Mark Tredinnick

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Mark Tredinnick (born 1962) is a celebrated Australian poet, essayist and teacher. Winner of the Montreal International Poetry Prize in 2011[1] and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 2012.[2] He is the author of thirteen books, including four volumes of poetry (Bluewren Cantos, Fire Diary, The Lyrebird, The Road South); The Blue Plateau; The Little Red Writing Book and Writing Well: the Essential Guide. "For twenty years he has taught poetry, grammar, creative nonfiction and business prose in Sydney and around the world. Once upon a time he was a lawyer."

Mark Tredinnick


Mark Tredinnick won the Montreal International Poetry Prize in 2011 and the Cardiff International Poetry Prize in 2012. A distinctly Australian poet but also a poet of the world, Tredinnick has been described as 'one of our great poets of place—not just of geographic place, but of the spiritual and moral landscapes as well—a Whitmanesque Emily Dickinson of the southern hemisphere.' Tredinnick's 'artlessly beautiful poetry' has won for him in recent years, as well as the international prizes, a number of major Australian awards—The Blake and Newcastle Prizes, among them, and a Premier's Literature Prize (for Fire Diary). His poems 'work elegantly and intimately over a huge terrain.' Tredinnick's poetry is poetry of witness: small moments, epiphanies, weather, birds, children, the divine comedy of everyday life, the ‘beautiful struggle, the ordinary trouble’ we find ourselves in, the beauty and peril of the natural world.

"I am a fool for places," Tredinnick has written, "and for the vulgar, semantic music of sentences. I have grown deeply attached to the physicality and mystery of landforms and language. To the country people inhabit—and which sometimes inhabits them—and to the words people use to speak their truths and falsehoods."

Tredinnick also says: "We need words and country more than we seem to remember; our futures may depend, now more than ever, on how well we use and how healthy we keep them both. Because I believe this, and because I cannot help it, my work often wanders the syntax of places and it tries the ecology of sentences; I want to hear and I’d like to say what the land seems to know—about us, I mean, and about itself and time and how we might use well what little we have."

Tredinnick’s poetry explores ‘ancient themes—especially the theme of our human relationship with landscape’, Sir Andrew Motion has written. Tredinnick's concern to divine both language and landscape and the way they interact led to his doctoral work on nature writing, completed in 2003, at the University of Western Sydney. Although he hasn't pursued an academic career, Tredinnick could be understood, in and beyond his poetry, as an ecocritic. He has written and spoken widely and often on Henry David Thoreau's theme: “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” His doctorate Writing the Wild: Place, Prose, and the Ecological Imagination became his second book, The Land’s Wild Music (2004), and with Professor Kate Rigby, he cofounded the Australian chapter of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. His poetry and nature writing have been the focus of doctoral work and scholarship, in particular in China, where ecocriticism is a strong emergent field of academic work.

Along with his volumes of poetry— Bluewren Cantos (2013), Fire Diary (2010), The Lyrebird (2011), and The Road South (spoken word CD, 2008)— Tredinnick's thirteen books include the landscape memoir, The Blue Plateau (2009), four books on the writing craft, including, The Little Red Writing Book (2006), and Australian Love Poems, which he edited in 2013.

A bilingual (Chinese/English) selection of his poems (The Lyrebird) is due out late in 2014, along with his third collection of poems, Body Copy. He is working on a memoir of a reading life, Reading Slowly at the End of Time (2015).

