Robbie Coburn is an Australian poet. He was born in June 1994 in Melbourne and grew up on his family’s farm in the semi-rural locality of Woodstock, Victoria.
Since his first professional publication at the age of 17, his work has appeared in many Australian and overseas publications such as Poetry, Overland, Westerly, Cordite Poetry Review and Going Down Swinging, and his poems have been anthologised.
His poetry collections are Rain Season (Picaro) and The Other Flesh (Hunter), and he has also published a handful of chapbooks and pamphlets.
His work is known for its deeply personal and sometimes confronting nature, and for its often harrowing depictions of farm life in country Victoria.
Les Wicks has commented on both of these characteristics, stating that “[his] ruthless eviscerated honesty and clarity scar the eye” and calling him “the best portraitist of Australian rural life since Brendan Ryan”.
Robert Adamson has noted that his poems “are created with a muscular craft that glows with alert intelligence” and that they “create an inner life that draws in the reader” which “shimmers with light as much as it burns with ferocity.”
He currently resides in Melbourne.
“Robbie Coburn grew up in Woodstock, Victoria on his family’s farm. The Other Flesh, his second volume, contains many poems whose texture sings of being alone under the stars. It begins in stark paddocks with bleak greyhound runs, where his father has ‘blood dripping from his fingers from feeding the dogs’ and the poet responds with ‘I love all the things I hate about being here’, a line that brought Jack Spicer to mind. This poetry comes from tough experiences; yet Coburn’s ‘raw mind’ creates an inner life that draws in the reader. We pass through a post-pastoral world and are pulled into a place where ‘the self is only one version of hell’. We discover ‘There is no fixed life form’ on pages of empty skies and empty roads, empty fields of memory, with a throat full of toxin, eyes being bottled by ‘sobered hands’ and where road signs tell the poet what to do. Out of this abyss Coburn creates some beautiful lines, ‘wind cutting through the tin’ where ‘dogs of sand’ run beside him. When his grandfather dies of Parkinson’s we come across this liberating image in the final line of the elegy: ‘grasses that flow gently when all breath expires’. Coburn’s world shimmers with light as much as it burns with ferocity but these finely written poems are free from bitterness or anger. Here are two lines that sit on the lyrical scales, being weighed for balance: ‘the night sky is a blank, unbrushed canvas’ and then ‘a muteness that lies down in darkness’. When we open up Coburn’s paddocks ‘made up by the mind’, they are transparent, and yet they are created with a muscular craft that glows with alert intelligence. These poems contain deep loss and wonder, informed by the anxieties involved with a longing to unite with the soul of the beloved. Coburn writes ‘my flesh starved of paradise’ —this book is a record of his successful call to regain it.”
“Stay tuned! Nothing prepares you for the shock of a new voice in poetry, and nothing quenches that thirst better than a good dose of poetry. A poetry of place and sensibility can light up a whole landscape, and the poetry of Robbie Coburn does just that. In these poems we see him now in the very act of etching out the details, so hold on, and read on through.”
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