Quintette of Questions: Michael Farrell

Cover art: artwork: ‘Apparent Acquittal’ by Melbourne artist Spiros Panigirakis

Today I’m asking Michael Farrell 5 questions about his latest book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

Family Trees.  I knew that was the right title once I hit on it. Like a number of my book titles, it comes from a poem title in the book, but the meaning can be read more generally. Also, I didn’t realise till afterwards how many trees recur in the poems.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book? (or What things inspired you in writing these poems? )

To answer this question, it seems too easy to suggest Jude Law would be a good Pope Pinocchio, but maybe LIzzo would be good also.

In terms of inspiration:

  • 1: reading, especially history, for example Edward Browne’s A Literary History of Persia, also Hardt and Virno’s Radical Thought in Italy 
  • 2: spending time on the SE coast of NSW near Bega, and in my home town of Bombala; pop music: Laurie Anderson, Chrissie Amphlett, Radiohead, Frank Sinatra — and painting — and TV (Kimba, yet again). 

3. What five words best describe your story?

Love, the bush, pop, animals, trees

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

Jeeves and Wooster

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

There are many, but I will plump for Sharkey’s Day, by Laurie Anderson.

About  Family Trees

The poems in Michael Farrell’s Family Trees operate according to a queer and inclusive logic, which binds humans, animals, objects, plants and concepts in familial relationships.

The poems model contact through affection, sharing, and attention – sometimes violent attention. They tell strange stories – tall tales from the country, rambling reminiscences, shaggy-dog stories – of weird and wonderful things: the coffin with legs that walked, an infertile rabbit that fosters a lamb, robots hunting in Kenya for the little white lion of Tokyo, an argumentative sock-puppet, marsupial geese and singing worms, and Pope Pinocchio, who thinks his heartbeat powers Italy.

The characters in these scenarios think, gossip, sleep and work. A phrase, a detail, an object can send them in a hundred directions. Anything can be a twig (or bud or leaf or fruit) on Farrell’s family trees.

Buy  Family Trees

About  Michael Farrell

Photo: Nicholas Walton-Healey

Michael Farrell grew up in Bombala, NSW and has lived in Melbourne since 1990. He has edited two anthologies: Out of the Box, Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets (with Jill Jones) and Ashbery Mode. His book I Love Poetry won the Queensland Literary Award for Poetry in 2018, and was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Awards. Cocky’s Joy was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Awards in 2016. He won the 2012 Peter Porter Poetry Prize for ‘Beautiful Mother’, a poem which includes Hebrew and merges the stories of Jesus and Kimba.

Michael has a PhD from the University of Melbourne: a revised version of his thesis was published as Writing Australian Unsettlement: Modes of Poetic Invention 1796-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan). He is currently a Juncture Fellow at Sydney Review of Books. He also edits a magazine Flash Cove with designer Wendy Cooper.

Social media links:


So many book launches and author talks have had to be cancelled, I’ve decided to run as many Quintettes as I can to share some great upcoming work – and let you stock up on things to read while we’re all self-isolating.