Philip Salom (born 8 August 1950) is a contemporary Australian poet and novelist whose poetry books have attracted widespread acclaim. He has published eighteen books - fourteen collections of poetry and four novels - notable for their originality and expansiveness and for surprising differences from title to title. His poetry has won major awards in Australia and the UK.
Stephen Philip Salom
8 August 1950
Bunbury, Western Australia
|Other names||Alan Fish, MA Carter|
|Occupation||Poet and Novelist|
His novel Waiting which was shortlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award - Australia's most prestigious literary prize - the 2017 Prime Minister's Award for Literature, and the 2016 Victorian Premier's Award for Literature.
His new novel The Returns, was published in late July, 2019. The Returns has already received strong reviews.
Growing up on a farm in Brunswick Junction in the South West region of Western Australia, Salom had an isolated childhood before boarding at Bunbury during his high school years. He went on to study agriculture at Muresk Agricultural College - now known as Muresk Institute. He then worked for two years as a research assistant on the Northam Research Station. While studying Agricultural Science at the University of Western Australia, he developed his passion for the arts, painting and singing in the university choir. Uninterested in his course, he left university, took various casual jobs, and started writing on a 1972 painting trip to New Zealand. On returning to Perth, he enrolled in Curtin University's Literature and Creative Writing course, one of the first of its kind in Australia.
On graduating he took a job with the Public Service in his old area of agriculture. His first poetry collection was published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press in 1980. Since then there have been many poetry collections and two novels. Salom has won both national and international acclaim for his poetry. For most of these years he taught Creative Writing at Curtin and Murdoch University in Western Australia. Late in 1997 he moved with his family to Melbourne, Victoria. In the next years he lectured at Deakin University and finally at the University of Melbourne. In 2008 he resigned from lecturing and since then has been writing full-time.
His writing is distinctive for its metaphoric richness and expansive vision. It is also hugely various from title to title; his creative restlessness extends not only to style but also to conceptual paradigms. Since his first collection, many of his books have depicted imagined worlds or explored conceptually contained sequences - books such as The Projectionist, Sky Poems, The Rome Air Naked, The Well Mouth and Keepers. Keepers is part of a trilogy which is extended through two more books, The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter, books ostensibly written by Alan Fish and MA Carter, respectively. These are heteronyms for Salom's recent work.
Since the Keepers trilogy, Flying Island Books (Macao) published Salom's pocket book of poems, Between Yes and No, in English and Mandarin, translated by Chris Song Zijiang and Iris Fan Xing. And in 2015 Alterworld (published by Puncher & Wattmann) completes another trilogy - Sky Poems, The Well Mouth and Alterworld - of three imagined worlds in one set of covers.
In 2016 his third novel Waiting was published. In the Weekend Australian reviewer Peter Pierce called it a "brilliant and unsettling novel." He adds: "Philip Salom has unleashed Australia's oddest literary couple since the elderly twin brothers Arthur and Waldo Brown in Patrick White's The Solid Mandala (1966)". The book has received outstanding reviews and acclaim for its extraordinary characterisation and its striking prose style. Michael McGirr says: "Waiting is a tour de force of sustained and affectionate wit". Judges' comments are available on the 2017 Miles Franklin website and the 2017 Prime Minister's Awards website. Below are some quotes from these:
'Waiting is poignant, compassionate and droll; it is never maudlin nor idealised. Salom’s prose, poetic and frequently playful, bestows a multiplicity of incidental insights en route, yet never condescends to its subjects nor patronises its readers. As rollicking as it is original and affecting, Waiting is a highly readable addition to Australian literature.' (Miles Franklin.)
'The novel vibrates with the language of the street and the speaking voices of the many characters is brilliantly captured by Salom, whose poetry background is apparent. The suburban rooming house which is central to the novel reverberates with wit and intensity and the cast of characters that live and die in this boarding house is achingly authentic. Their impoverished circumstances, daily struggles with health and mental capacity are all handled with sensitivity and a unique voice.'
Philip Salom has performed as a guest writer and lecturer in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Yugoslavia, Singapore and New Zealand.