Mark Tredinnick

Tredinnick no longer lives with his family along the Wingecarribee River, southwest of Sydney. He spends much of his time teaching and consulting in the city. Although his daily writing practice is poetry ("poetry is most of what I write now; it is how I live", he has said), Tredinnick continues to write essays, criticism, reviews, and other prose, from his desk in a cowshed outside Bowral. He spent a long writing apprenticeship in prose, and published several prose books and hundreds of essays, before his first poems were published in the early 2005. As well as poetry workshops, Tredinnick teaches literary journalism, creative writing, and creative nonfiction at the University of Sydney, and he has three times been a judge of the NSW Premier's Prize in the nonfiction category, Douglas Stewart Prize. Tredinnick's work, The Blue Plateau, an extended lyric essay on the life of one place on earth, won the Queensland Premier's Literary Award in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award the same year. Novelist Tony Birch nominated it as the one book he would give to anyone coming to Australia; 'it captures,' he said, 'what belonging to this antipodean place means and has meant through time.’ Drawing on his writing guides—The Little Red Writing Book, The Little Green Grammar Book and (with Geoff Whyte) The Little Black Book of Business Writing—Tredinnick also works with organisations in the government, education and private sectors to help them write with economy and grace. Tredinnick's poetry and essays are widely anthologised and published in journals, blogs and newspapers, in Australia and internationally. and it has appeared in journals including Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry, Contrappasso, Eureka Street, Island, Isotope, Magma, Mascara, Meanjin, New Welsh Review, Orion, PAN, Poetry London, The Scotsman, Southerly, Wet Ink, The Wonderbook of Poetry, and World Literature Today. For nearly twenty years, Tredinnick has taught and lectured poetry, creative nonfiction, grammar, nature writing, and composition at universities (chiefly the University of Sydney). He has been a guest of many literary and poetry festivals around the world, including the Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Oxford, and Ubud Festivals, and the Ottawa Poetry Festival (VerseFest). He has spent teaching residencies at the Universities of Alaska, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, the University of Aberystwyth and the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.


Tredinnick, the grandson of Methodist minister, Wesley Tredinnick, the second of four sons of Bruce and Heather Tredinnick, was born in Epping, in suburban Sydney. He went to primary school at North Epping Public School and won a bursary to Barker College, Hornsby, an Anglican private school, where he completed his schooling in 1979. He took a double degree (with Honours) in Arts and Law at the University of Sydney University, majoring in history, and taking courses in philosophy, in addition to law. In the last year of his degree, Tredinnick worked part-time as a paralegal for Allen Allen & Hemsley, before accepting a clerkship with Mallesons Stephen Jaques, one of Sydney's leading law firms. Tredinnick worked as a solicitor with Mallesons for a year, before moving into book publishing, where he stayed for nearly a decade; he worked as an editor and publisher at Butterworths, Allen & Unwin and HarperCollins. Tredinnick says of those years: ‘they were part of my education as a writer, of course; I was learning what a sentence was; I was practising grammar and learning about design; I was learning what it took, the years and years sometimes, to make a book and to make it good enough to share.’ Tredinnick left the corporate world and began to write and teach writing (and some courses in leadership and organizational studies in Politics at the University of Sydney). It was from Katoomba and a small apartment in Lavender Bay that Tredinnick wrote and published his first poems and won his first prizes. Tredinnick also travelled North America and worked on his doctoral thesis, a study of nature writing and an attempt to retheorise the capacity of prose to represent landscapes and the more than merely human world—to 'catch the lyric of country', as he puts it. Tredinnick took his doctorate in 2003 and his thesis was published in 2005

Tredinnick's first book, an edited collection of nature writing essays from Australian and North America, A Place on Earth, came out in 2003 in Australia (2004 in the United States). After that came The Land's Wild Music in 2005; The Little Red Writing Book in 2006; The Little Green Grammar Book in 2008; Writing Well (an adaptation of The Little Red Writing Book for the international market) also in 2008); The Blue Plateau (2009 in Australia; 2010 in the United States); The Little Black Book of Business Writing (with Geoff Whyte) in 2010; Australia's Wild Weather in 2011.

Tredinnick's first collection of poems, The Road South, appeared as a spoken-word CD in 2008. His first volume of poems was Fire Diary, published in late 2010. That was followed by The Lyrebird, a chapbook, in 2011 and Bluewren Cantos in 2013.

Mark Tredinnick

Tredinnick's emergence as a poet was marked by a string of major Australian prizes, in particular the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2007 and the Blake Poetry Prize in 2009. His work became better known outside Australia when he won the inaugural Montreal International Poetry Prize in 2011 and the Cardiff Prize the next year. In Australia, he won the Newcastle Prize second time in 2011 and took out some significant literary prizes for his books: the Queensland Premier’s Literary Prize 2010 for The Blue Plateau and the West Australian Premier’s Prize 2011 for Fire Diary.

In 2013 he edited Australian Love Poems for a start-up literary press, Inkerman & Blunt. Pitt Street Poetry, who published his second volume of poems, Bluewren Cantos in December 2013, released a second edition of Fire Diary early the following year.

Tredinnick's works and days—the difficult dance between the silence of the desk, the higher frequencies of family life, the demands of earning a living to "finance the silence", as he puts it, and feed the family—are discussed in a long interview he gave to Perilous Adventures magazine in 2010, and are glossed in a number of his poems, in particular "Insolvency", "Eclogues", and "The Economics of Spring" (in Fire Diary).


