Maxine Beneba Clarke named inaugural Poet in Residence

 Maxine Beneba Clarke named the inaugural Peter Steele Poet in Residence. Image supplied.

Maxine Beneba Clarke has been named the inaugural Peter Steele Poet in Residence. Image supplied.

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne has selected lauded poet and writer Maxine Beneba Clarke as the inaugural Peter Steele Poet in Residence. The Poet in Residence is a first at the University of Melbourne and is one of only a few in the country.

Maxine Beneba Clarke, who begins her Residency in January 2023, is an Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent, and the multi-award-winning author of over fifteen published books for children and adults, including the poetry collection Carrying The World, which won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her latest poetry collection How Decent Folk Behave was also shortlisted for the award in 2022.

She is currently working on a verse novel, and has two books due for publication in 2023, including It's the Sound of the Thing, a book of 100 new poems for primary school children, out through Hardie Grant in June. The other is a picture book titled We Know A Place, which is an illustrated children's poem about the wonder of bookstores, to be published by Hachette Australia.

Maxine said she looks forward to helping to raise the profile of poetry through the year-long residency.

“Poetry is still not revered in the way that it used to be or in the way that it can be, so I hope to create excitement about poetry and all the possibilities of it,” she said.

“I am interested in talking about poetry, hearing about poetry and trying to inject poetry into as many aspects of the Arts Faculty as I can, and the University more broadly.”

The Poet in Residence position was introduced through the generosity of donors to the Peter Steele Poetry Trust at the Faculty of Arts in honour and celebration of the Hon. Susan Crennan AC KC, at the time of her retirement from the Melbourne Humanities Foundation Board. Susan was a driving force behind the establishment of the Foundation and a strong advocate for the advancement of Australian poetry.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts The Reverend Professor Russell Goulbourne says the position is a significant step towards giving poetry the exalted role it deserves in Australian society.

“The role of a poet in residence aims to enrich our communal experience of place, purpose and connection, and to bring poetry to a wider audience,” he said.

“We are thrilled that Maxine, such a celebrated and accomplished poet, will share her breadth of experience as a working poet and bring her talent and imagination to the possibilities of the role.”

Artistic Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival Michaela McGuire celebrates the introduction of a Poet in Residence.

“The University of Melbourne’s commitment to a Poet in Residence recognises that literature and poetry is essential to our culture: an investment in our collective future, in a smarter, kinder, more cohesive world. What could be a more beautiful antithesis of the crasser, crueller facets of our global culture than poetry?” she said.

“Maxine will bring her tremendous experience and energy to this role, and I can’t wait to read the work that she produces, as well as hear about the inspiration and conversations that she’ll spark amongst the broader arts community and beyond.”

Mark Rubbo, managing director of Readings, is also thrilled by Maxine’s appointment.

“Maxine is a fine writer across several genres but poetry is where she started.  Her work is raw and powerful and she has the ability to connect with a wide audience especially through her public readings; her performances of her poems are memorable and electrifying.”

“Poetry, sadly, is often one of the neglected areas of literature and this position will give it a profile that it deserves,” he said.

More Information

Sarah Hall