, too. Autumn would be best. Spring, for him, ironic — the heat and cold on either side needlessly extreme. Neither is what he’s had in mind. He thinks, too, of the work that made them, fierce obsessions, dreams translated into stone. Or brick. Or glass and steel more recently. He thinks about those half translations, the ones he’s used so far — the photographs, the moving pictures, the acreage of Baedekers, milky slides in living rooms forty years forgotten.
He looks down at his cup; takes some water from a glass. Sometimes the coffee’s brought too hot — though never scalded. He wouldn’t be here if it were. He lets it cool and stares a while at what a blonde barista’s made with just one flourish of a spoon. This, too, is art. How easily it’s done. He folds his hands around the cup. Time now to begin. There’ll be a few more yet, he thinks, and sees himself in ticket queues, impatient at a counter or travelling in cramped compartments. He’ll walk the cobblestones and hear the slanting of their consonants, the strangeness of their vowels. How many more? Say three or four, the ones unseen already turning into myth.
Oblivion is the word he wants. Unique to him at first. And then.