Tredinnick's poetry often employs a long, stepped-down line. Poetry is an "architecture of utterance", he has said, "a sculpture of voice." And his poems, though informal in voice, present themselves as small geographies, places, language worlds both sonic and visual. Although his architectures resemble sometimes the sestets of Charles Wright, whose influence and kinship Tredinnick has acknowledged, unlike Wright, Tredinnick's syntax is often complex, his sentences long, "breathtakingly fluent" (as Sinead Morrissey has put it), deltaic. His poetry, though painstakingly made and precise, is expansive, pushing against the forms it employs, dancing down its own cages. Catching a vital tension in Tredinnick's work, Australian novelist Greg Day has called him a "failed minimalist." John Glenday has commented that his lines, though long and inclusive, spread across the page and within a reader toward the silence all poetry hopes to waken. Bluewren Cantos, Mark's latest book of poetry, is praised as "A gentle mix of the sublime and the mundane, so that we are invited to let such dualisms be undone in us."[3]The critic Michelle Borzi finds that Tredinnick's "habit of relying on atmospheric image-making and self-intrusive references to impel the lines is a defining attribute of the poetry throughout Fire Diary."[4]

Tredinnick described his essays once as "half chat, half chant", and his poetic voice lies, similarly, between conversation and song. Informality is a key to his lyric. He has named poets John Keats and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, and Seamus Heaney, Robert Gray, Dylan Thomas, and Charles Wright, as influences and teachers. He also cites Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Debussy, and painters Van Gogh and Matisse. And the voices of lyric prose writers play in Tredinnick's poetry, as in his prose: Michael Ondaatje, Joan Didion, Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, David Malouf, and Cormac McCarthy.

Talking specifically of Bluewren Cantos, poet and critic Jean Kent neatly summarises Tredinnick's poetics, including the way his work nearly always starts in place, but reaches out toward intimacy with a loved one, with the dead, with that which is most human in each of us.[5]

"Like the singing of birds, it all feels artlessly beautiful, but only because of the exceptional art, which keeps the music of what’s being said mesmerising. Behind the flowing lines and hypnotic melodies, there is as much control of the rhythm and counterpoint and harmony as there is in any of the compositions by Bach or Mozart or Debussy, composers who compete with all the real birds in Mark’s Wingecarribee landscape. Even before he began publishing poetry, Mark was renowned as a nature writer. His sensitivity to place and his ability to celebrate the Australian landscape are special joys in all his poems. Often, Mark’s poems begin with nature – but invariably the solitary presence of the poet reaches out to another person – often a loved person – or, in an intimate connection, to the reader. This is poetry like tightrope walking – a nonchalant, though thoughtful, ambling out into the world, which almost leads us into a transcendental state – only to be caught in a web of emotion and thought and connections to the daily reality of living. Tredinnick’s poems are also full of playful paradoxes and wry humour. His tone may be debonair, well-dressed and conscious of manners and historical allegiances, but for all the hypnotic oratory, his voice is both questing and self-deprecating, and the earth he walks over is emphatically today’s."[6]

Webs like soft targets stretch across

'Every flight path and passage – traps

So exquisitely laid you almost wish

You were small enough to spring them,

For the terminal pleasure of being

So elegantly caught. [7]

Poet Anne Elvey has said that Tredinnick "Weaves the tropes of attentiveness to the other, mortality, and finitude, together with his wry humour, to tell a loving engagement with place, persons and otherkind. This is poetry as blessing. It is a poetics of witness."[8]


On Poetry[edit]

"Poetry's role now, here and everywhere, is what it always was and what it's always likely to be. Human beings write poetry because it is a necessary response to the misery and delight entailed in being alive and conscious and prone to language; it is a natural response, in some of us, but in all cultures, to the tragedy of being mortal in an immortal world.

We turn to poetry to say what most people feel and few know how to say. Poetry begins, says Jane Hirshfield, in language awake to its connections; it is language more charged and complex and suggestive than the language we use in chat and at work. It translates the unsayable world, of our feelings and yearnings and dreamings; it cries the beauty and peril of the earth and of our place in it. It rebukes politicians and crooks and bullies by refusing and refuting the cravenness of their thinking and the manipulation and tyranny of their language. It keeps language fresh, and shows us how to speak difficult truths so beautifully they are bearable."[9] "Poetry can be maddening; poets, even more so. In particular, one's self. But poetry, as Basho said, is a Way, not an art, or not merely an art. If it's like that for a writer, as it is for Judith Beveridge—as it was for Rumi and was for Heaney and is for me, I think, then there's no quitting it. Unless it quits you."

