Near Believing: Selected Monologues and Narratives 1967-2021

Puncher & Wattman. Waratah, NSW. 2022


This book is a selection from a poet who believes that Australia still has countless stories to tell, re-tell and imagine. These are works by someone intrigued by the varieties of poetic forms, who is a lover of verse satire and a believer in the contemporary power of dramatic monologues. Tradition is for Alan Wearne of continuing relevance since as he tells us: ‘I work for an outfit called Narrative Verse in English, company founder being a man called Geoff, Geoff Chaucer.’


Alan Wearne rampages through the timid, dismal and so terribly polite terrain of contemporary English language culture and poetry, blowtorch at hand, laying waste the cant, hypocrisy, delusional self-narratives, rapaciousness and just plain unkindness, be it politicians or other insalubrious types. Wearne’s energy, range and variety are without equal, whether in free verse, rhyming couplets or villanelle. Any poet of equivalent unbridled intelligence and coiled ferocity would be denied entry in America at Customs or put under house-arrest by the local Woke Taliban. A very naughty boy is on the loose. Bravo.’
August Kleinzahler

The depth and breadth of these narratives and monologues are extraordinary. Wearne’s narrative strategies, psychological insights, and understanding of history, politics, as well as the dynamics that can play out in relationships are gripping. These poems explore and reveal much of the dark underbelly in Australian society and culture. Public and private worlds play off against each other in searing ways. Wearne is a master of tone and voice, of giving his poems a colloquial authenticity few can match. His wit and technical skill are enduring pleasures.’
Judith Beveridge


‘Near Believing is a selection from [The Nightmarkets and], several dozen individual poems together with passages from his [other] epic works… The Nightmarkets demonstrates that epic is no loose term. The title refers to the dozens of brothels that populated South Melbourne when the advertising industry was centred there, and features the intertwined stories of a dozen or so Melbourne lefties, passing from the radical years of the 70s into the conservatising and disappointing years of the 1980s. [It] introduced people to the different thing that poetry does, even when it’s telling a story as racy as a bonkbuster airport special…. The easy movement and unobtrusive rhyme, and the vast sweep – this was the whole of inner Melbourne of that period in extensive stanza reminded you once again of what was lost in the displacement of the epic by the novel, that delicious flow, between dream and the real, without either text or reader feeling the need to sort out which it is…. …hardcore Melbournism.’ Guy Rundle ‘Dream and the real: Alan Wearne’s selected works and a bygone era’ Crikey 14 April, 2023.

Wearne is the great taxidermist of Australian society as it has been over the past 50 years….I suspect Wearne’s sympathies are with the left, but Wearne the poet has a Homeric impartiality. He has joined Banjo Paterson and Kenneth Slessor among the great Australian poets who write about everyone but themselves.’
Geoffrey Lehmann ‘Homeric spiel of a great taxidermist of society’ The Weekend Australian 11-12 June 2022, Review (p.18)

Alan [Wearne] gives voice to a gamut of characters, from snobs and bogans to paedophiles and priests, drug lords and petty crims to “ordinary” suburban housewives; characters derived from newspaper articles and recognisable public figures; others loosely based on friends and acquaintances…. What is more surprising is the compassion and empathy with which he conceives of women’s interior lives: their tales of pairing and unpairing, of compromise, domestic boredom, abuse. Regardless of how we label him, Alan is a master of the extended poetic narrative, of characterisation and conversation, of the rhythms and rhymes of traditional poetic forms from the sonnet to the villanelle.Jurate Sasnaitis ‘Marvellous Stuff! Jurate Sasnaitis Launches ‘Near Believing:  Selected Monologues and Narratives 1987-2021’ by Alan Wearne’ Rochford Street Review vol 34 no 1 2022. Online.

Alan Wearne… has been one of the most distinctive Australian poets of his generation…always interested in the dramatic monologue.
Wearne wanted to hear what happened when one took on the voices of others and used them as starting points for often complex narratives, revealing in the process much about Australian society of his own, and slightly earlier times.’
Geoff Page ‘Near Believing by Alan Wearne review – What happens when a poet takes on other   voices?’ The Canberra Times 18 September 2022

The near-religious title of Alan Wearne’s new selection of poems, Near Believing, gives an impression of bathos and deprecation, while nevertheless undermining structures of belief, as represented in the book; at times this belief is explicitly Christian, but can also be seen more generally as belief in others, or in the suburban way of life. It is, then, modest-seeming, highly ambitious – and, in another irony, further evokes the pathos, and hopelessness, of wanting to believe…. Near Believing is the perfect entry point into the everyday complexities of Wearne’s world. Just follow the voices.’
Michael Farrell ‘Wearne’s world: Doing the suburbs in different voices’ Australian Book Review Online Exclusive. November, 2022.

Wearne is a great poet with a freak hypersensitivity to people, their inner lives, relationships and conflicts, and the familial, educational and suburban elements that make them what they are. This sensitivity allows him to tap into the almost infinite complexity of our subjectivities. Michelle Borzi, in her excellent introduction, quotes Sue Dobson’s remark, “Take any normal street of average length…/ Simply concentrate on / a street of a suburb: that’s mindblowing!” Admittedly, in this passage from the first of her two monologues in The Nightmarkets [1987], Sue is talking about the sex going on in that street but sex is only a part of the infinitely complex interactions of human beings….[and Near Believing displays] Wearne’s unique powers of giving imaginative expression to this material.’
Martin Duwell ‘Alan Wearne: Near Believing: Selected Monologues and Narratives 1967-2021’ Australian Poetry Review October 2022.