Keepers trilogy

The Keeper of Fish         Keeping Carter

The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter are books attributed to the eccentric loner poets Alan Fish and MA Carter, respectively, but through the unexpected medium of Philip Salom. These two poets are heteronyms. Their books are rich with the poetry of character and individual style.

Alternatively, you could read both books as first-person verse-novels where nothing happens... 

I will also be adding an article on the odd experience of writing while channeling a different persona for an entire collection, which is a choice few poets make (Fernando Pessoa is the famous example) but it has a strangely inventive fascination. Perhaps compulsion.

Alan Fish is a lyric poet, sombre, linguistically detailed; he is a poet whose poems identify closely with his emotions. Fish came to life in the basement of Keepers, my previous collection and a near but not quite verse novel ... or some such thing. In Keepers Alan Fish spoke and moved as the sardonic commentator and narrative stirrer under every page of the poems in the Art School but in The Keeper of Fish he swims free into his own voice and poetry.

Carter is also quite lyrical, especially in a musical, whimsical and eccentric way, but he is especially sardonic and wayward. There are many things out there in the world that Carter does not like and he says so. He has a sense of humour but he is a bad lad. Therefore he goes for brilliance and badness as a poetic sport. He is an original. There is no poet in Australia like Carter.


Creativity intrigues us. There can be no clear understanding of what it is and isn't and yet it's something we are deeply endowed with, sometimes in bursts, sometimes for sustained periods of time. What happens when we 'teach' it? I was there - as a student and then, from 1983 to 2008, lecturing in Creative Writing in university creative arts programs. I just had to write a book about it, eventually, the accomplishments, the huge gulfs and uncertainties, of this state we call creativity and of the humans who meet and interact there.

Keepers is full of poems about people and artistry, and work, and is therefore a novelistic book. It features named characters, a single narrator of sorts (who occupies six lines of prose at the bottom of each page of poems) and a very loose plot - or what I call a narrative of associations. Included among these figures are portrayals of historic painters, writers and musicians who have fascinated me by their lives and the strongly individual nature of their creations. 

I am told it is my funniest book, which relaxes me somewhat; I hoped it was - there is much that is funny in these places. The main character, called Fish, is empathetic but is not one to suffer fools, and he can be sardonic. Still, he is a lonely man, and as he observes the goings-on from his lowly position as a print room assistant cum cleaner, he sees that creative art too can be thankless, and lonely - one of art's greatest paradoxes. Fish is sometimes a flaneur, wandering through the city; or he is sitting in his workplace basement playing the quietly secretive Go, the Japanese board game, with whoever stops by. At times he behaves as if he couldn't care less, but he does. He gets involved. The staff and the students and the artists are the real heroes, but he is the deep thread of presence in the book. 


Sales: These books are for sale! For older books mentioned (The Well Mouth, A Cretive Life, Sky Poems) please use the Contact link at the bottom of the page to make a request (I have all copies of these titles). For my novels, Playback and Toccata and Rain, please contact Fremantle Press.