Goldsworthy has been described in A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry as "one of the most skilled and satisfying poets in Australia".
Goldsworthy was born in Minlaton, South Australia, and grew up in various Australian country towns, finishing his schooling in Darwin in the Northern Territory. He graduated in medicine from the University of Adelaide in 1974, and worked in alcohol and drug rehabilitation for several years, but, with his poetry being published in Westerly and the Friendly Street Poetry Reader, he started dividing his working time equally between general practice and writing.
Goldsworthy's novels have sold over 400,000 copies in Australia alone, and, with his poetry and short stories, have been translated into many European and Asian languages. He has won major literary prizes across most genres: for poetry, the short story, the novel, plays and opera.
His first novel Maestro was reissued as part of the Angus & Robertson Australian Classics series, and was voted one of the Top 40 Australian books of all time by members of the Australian Society of Authors. His 1995 novel Wish was also recently reissued in the Text Publishing Text Classics series.
Poetry and short stories
His New Selected Poems were published in Australia and the UK in 2001; and his Collected Stories appeared in Australia in 2004.
The Poetry Archive describes his poetry as follows:
There's a pressing sense of mortality in his work and a desire to ask the big questions, even as he satirises them. Drawn to the discipline of science, Goldsworthy's poems are full of the language of the laboratory —matter, evidence, elements, chemicals— the stuff we are made of, but at the same time frustrated by these limitations into asking what else we might be. He's interested in 'The Dark Side of the Head', the things we can only know in flashes, like glimpsing a skink, but he also retains a rationalist's scepticism of the ecstatic – that "thoughtlessly exquisite" evening sky in 'Sunset' won't fool him into rapture.
The Australian expatriate writer Clive James comments that Goldsworthy's poetry is often seen as a sideline, but argues that it is "at the centre of his achievement". James writes:
His precise wit operates on every level, from the sonic (a concealed dove really does say hidden here, hidden here) to the conceptual (the human body really is packed tight like an attempt on the record of filling a Mini). The general impression is of a fastidious insistence that the particular comes first, and any general comment that follows had better be particular too.
Goldsworthy also writes opera libretti. He wrote the libretto for the Richard Mills operas, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Batavia, the latter winning Mills and Goldsworthy the 2002 Helpmann Award for Best Opera and Best New Australian Work. The premiere at the Sydney Opera House on 19 August 2006 was conducted by the composer and attended by the librettist. He wrote the chamber opera, The ringtone cycle : for soprano, violin, cello, piano, and iPhone with composer Graeme Koehne. Ned Kelly, a new opera written with composer Luke Styles, will be premiered by lost & found opera company at the Perth Festival in 2019.
Goldsworthy wrote or co-wrote the script to several films:
Adaptations of his works
His novels Wish, Honk If You Are Jesus, and Three Dog Night have been adapted for the stage. Honk, was premiered by the State Theatre of South Australia in its 2006 season. It won the 2006 Ruby Award for Best New Work, and the 2006 Advertiser Oscart Award for Best Play.
Humphrey Bower’s award-winning adaptation of Wish for his company, Night Train, had subsequent seasons with the Perth Theatre Company, and in Canada with Edmonton’s Northern Lights. Petra Kalive’s adaptation of Three Dog Night was premiered at fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne, and also performed in the Adelaide Festival Centre Space.
Steve Rodgers adaptation of the novella Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam won the inaugural Lysicrates Prize in 2015, and premiered at the national Theatre of Parramatta in 2018, directed by Darren Yap.
The short story The Kiss was adapted for stage at Belvoir St Theatre, along with short stories of the same name by Chekhov, Maupassant and Kate Chopin. The Kiss was also made into a multi-award winning short film by Ashlee Page.
In 2009 Honk If You Are Jesus was adapted as a radio play by Mike Ladd for ABC Radio National and was broadcast by the BBC World Service. The novella "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam" has also been adapted as a radio-play by Mike Ladd for the ABC.