- The Silent Piano. (Fremantle Arts Centre, 1980) ISBN 978-0-909144-31-9
- The Projectionist, A Sequence. (Fremantle Arts Centre, 1983) ISBN 978-0-909144-69-2
- Sky Poems. (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1987) ISBN 978-0-949206-19-0
- Barbecue of the Primitives. (University of Queensland, 1989) ISBN 978-0-7022-2221-4
- Tremors. (Pamphlet Poets, National Library of Australia, 1992) ISBN 978-0-642-10532-5
- Feeding the Ghost. (Penguin, 1993) ISBN 978-0-14-058692-3
- The Rome Air Naked. (Penguin, 1996) ISBN 978-0-14-058773-9
- New and Selected Poems. (Fremantle Arts Centre, 1998) ISBN 978-1-86368-218-3
- A Cretive Life. (sic.) (Fremantle Arts Centre, 2001) ISBN 978-1-86368-300-5
- The Well Mouth. (Fremantle Arts Centre, 2005) ISBN 978-1-921064-24-1 review
- The Family Fig Trees. (Picaro Press, 2007) ISSN 1444-8424
- Keepers. (Puncher & Wattmann, 2010) ISBN 978-1-921450-39-6
- The Keeper of Fish. (Puncher & Wattmann, 2011) ISBN 978-1-921450-46-4
- Keeping Carter. (Puncher & Wattmann, 2012) ISBN 978-1-921450-47-1
- Between Yes and No. (Flying Island Press, 2014) ISBN 978-99965-42-75-6
- Alterworld. (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015) ISBN 978-1-92218-666-9
- Playback. (Fremantle Arts Centre, 1991; 2003) ISBN 978-1-86368-398-2
- Toccata & Rain: A novel. (Fremantle Arts Centre, 2004) ISBN 978-1-920731-49-6
- Waiting. (Puncher & Wattmann, 2016) ISBN 978-1-922186-83-6 
- The Returns. (Transit Lounge, 2019) ISBN 978-1-925760-26-2
Awards and honoursEdit
- 1981: Commonwealth Poetry Prize for a First Book (The Silent Piano)
- 1984: Western Australian Literary Award for Poetry (The Projectionist)
- 1984: South Australian Biennial Literary Award for Poetry - official Second Prize (The Projectionist)
- 1985: Writers Fellowship, Australia Council
- 1987: Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Overall Best Book (Sky Poems)
- 1987: The Age Book of the Year - only poetry book shortlisted (Sky Poems)
- 1987: Barbara Ramsden Award, Highly Commended (Sky Poems)
- 1988: WA Literary Award for Poetry (Sky Poems)
- 1989: Writers Fellowship, Australia Council
- 1990: shortlisted NBC Banjo Award and Western Australian Literary Award (Barbecue of the Primitives)
- 1992: WA Premiers Prize for Fiction (Playback)
- 1992: Australia-New Zealand Literary Award, NZ Arts Council
- 1992: Inaugural BR Whiting Residency in Rome, Australia Council
- 1993: shortlisted Victorian Premiers Prize, NBC Banjo Award, WA Premiers Prize (Feeding the Ghost)
- 1996: WA Premiers Prize, shortlisted (The Rome Air Naked)
- 1996: Newcastle Poetry Prize
- 1999: shortlisted Victorian Premiers Prize, WA Premiers Prize (New and Selected Poems)
- 2000: Newcastle Poetry Prize
- 2003: Christopher Brennan Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry
- 2004: shortlisted ALS Gold Medal for Literature, WA Premiers Prize (Toccata and Rain)
- 2005: A Best Book of the Year, Sydney Morning Herald, Adelaide Review (The Well Mouth)
- 2006: SA Premiers Prize (John Bray Award) for Poetry, shortlisted (The Well Mouth)
- 2006/7: Writers Fellowship, Australia Council
- 2016: Victorian Premiers Prize for Fiction, shortlisted (Waiting)
- 2017: Miles Franklin Award for Literature, finalist (Waiting)
- 2017: Prime Minister's Award for Literature, finalist (Waiting)