"Poetry is for soul making, Keats thought. And he was right. He still is. It still is. How you write is who you are, says Joan Didion. So who are we and who do we want to be? Poetry's a way to work that out. Each of us. All of us."[10]

"A poem is an architecture of utterance—an act of speech become a nest or a pot. What a poem is, is not just what it says or how it sounds, but also how it looks—its form. Most of a poem's poetry is how a poet's language, like an organism, adapts to where it finds itself—to how it improvises in response to how it is constrained by its form. "[11]

"Poems—such small things, like birds and bombs—are a lot bigger than they look; they go off! They make more noise (not to mention mess and other kinds of useful damage) and they travel farther than seems possible. A poem is much larger and wilder, if it’s any good, on the inside than the outside. A poem dances down the cage that keeps it—the cage (the poem’s form) that its making has depended on. What you see is the cage; what you get is the poem escaping it. "[12] "I’m generalising, but not, I think, unfairly: poetry tells the big story small; fiction (most fiction) tells a small story big. Robert Bringshurst puts it this way: “thought is a thread, and the raconteur is the spinner of yarns—but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver.” Textus, from which we get “text”, means (or meant) “cloth”. The poem is a cloth, then; a textus, woven with pieces of a hundred threads (thoughts and stories and hypotheses and epigrams), amounting, at once, to less than any of them, and more than all of them. Leaving nearly all of what it says unsaid."[13] "A poem is a leaf that tells a book; a page that tells a library. A poem is a hint that nails a thesis to a door."[14]

On Writing[edit]

"If I weren’t a writer I’d be leading somebody else’s life."

"Life, all of it, shapes your writing. You can find a lawyer in my lines, if you look; you can hear an historian; you can find a father and a cellist and a singer and a preacher’s grandson, a chorister’s son. You can read a reader in my syntax; you can watch a wannabe architect and artist (I draw) in my shapes. You can find a horseman in my rhythms…” [15] " You can’t teach anyone what tale they need to tell, but you can teach them a lot about how to get the telling done. Authentically. Like themselves at their best. Suggesting you can’t teach a writer anything about writing is like saying you can’t teach a composer anything about music or composition – or a painter, anything about painting, or a dancer about dancing, or a lover about loving. A fair bit of creative writing, as in those other fields, doesn’t come naturally. It can be, indeed, it has to be, learned. And teaching it is one way to induce the learning." [16]

"The struggle to improve our sentences is the struggle to improve ourselves" [17]

"Turns out that the art of getting out of your own way, so that you sound on paper like your own true self, is hard work, and it’s achieved by mastering of a bunch of disciplines. As in yoga or meditation, the purpose of the rules is not mastery of the rules. The purpose is to free yourself and your writing – from distraction and chatter and banality and superficiality. What you can teach, what no writer can do without learning, are the technical matters that have their equivalent in other human arts and sports and pursuits: sentence craft, the things White and Hemingway and Kenyon taught me; grammar and punctuation; the ageless elements of style; and in poetry several thousand years of wisdom about prosody and form, metaphor and meter, sense and sensibility and the music of speech."



Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (winner, poetry), 2011: Fire Diary

Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards (winner, nonfiction), 2010: The Blue Plateau

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (shortlisted), 2010: The Blue Plateau

ACT Book of the Year (shortlisted), 2010: The Blue Plateau

Alec Bolton (ACT Arts prize for unpublished manuscript) (highly commended), 2010: Fire Diary


Montreal International Poetry Prize (the largest prize ever for a single poem; winner 2011, for "Walking Underwater")

Cardiff International Poetry Prize (award for a single poem; winner 2012, for "Margaret River Sestets")

Blake Poetry Prize (winner, 2008: “Have You Seen”)

Newcastle Poetry Prize (winner, 2007: “Eclogues”)

Newcastle Poetry Prize (winner, 2011: “The Wombat Vedas”)

Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize (winner, 2005: “The Child & Time”)

ACU Prize for Literature (second, 2013: “Light Years”)

ACU Prize for Literature (shortlisted, 2013: “Faith”, “The Reader”)

Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize (runner up, 2009)

ABR (now Peter Porter) Poetry Prize (shortlisted, 2005)

Newcastle Poetry Prize (shortlisted, 2006, 2009, 2010) Blake Poetry Prize (highly commended, 2008, 2010; shortlisted 2011)

Rosemary Dobson (commended, 2010)

Poet’s Union/ Broadway Poetry Prize (shortlisted, 2006)


Calibre Essay Prize (winner, 2007)

Wildcare Nature Writing Prize (winner, 2005)


For a comprehensive list of Tredinnick's work, see his entry in AustLit.



