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Poetry is sometimes assumed to be of marginal importance. Yet in many lives it has provided a life-changing insight, or a source of sustenance. Public memorials and ceremonies often incorporate poetry to give the occasion an added, special dimension. So it seems poetry is indeed necessary. Here we present poems that are essential to some of our favourite writers, thinkers and friends. 

Environmental educator Alison Elvin shares with us three significant Australian poets whose words of life and land speak to her: 'Poetry often encapsulates for me thoughts, feelings or events I’ve experienced and struggle to express concisely.

Poetry can provide a jolt, offering a world welcome in distinction to our daily existence. For Alicia Sometimes the poems of Gig Ryan do just that, providing an electric charge, a wild music that she loves and needs. As she says of the first time hearing Gig’s work ‘...it was a postpunk, rock and roll experience... She's unpredictable and

Tony Wilson has chosen Clive James as his necessary poet, noting that James has delighted and inspired him for decades. First drawn to his lively prose, more recently Wilson has became moved by his poetry, particularly his death poems.

Andrea Goldsmith tells us about meeting her necessary poet, Dorothy Porter, in 1992, at a reading and how this chance meeting changed her life - and reading:

Baqir Khan brings us two poems which have been important to him as an Hazara living first under persecution in Pakistan and then as a refugee arriving in Australia.

Maria Tumarkin reads to us in her native Russian and tells of the important role Joseph Brodsky played in her coming of age in 1980s Russia: 'No one was more important to me than him... I copied his poems by hand in my special notebooks and I think I learnt about what language can do by doing that.'

Chris Wallace-Crabbe selects Auden as his necessary poet: 'He excited me so much when I first read his poems, they were so varied in style, so rich in vocabulary, so intellectually enquiring about the modern age.'

Martha Nussbaum has centred much of her remarkable work on the link between literary imagination and public life. Whitman is for her a special exemplar and favourite. Hear this in her reading from The Necessary Poet.

John Wolseley nominated this incantational song-poem of the Simpson Desert, by Mike McLean Irinjili, as his ‘necessary’ poem for last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival event. It is a privilege to hear John recount how amid his many wanderings across Australian landscape he came to hear and know this poem. He shares a world and ancient knowledge rarely available to

Australia’s 2008 Poetry Slam champion Omar Musa brought a personal and passionate note to Anne Sexton's poetry at The Necessary Poet. Listen now!

Poems from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, Mariner Books, 1999, courtesy SLL.

Here are four wonderful love poems that give us the full gamut of love: rapture, tension, jealousy, shared fate. They are a small selection from the event 'Lovers in Trouble' held in November 2010. We hope you enjoy them.

Listen to August Kleinzahler's delightful rendition of his poem, 'Sleeping it off in Rapid City'. Performed at The Poet's Voice Poetry in Rebellion event at the Capitol Theatre during Melbourne Writers Festival 2010. 'Sleeping it off in Rapid City' is from Poems, New & Selected, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2008.

Listen to Wislawa Szymborska's 'Conversation with a Stone', read by performers Evelyn Krape and Jacek Koman.

‘Conversation with a Stone’ from Poems New and Collected 1957-1997, Wislawa Szymborska, Harcourt Brace, 1998, translation by Stanislaw Barahczak and Clare Cavanagh.