Awards and nominations
- 1979: Western Australian Sesquicentenary Literary Prize for the short-story Memoirs of a small 'm' marxist.
- 1982: Commonwealth Poetry Prize Readings from Ecclesiastes
- 1982: FAW Anne Elder Poetry Award, joint winner for Readings from Ecclesiastes
- 1982: South Australian Premier's Award, for Readings from Ecclesiastes
- 1984: Government Biennial Literature Prize (South Australia), for Readings from Ecclesiastes
- 1988: Australian Bicentennial Literary Prize for Poetry
- 1991: NBC Banjo Awards, NBC Turnbull Fox Phillips Poetry Prize, shortlisted for This Goes with That
- 1998: ABC / ABA Bicentennial Literary Award, Poetry Australia Literary Award
- 2002: Robert Helpmann Award for Best Opera and Best New Australian Work for Batavia
- 2002: Green Room Award for Special Creative Achievement for Batavia
- 2003: Colin Roderick Award, shortlisted for Three Dog Night
- 2004: Miles Franklin Award. Shortlisted for Three Dog Night
- 2004: FAW Christina Stead Award for Three Dog Night
- 2004: The Courier-Mail Book of the Year. Shortlisted for Three Dog Night
- 2004: Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. Shortlisted for Three Dog Night
- 2004: New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. Shortlisted for Three Dog Night
- 2005: International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, longlisted for Three Dog Night
- 2009: Prime Minister's Literary Awards. Shortlisted for Everything I Knew
- 2010: Member of the Order of Australia. (AM) Citation: "For service to literature as an author and poet, through arts administration, and to the community."
- Maestro (1989)
- Magpie (1992)
- Honk If You are Jesus (1992)
- Wish (1995)
- Keep it Simple, Stupid (1996)
- Three Dog Night (2003)
- Everything I Knew (2008)
- The Kiss (2012)
- Minotaur (2019)
- Readings from Ecclesiastes, (1982)
- This Goes with That: Selected Poems 1970–1990, (1991)
- After the Ball, (1992)
- If, Then: Poems and Songs, (1996)
- New Selected Poems (2001)
- Tattered Joys (2002)
- The Rise of the Machines and other love poems (2015)
- Anatomy of a Metaphor (2017)
Short story collections
- Archipelagoes (1982)
- Zooing (1986)
- Bleak Rooms (1988)
- Little Deaths (1993)
- The List of All Answers (2004)
- Gravel (2010)
- One of my best friends (1994)
- Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam (1999)
Critical studies and reviews
- Gilling, Tom (June 2014). "Peter Goldsworthy". Celebration. Australian Authors Past & Present. Australian Author. 46 (1): 28–31.
- "Peter Goldsworthy". The Poetry Archive. Retrieved 27 June 2008.
- Brief bio in Penguin Edition (2003) of Three Dog Night
- "Goldsworthy, Peter". Austlit. Retrieved 27 June 2008.
- "Peter Goldsworthy, Author". Penguin. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- "Your Favourite Australian Book" (PDF). ABC. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
- "Wish: Text Classics". Text Publishing. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- Clive James. "Peter Goldsworthy". Retrieved 27 June 2008.
- "Overview of notated art music in Australia: Opera, operetta and song". Music Council of Australia. Retrieved 27 June 2008.
- "The ringtone cycle". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "Ned Kelly". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- Peter Goldsworthy on IMDb
- Ebbtide (1994) on IMDb
- Passion (1999) on IMDb
- "Wish - Perth Theatre Company". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "Northern Light Theatre". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "Past work - Petra Kalive". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "Steve Rogers takes out the inaugural Lysicrates Prize". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam - National Theatre of Parramatta". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "The Kiss Belvoir Sydney 2011 | Belvoir St Theatre". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "The Kiss (2010)". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "Airplay". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. August 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- "Helpmann Award Winners (2002)". Live Performance Australia. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
- Australia Council Peter Goldsworthy Accessed: 9 February 2008
- Goldsworthy, Peter (2003) Three Dog Night, Penguin Books (Brief bio)