Alex Skovron was born in Poland, lived briefly in Israel, and emigrated to Australia in 1958, aged nearly ten. His family settled in Sydney, where he grew up and completed his studies. From the early 1970s he worked as an editor for book publishers in Sydney and (after 1980) Melbourne; since the 1990s he has worked as a freelance editor. His poetry has appeared widely in Australia and overseas. The Rearrangement (1988), his first book, won the Anne Elder and Mary Gilmore awards and was shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Awards; there followed Sleeve Notes (1992), Infinite City: 100 Sonnetinas (1999, shortlisted in the Age Book of the Year and Victorian Premier’s Awards), The Man and the Map (2003), Autographs: 56 poems in prose (2008), and Towards the Equator: New & Selected Poems (2014, shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards). Other awards have included the Wesley Michel Wright Prize for Poetry, the John Shaw Neilson Poetry Award, and the Australian Book Review Poetry Prize. The numerous public readings he has given include appearances in China, Serbia, India, Ireland, Macedonia, Portugal, and on Norfolk Island. An 80-minute CD in which he reads from his poetry was published in 2019 under the title Towards the Equator. His next collection, Letters from the Periphery, is due in 2021.
Concurrently with his poetry, Alex has intermittently published in prose, including short stories, a novella, and the abovementioned Autographs, which can be read as a book of microstories. The novella, titled The Poet (2005), was joint winner of the FAW Christina Stead Award for a work of fiction and has been translated into Czech. The Attic, a bilingual selection of his poems translated into French, was published by PEN Melbourne in 2013; and Water Music, a bilingual volume of Chinese translations in the Flying Island series (Macau), came out in 2017. Some of his poetry has also been translated into Dutch, Polish, Spanish, Macedonian and German. His collection of short stories, The Man who Took to his Bed, was published in 2017, and a Czech-language edition appeared in 2019. He has collaborated with his Czech translator, Josef Tomáš, on English translations of the twentieth-century Czech poets Jiří Orten and Vladimír Holan.
Concerns that have driven Alex Skovron’s poetry and fiction are many and various: history, language and music; the riddles of time and the allure of memory; philosophy, faith and the quest for self-knowledge; art and the creative impulse; fantasy, eros and the affections. His interest in speculative fiction has played a recurring role in his thinking and his work, as has a lifelong passion for music. As a poet, he enjoys both the disciplines and the aesthetics of formal design and the diverse challenges of freer structures. Integral to his project has been a focus on musicality and the primacy of rhythm. He likes probing the elasticities of syntax, and exploiting the ‘contrapuntal’ layerings available to imagery and meaning via compression, connotation, ambiguity.
Photo: Martin Langford