|Born||Robert Lee Coburn|
25 June 1994
|Genre||Poetry, Southern Gothic, western|
Robbie Coburn (born 25 June 1994) is a contemporary Australian poet, playwright and writer.
Life and work
Coburn was born in Melbourne and grew up on his family's 30 acre farm just north of Melbourne's outer suburbs in the semi-rural locality of Woodstock, Victoria. His father was a horse trainer and later a greyhound trainer, which is a large focus of his poetry. He was educated at Whittlesea Primary School and Assumption College, Kilmore and briefly studied at La Trobe University before dropping out of his degree. Coburn began suffering from depression as a teenager and struggled with addictions to alcohol and various drugs, as well as with self-harm, until he was in his early 20s. As a teenager he played in several punk and rock bands. He began writing poetry at the age of 14, influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Coburn's first published poem appeared in anarchist poet Pi O's literary journal Unusual Work when he was 17 years old and he has since been published in many journals and magazines, including Poetry, Meanjin, Island and Westerly. Some of his poems have also been included in major anthologies.
A major collection of poetry The Other Flesh was published by UWA Publishing in 2019.
Coburn's poetry is known for its highly personal, sometimes confronting nature, as well as his use of evocative, visceral imagery and dark themes. His raw, violent and emotionally charged imagery, often focussing on the human body, has drawn comparisons with the work of the painter Francis Bacon. His poetry has addressed topics such as childhood, relationships, isolation, death, religion and faith, trauma, mental illness and addiction.
His poems are generally written in free verse using a lyric style, often evoking a rural and isolated setting. His combination of rurality with religious and apocalyptic themes is reminiscent of the Southern gothic genre.
His major poetic influences include Robert Adamson, Les Murray, Arthur Rimbaud, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Antonin Artaud, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Baudelaire, William Blake, Dante, Frank Stanford, and Matsuo Basho, among others. He is also heavily inspired by the work of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, and by various folk, country and blues musicians. He has also acknowledged the influence of writers including Sam Shepard, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, J.G. Ballard, Dennis Cooper, Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour on his own work.
In answer to the question of why he writes poetry, Coburn has said "It simply isn't a conscious decision I make to write poetry, but an impulsion that cannot be ignored. Poetry photographs parts of life and humanity that can't be captured visually, at least in a literal sense. It dissects the hopelessness of being alive and makes it seem to develop meaning momentarily, even if it never actually does. If our most private and affecting inner thoughts and memories, the ones we keep silently at the backs of our minds, were given a voice, it would be poetry. That is what poetry is to me."
- Rain Season (2013)
- The Other Flesh (2019)
Chapbooks and Pamphlets
- Human Batteries (2012)
- Before Bone & Viscera (2014)
- 5 Poems (2015)
- Mad Songs (2015)
- Scar to Scar (with Michele Seminara, 2016)
- The Silences (with Amanda Anastasi, 2016)
- Writing to the Wire. Dan Disney (ed.), Kit Kelen (ed.) (UWA Publishing, 2016)
- To End All Wars. Dael Allison (ed.), Anna Couani (ed.), Kit Kelen (ed.), Les Wicks (ed.) (Puncher & Wattmann, 2018)