  • Tredinnick, Mark (2008). The road south (CD). River Road. 
  • Fire Diary (Puncher and Wattman, 2010; second edition Pitt Street Poetry, 2014)
  • The Lyrebird (Picaro, 2011)
  • Bluewren Cantos (Pitt Street Poetry, 2013)
  • Body Copy (Pitt Street Poetry, Forthcoming 2014)

List of poems[edit]

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Landscripts 2014 Tredinnick, Mark (Autumn 2014). "Landscripts". Meanjin. 73 (1): 38–41. 


· Why Write

· The Gospel of Mark

· Nature & Me (Scottish Poetry Library Journal, 2012)

· Southerly Blogs

· The Idiom of Love (Foreword to Australian Love Poems 2013)

· Speech Music, ABR, April 2012, no 340)

· The Cool Web (on Judith Beveridge, for Heat 2010)

· Under the Mountains & Beside a Creek

· The Lyric Stance (Island Journal, 126, 2011)

· A Portrait of the Artist as Half a Dozen Places (2009; Meanjin)

· A Storm & a Teacup

· Days of Christmas (won the Wildcare Nature Writing Prize, 2004, in Best Australian Essays 2005)

· Loneliness and Creativity

· A Peaceable Revolution (in the book Project Republic, 2013)

· The Weather of Who We Are (broadcast on “Ockham’s Razor”, Radio National, May 2012; also in Best Australian Science Writing 2013);

· A Poet’s Guide to Climate Change (broadcast on “Ockham’s Razor”, Radio National 2012)

· Getting Over Your Self (Introduction to Sparks, anthology of writing from Uni Sydney creative writing students, 2012)

· Prize Life; Praise Life (Introduction to Award-Winning Australian Writing 2012)

As editor[edit]

  • A Place on Earth (UNSW / U Nebraska, 2003/4)
  • Australian Love Poems 2013 (Inkerman and Blunt, 2013)


  • The Land's Wild Music (Trinity, 2005)
  • The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir (UNSW / Milkweed, 2009)
  • Australia's Wild Weather (NLA, November 2009)

For a full list, see


  • The Little Red Writing Book (UNSW, 2006)
  • The Little Green Grammar Book (UNSW, 2008)
  • Writing Well: The Essential Guide (Cambridge, 2008)
  • The Little Black Book of Business Writing with Geoff Whyte (UNSW, 2010)


Poetry Reading, New Welsh Review

Sydney Writer's Festival, 2012

Interview with ABC

Reading from Bluewren Cantos

Perilous Adventures Interview

Working With Words: interview with The Wheeler Centre 2013

Interview with Kath Stansfield, Online in New Welsh Review 2012:

“Stopped By the Road at the End of the World” and talking ecology and poetry:

At Heaven & Earth Festival 2012:

Reading in Jenolan Caves 2011:

Speaking at Australian Institute of Management 2010:



  2. Cardiff International Poetry Competition 2012 – The Winners.
  3. Western Australian Premier's Book Awards – 2010.
  1. ^ April 2014
  2. ^ April 2014
  3. ^ Anne Elvey, launch of Bluewren Cantos, 2014.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Jean Kent, launch of Bluewren Cantos, 2014
  6. ^ Jean Kent, launch of Bluewren Cantos, 2014
  7. ^ Mark Tredinnick, "Fight or Flight", Bluewren Cantos
  8. ^ Anne Elvey, launch of Bluewren Cantos, 2014.
  9. ^ Meanjin interview, 2014
  10. ^ Meanjin interview, 2014
  11. ^ "The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"
  12. ^ The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"
  13. ^ The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"
  14. ^ The Gospel of Mark: What I Believe and How I Work"
  15. ^ Meanjin interview, 2014
  16. ^ Working with Words, interview with The Wheeler Centre, 2013
  17. ^ The Little Red Writing Book

External links[edit]