The Lovemakers Book One: Saying all the great sexy things

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Vic. 2001

ISBN 0 14 024541 3

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year, 2002 (*Judge’s Report)
Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry 2002
Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Award for Australian Poetry 2002

Centred on Australian suburbia in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, The Lovemakers explores the inner and outer tensions of families and society, and the rituals of home extensions, weddings and public-service career paths. Meanwhile in the city, the demi-monde transforms itself into the drug culture. Alan Wearne’s stunning verse- novel builds powerfully to its emotional heart: the triangle of Barb, her husband Roger and her lover, Neil.


Covering thirty years of this country’s life and lives, The Lovemakers is enormous in scope. And of course, we expect even more from Alan Wearne: a near preternatural sensitivity to Australians and their complex private, social and occupational situations. But what is even more striking in this book is the incredible compression of the poetry, one which opens out to the reader in amazing layers of imaginative detail.’
Martin Duwell

Someone is making rabbit’s ears in the school photo, someone is running a bra up the flagpole. A poetry of biography: of families, friends and lovers. A poetry that weaves lyrics and songs into daily living. A poetry in love with people. A book to swim in.’

With Wearne we get the combination of extremely imaginative writing on the largest possible scale, in a style of absolute originality.’
Peter Craven


‘The Lovemakers is a remarkable work that presents all the smoke and mirrors of a universe so familiar in the dreck of its detail. Wading through Wearne’s labored parodies of platitudinous realities that it would be easy to dismiss as cartoons, we get glimpses, then floods of light, as to what makes this lame grand book remarkable: it uses a language that is improvised and experimental (as well as ineloquent) to pick out the features of a world as obvious and uninteresting as your nose. But the result is not poetic froth and the abiding image is not commonplace. The collision of this mishmash of idiolectal language and a dag’s-eye view of mundane Australia creates a strange and haunting work of art.Peter Craven ‘Peter Craven is fascinated by a strange and haunting work of art’ The Weekend Australian 10-11 March 2001 (p.12-13)

What makes Wearne’s books so readable and impressive …is their contradictory quality: their ability to present life as poetry without letting the messy, undiluted quality of the former overcome the musical, formalised quality of the latter. These tensions may be why one feels that, like God, Wearne is sometimes making it up as he goes along….There is a sonnet sequence, a funny limerick sequence, villanelles, and a satirical section in ottava rima. The mixture of satire and plangent realism is brilliantly executed throughout the work.’ David McCooey ‘What the hell is going on?’ Australian Book Review, April, No 229, 2001 p.52-53

Alan Wearne is an ambitious and prolific writer. Few established contemporary poets have shown the commitment or innovation displayed by Wearne in writing the long cycles of thematic poems known as ‘narrative verse’. …. According to the book’s publicity, the first volume of an ‘epic’ poem of late twentieth century Australia….

Although the book is titled The Lovemakers… the author’s irony – intentionally perhaps – outweighs the sensuality and romance between his characters. While there is little shortage of quirky sexual inuendo and spirited commentary on the confused and dishevelled love-lives of his text’s various and innumerable protagonists, Wearne is hesitant and tongue-in-cheek with the intimate moments.’ Ali Alizadeh ‘The Lovemakers’ TEXT: The Journal of the Australian Association of Writing Programs October vol 5 no 2 2001 (p.127-128)

‘The Lovemakers (Book One) is a novel in verse. As in the author’s 1986 award-winning The Nightmarkets, the ‘story’, such as it is, is presented by a series of monologues, profiles and party scenes covering a fairly large cast, all seen as representative of Australian dwellers through the 1960s onwards…. It portrays chiefly a sort of group history of a generation – Wearne’s generation… for all its hedonism and drug-taking, its sexual adventuring and assertiveness, there remains in its core a sort of questioning, a questing spirit. Hedonism has nothing to do with either Wearne’s characters {who} are never really comfortable with enjoyment. They use sex and relationships as a sort of scourge, and the book itself acts as a sort of scourge, as if muttering to itself: there is a terrible hollowness within!

But it is sexy.

            And Wearne has found, in that rhythmic undertone of his, for all its hesitations and qualifications, a rich way of patterning that exists below the actual words and it is what hypnotises the reader.”
Thomas Shapcott ‘History of a Generation’ Island Spring no 87, 2001 (p 130-133)

Wearne concentrates on saying the good sexy things, and promises better things to come.’
Alan Urquart, ‘New Poetry-2001’ Westerly November vol 46, 2001 (p. 109-125)

On the whole…this is an absorbing work that while it is sometimes hard-going it is, at the same time, masterly in conveying a very earthy, no-nonsense portrait of these (sometimes endearingly) faulty people.”
Carmen Leigh Keates ‘The Lovemakers. Book One. Saying All the Great Sexy Things’ Imago: New Writing Vol 13 no 2, 2001 (p127-128)



2001 Bantick Christopher ‘Verse that reads like a novel’ The Canberra Times 10 March 2001 (p.16) 2001Thomas, Mark: ‘Versed in moods of sex and love’ The Canberra Times 10 March 2001 (p.17)
2001 Maloney, Shane: ‘Tough Racket’ The Age March 19, 2001
2001 Anderson, Don: ‘Chapter and verse’ The Bulletin March 20, vol 119, no 6266, 2001 (p.89)
2001 Indyck, Ivor: ‘Hear the burbs sing’ The Sydney Morning Herald 24 March 2001 (p.5)
2001 Craven, Peter: ‘Author unearths…..’ The Australian March 28, 2001
2001 0’Brien, Kerrie: Qantas The Australian Way April 2001
2001 Porter, Peter: ‘Life, Love: Urban Yarns on a Grand Scale’ The Age 14 April 2001 (p. 6)

From the Judge’s Report:

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2002, Book of the Year

The Lovemaker’s was thirteen years in the writing, and is Alan Wearne’s successor to his previous verse novel The Nightmarkets. In a very strong field, it stands out as a work of exceptional range, not only in terms of its subject matter, but in its use of a wide variety of poetic forms to express the many aspects of the lives which it portrays.

The Lovemakers is that rare species, a suburban epic, detailing the lives of a group of friends and lovers and acquaintances who grew up in ‘the Shire’ in the 1960s and 70s. It deals with families and school friends, with love affairs and betrayals, with football and religion and home renovations. The judges were impressed by Wearne’s ability to give an heroic cast to such ordinary events while at the same time portraying them in a language which is faithful to the everyday speech of his characters: in this work he has extended in a significant way both the range and resources of Australian poetry.

Although The Lovemakers, in its present form, is the first volume of a projected two-volume work, the scale of its achievement, the warmth and vitality of its portraits, the appreciation of the significance of social relationships, and the modesty with which Wearne shoulders the burden of his ambitious project, mark this out as a remarkable achievement.

In conferring this award, the judges were mindful of the difficulty that poetry now has in reaching a large readership in Australia. Yet here is a work that celebrates life in Australian suburbs, in a language close to that which we speak everyday. In this sense the Lovemakers could not be more accessible. It portrays our common experience and it does so in a way which makes this experience the proper subject of literature. The Lovemakers makes a strong and eloquent case for the relevance of poetry to ordinary life, and as much for this reason, as for its poetic accomplishment, it richly deserves the accolade of Book of the Year


The Lovemakers Book One Penguin edition is out of print.

The Shearsman Books edition is a complete volume comprising:

The Lovemakers Book One: Saying all the great sexy things


The Lovemakers: Book Two: Money and nothing.