Petra White

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Petra White is an Australian poet. Petra was born in Adelaide in 1975, the eldest of six children, and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as a public servant. Her first published collection of poetry, The Incoming Tide (John Leonard Press 2007), was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and the ACT Poetry Prize.

In 2011, five of Petra White's poems were selected for inclusion in the landmark anthology of Australian Poetry, Australian Poetry Since 1788. The poems selected are Ricketts Point, Voyage, Woman and Dog, Older Sister and Notes for the Time Being.


Petra White grew up in Adelaide. She studied English and German literature at the University of Melbourne, completing a BA with honours. In 2002 she studied at Essen University and travelled widely in Europe. In 2008 she was Fellow of Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, completing a five-week residency.

In 2012, Petra White and Paul Hetherington took Australian poetry to Ireland with Australian Poetry Limited's first international tour. Petra conducted readings and workshops at many venues throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland including the Bealtaine Festival in Dublin, Laurel Villa in Magherafelt and Writers' Week at Listowel.

Petra's second collection, The Simplified World, published in 2010, was the joint winner of the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in the anthology Take Five (Shoestring Press 2008, UK), The Age, Melbourne, and other anthologies and periodicals.

A third major collection, A Hunger, was published by John Leonard Press in 2014. This publication includes Petra's previous collections, in which slight changes have been made to a small number of poems.

Petra White is a founding co-editor of the So Long Bulletin, a blog on Australian poetry and criticism.[1] She was the judge for the Reason-Brisbane Poetry Prize in 2011.[2]

Petra White holds a Master's degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of Melbourne.


Critical Reception[edit]

"With her unpretentious voice and subject matter, Petra draws the reader to her and absorbs them with tales of her multifaceted life."[3]

'Sister', from The Incoming Tide, "is a lovely, almost comically surprising poem whose essential structure is that it is about sisterhood only in its title and its last two lines. As the poem progresses through four eight-line stanzas the gap between the title and the content of the poem grows more and more intense so that the conclusion is that much more satisfying:"

Descendant of the Aztec dog-god
Xolotl, who with mangled hands and feet
guided the dead to heaven, his once trans-
lucent form refuses catastrophe; more
than the ailing tabby, the timorous
and watchful high-heeled dog, or the rented
fireprone house, he guards our dangerous
childhood pledge to never change.

"It is one of those rare poems which is simultaneously sophisticated and easy to grasp: it should be immediately anthologized."[4]

"In The Simplified World Petra White more than fulfils the promise made by her first book, The Incoming Tide, back in 2007. For all of her literary sophistication and verbal ingenuity, White is a poet of the world as we know it, an observer of poignant situations – and a conveyor of them. Whether it’s an anonymous, depressed woman walking her dog (‘‘not a small one’’) until its feet bleed and then carrying it ‘‘all the way home, wherever that was’’, or a Lebanese couple running a take-away for decades, White over and over again leaves us moved by what she has shown us. As well as by poignancy, however, the book is held together by certain thematic threads. One is a feeling for depression, the strangeness of it, the way it cannot be lifted by a mere effort of will. It is a‘‘blankness as wide as the long sea’’ (‘‘St Kilda’’) and raises the question ‘‘Where does illness live,/what does it want? . . . Describe your fear. How do you feel out of 10?/Out of 9?’’ (‘‘Notes for the Time Being’’)."[5]


  • The Incoming Tide. (Melbourne: John Leonard Press, 2007)
  • The Simplified World. (Melbourne: John Leonard Press, 2010)
  • A Hunger. (Melbourne: John Leonard Press, 2014)


  • Best Australian Poems. (Melbourne: Black Inc., 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Take Five 08. (Nottingham: Shoestring Press, 2008)
  • Best Australian Poetry. (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2010)
  • The Puncher and Wattman Anthology of Australian Poetry. (Sydney: Puncher & Wattmann, 2010)
  • Australian Poetry Since 1788. Geoffrey Lehmann (ed.), Robert Gray (ed.) (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2011)
  • Thirty Australian Poets. Felicity Plunkett (ed.) (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2011)
  • Young Poets: An Australian Anthology. (Melbourne: John Leonard Press, 2011)



External links[edit]