joanne burns was born in Sydney in 1945 and has lived there for most of her life, never far from the shores of Sydney Harbour. Over a dozen collections of her writing have been published. Her first poetry collection Snatch was published by The Strange Faeces Press, Notting Hill Gate, London in 1972. In addition to writing in the conventional poetic line break form she has written extensively in the prose poem/microfiction form. She has been particularly interested in the blurring of distinctions between poetry and prose. The use of the monologue form is another distinctive feature of her work. Satiric, ironic perspectives are prominent in her poetry; sometimes she is ludic, parodic. She has a keen eye for the absurd aspects of contemporary living and culture. Her poetry also engages with the esoteric, the cryptic, and the surreal – in a quirky (as opposed to the solemn) manner. Burns has written in the lower case for over thirty years, eschewing capitalisation, which she believes imposes a ‘preordained’ significance on certain words in the text. She prefers a ‘level playing field’.

A polished and well known reader/performer of her poetry in Australia, she first read at The Troubadour, Earls Court in 1972 – having been galvanised by the vibrant poetry reading scene in London where she lived between 1970 and 1972. Her audio recording shows how she sets up a theatre of words, easing the audience into a satisfying space between following her and cogitating on where they might possibly go. These are cogent lessons on how to exercise the imagination.

In 1985 she visited the United States and Canada as a member of the Four Australian Poets Reading Tour. Her work has been produced for theatre, radio, television. She is represented in numerous poetry anthologies, for example – The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry, The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry, The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets, The Oxford Book of Australian Women’s Verse. Her poetry has been published in school poetry text books, and her book on a clear day has been, and is currently, one of the poetry texts listed for study in the New South Wales Higher School Certificate English Syllabus. Her work has been translated into German, French, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian. In 2003, along with nine other Australian poets, she participated in translation workshops at the Berlin Poetry Festival, organised by literaturWERKstatt Berlin, and supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. She has received a number of writing grants from the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. A detailed literary biography of joanne burns (written by Australian poet Margaret Bradstock) appears in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol 289 (Gale, 2004).

The audio poems were recorded on August 2007 in Sydney, Australia for the River Road Poetry Series. Producer: Carol Jenkins. kept busy is available from

Poems by Joanne Burns

footnotes of a hammock - Joanne Burns
mallography - Joanne Burns
she had more friends - Joanne Burns

Books by Joanne Burns