Speaking about identity, John Kinsella mentioned his Irish heritage. Clan Kinsella were renowned as tough and resilient, but the famine forced some to migrate to Australia in early 1850’s.
Hy Kinsella, the region Clan Kinsella mostly inhabited, is in County Wexford, on the east coast of Ireland. This link has a brief history of the region. If you’re a Kinsella interested in your family history, there’s even a special tour you can take.
John Kinsella calls himself an international regionalist, with the lens of the Wheatbelt forming his perspectives of the world. In this episode of ABC RN’s Poetica, he walks the farmlands of his aunt and uncle's farm Wheatlands, near York, Western Australia, with the presenter, giving a wonderful sense of his connection to place.
John Kinsella has written several poems and articles for the Australian literary magazine, the Griffith Review. In the edition Looking West, published early 2015, his very personal poem The Artlessness of Internal Travel touches on some of experiences he discussed in the Rare Air interview.
The Ballardong Noongar people are one of four main Aboriginal groups whose land is the Wheatbelt region in Western Australia. This community consultation document gives great insight into the powerful ongoing bond between the Ballardong Noongar people and their country and environment.
An early influence on John Kinsella was the French poet Jean-Nicolas–Arthur (Arthur) Rimbaud. Described as a prodigy, he wrote all his poetry his teens, initially writing in Latin from age 13 . This 2011 article from the New Yorker turns Rimbaud’s life into a great (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) read. The writing of another French poet, Charles Baudelaire, who argued that art must create beauty from even the most "non-poetic" situations, also formed part of Kinsella's early reading.
After making “thousands” through astute trades during his days working at Wim Smits Stamps & Coins in Perth’s London Court, John Kinsella bought thousands of books. The haul included the Penguin English Language library and the Penguin Classics library which he read through in alphabetical order.
A middle-of-the-night call from American literary critic and Yale academic Harold Bloom changed John Kinsella’s life. Bloom was calling to congratulate John on his book “The Silo”, calling it a “game–changer”. Later, in his introduction to Kinsella’s “Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems” Harold Bloom wrote:
At this midpoint of a remarkable career, Kinsella needs to be read in something of his prodigal profusion, the generous scattering of his gifts. We are poised before the onset of what I prophesy will be a major art.
The book catapulted Kinsella onto the international stage and is dedicated “to Harold and Tracy, with thanks”.
Opposed to the death penalty, John Kinsella made a plea for clemency for Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran who were executed in Indonesia in April 2015.
The final poem in Kinsella’s 2014 collection The Vision of Error: A Sextet of Activist Poems is about the death penalty. It’s called ‘The Killing State” / The Murdering State'.
A turning point for Kinsella was on the train to Copenhagen, aged 20, when he connected with the beautiful ( by then elderly) former lover of linguist Roman Jakobson ( 1896 - 1982). He offered her his first book of poetry, The Frozen Sea, to read on the long journey and the ensuing conversation made him realise that what he wrote, spoke in an international way and through it he could achieve his dreams.