Pete Hay


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With the sub-title, CATHARSIS AND ‘THE NATURAL THINGS’, these poems take the Greek prefix ‘phys’ – “the natural things” – into three apparently contrary directions. ‘Physick’ is an old name for a medical practitioner – it conjures images of a mess of curling manuscripts and smoking vials, and a bright-eyed, raggedy-bearded vieillard. And it can mean ‘a cathartic potion’. Let these meanings float around, butting up against life, as poetry requires. They butt and bounce – and they sheer apart…
The first group of poems puts the ‘phys’ into language – the flamboyant vernacular of extraordinary – and ordinary – grounded life, often in times lived and gone. The ‘physiques’ conjured here belong to those who have walked the ground of my deep-breathing, passionate island, the island at the end of the earth. The second group seeks catharsis in the emotional interplay of poet and the ‘things’ of the natural world, an interplay through which the poet unsuccessfully seeks an Emersonian transcendence. Nature poems then, but with an ambivalent lyricism. The third set of poems ratchets away from the experiential ground of things. It privileges the reasoning mind. Here the abstractions of scientific inquiry into ‘the natural things’ are ‘examined’ through the uneasy and speculative medium of poetry. When I started these poems I doubted whether this was even possible. I still do.
At the back of the book is a series of poem-specific notes, and these are most extensive in relation to the poems of the first suite. There may, in some instances, be a case for reading the relevant note in advance of the poem.

About the Author

Pete Hay is the author, co-author or editor of six collections of poetry. As with Physick, Hay’s first volume of poetry, The View from the Non-Members’ Bar, was also published in both Australia and New Zealand. He has worked in politics and academia, where he was Reader in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania until he opted to exchange footnotes and bibliographies for more creative and satisfying modes of expression.

Look Inside


ISBN: 978-1-99-110321-5

Pages: 156

Dimensions: 210mm x 135mm

Format:  Soft Cover

Author: Pete Hay

Published: 10 October 2023


Physick is a book of poetry that sears and coaxes and it could have been written by no one apart from the scholar, poet and elder that is Pete Hay. No one else takes the temperature of this island like him and no one else uses Tasmania as such an effective prism through which to consider human nature. Physick is a book of transcendent poetry which helps us understand not only place but the vagaries and passions of the human condition. It should be prescribed reading for all of us.”

– Rachel Edwards, The Australian