BIO

PHILIP SALOM

Poet and Novelist

 

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As this is the website of a poet, the information within this section is biographical in tendency but chosen to attempt an answer to the inevitable question: why (or how) I became a poet. I do not pretend to answer this, exactly, and perhaps it can’t be answered; nevertheless, here are some experiences which might explain the unlikely life-choice (because it is far more than a craft) and my own progress towards being a poet. And why I like cats?

At First

These days I live in North Melbourne, after arriving in Victoria just in time to see in 1998.

 

But I was brought up on an isolated dairy farm in Brunswick Junction, on the south-western corner of Western Australia. Like most farm kids, I spent a great part of my early years wandering about the property alone: rummaging in sheds, meandering through paddocks, and along the two rivers which crossed between the property and a large acreage of dry bushland next to the main farm. With two older brothers often away at school my time seemed to extend to eternity. A younger brother was born with a Rhesus problem but, sadly, died as an infant. A sense of loss, even repressed grief, stayed in our home.

 

My primary school years were quiet and had the shape of cricket: intense bursts of bowling or batting, then the interminable waiting for something to happen. I wanted to be a Test cricketer. But alone, in my own reading world, I had a vague admiration for inventive artists from Leonardo Da Vinci to Vincent Van Gogh. In fact, I lived in the daylight of ordinariness. The world seemed a long way away, a reality I could only enter through my imagination. I daydreamed a future self of great independence while I was in fact surrounded by a very physical and detailed farm environment. These two very different existences were, in retrospect, continuously significant for me. 

 

Farming and animals and weather hit you with unavoidable sensory clarity: I am helping my father draft cattle, the heifers and steers rush behind me and have to be cut from the main group and directed through the drafting gate into the next yard. It starts to rain, cold rain, and the smell of dirt and cattle dung intensifies without any let up in the job. The job must be finished so the weather is irrelevant. There is an extraordinary sense of the present - and yet, for anyone not an adult, not yet 'responsible' for this work, there can also be an odd kind of absence.

 

My family had no social life. We never went out and we were a quiet family without stories. My parents knew very little about more worldly life or the professions and there was never any discussion of these things. It was a time of extreme isolation. School and farm life. In retrospect, despite the immediacy of the farm experiences, and the individuality of schooling in a country town, I was starving. There is a dynamic double between boredom and significance. Feeling insignificant can generate a powerful sense of wanting to do something, do anything, to feel a personal significance, a self-esteem. To force yourself out of passivity. I needed it psychologically (and half-intuited this, hence the frustration building in me) but I also lacked external stimulation of more mental and intellectual kind. The psychological and the intellectual needed to belong together, something I would slowly realise but increasingly desire.

 


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