The Brineshrimp

The Brineshrimp
Paperback Poets 9, University of Queensland Press, 1972.
Winner of the Harri Jones Memorial Prize.

This book reveals an eye remarkable for its acute perception of the commonplace (making fresh the grain and texture of everyday things), and equally remarkable for the intensely physical vision it brings to her own distinctive world.


“Looking at things closely to reveal their strangeness is, one feels, her peculiar gift,” wrote David Malouf in the Australian. “She writes like an angel who has managed to keep both feet very firmly on the ground.”

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Washing The Money

Washing The MoneyAngus & Robertson, 1986.
Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Prize and the Grace Leven Prize.

The author takes the reader into a personal world of sharp observation and brilliantly suggested feeling. In settings ranging from tropical Queensland, where she grew up, to the New South Wales southern tablelands, there is a directness of touch that is quite distinctive in present day Australian poetry. But there is more than this:  a rare capturing of Australian family life that offers criticism even as it emanates deep affection, as witnessed in the range of family photographs. “I think of a poem as a short short-story,” she writes,“or as a freeze frame from some definitive moment.”

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On My Empty Feet

On My Empty FeetWilliam Heinemann Australia, 1993.Poems from this selection formed the basis of a radio play of the same name, broadcast  twice by the ABC.

This is a book of voices – voices explaining, recounting, demanding:  the radio voice of a suburban Sunday afternoon; the anguished voice of a woman affected by a stroke; the bitter voice of self-realization; the harsh
sound of sobbing and shouts of black laughter.

This book can be read like a novel, its characters alive and demanding your attention, their stories vivid and awfully familiar. McMaster has a sure ear for the rhythms of everyday speech and a sharp eye for detail. This book dramatically extends her range of subject and emotion.

“Rhyll McMaster is an original. Spare, tough, eloquent, these poems poke into corners of the ordinary and come up with discoveries that are sometimes scary, often hilarious, always enlarging of our sense of the pathos and mystery of things,” wrote David Malouf.

“…who gave McMaster the right to be so tender, easy, quick, funny?” wrote Judith Rodrigues in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Flying The Coop

Flying The CoopNew and Selected Poems 1972-1994. William Heinemann, 1994
Winner of the Grace Leven Prize.

Rhyll McMaster has long been regarded as the most talented of her generation of Australian women poets. This timely collection gives a comprehensive view of her work’s development. From her beginnings as an eagle-eyed miniaturist and quirky observer of family life, the early 1990s have seen her radically expand both her repertoire and her rate of production. She has emerged as a daringly personal poet with all the raw emotional force of a Sylvia Plath, and yet there has been no sacrifice of the cool intelligence present in her work from the first.

This is a book which poses the archetypal supposition:  that life addresses a question to us, or conversely that we are a question addressed to the world for which we must continually find an answer.

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Chemical Bodies

Chemical BodiesA Diary of Probable Events 1994-1997.
Brandl & Schlesinger, 1997.


Watch this space
because time is here
with its alterable face…”

This is a diary of probable events. “Notions that’s all we need.” These poems are imbued with a sense of urgency to comprehend the riddles of mind and matter; to look at ordinary people who: “Sooner or late …all face the music and sing, tone upon tone upon tone, of concepts of fate, omnipotence, happiness.

“In my opinion she is one of the best poets writing in Australia today:  in fact, in terms of consistent quality, I think she is the finest. She is at the peak of her powers and every poem gives evidence of deep thought, a wide range of intellectual curiosity, imagination and a technical control which has been refined to an extraordinary degree,” wrote Geoffrey Dutton.

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Evolutionary History of Edward Kelly
In Primary Colours

Edition & Artist Book Studio, A.N.U., for the Cultural Facilities Corporation,
(Nolan Gallery), A.C.T., 1999.

A response to nine of Sir Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly paintings, commissioned by the Nolan Gallery and published in an illustrated limited edition on hand-made paper, with a foreword by Nolan's friend, Geoffrey Dutton.


Late Night Shopping

Late Night Shopping
Brandl & Schlesinger, 2012

Whether she writes poetry or prose Rhyll McMaster's work reflects her fascination with the passionate forces that drive life and society.

'She is a born poet who knows that poetry begins where philosophy leaves off. These are rare poems that cohere in a way that makes this book, layer by layer, a kind of prayer and a testament to the power of reality: it will repay your reading over and over,' wrote Robert Adamson.

'This is poetry not for lyrically-minded impulse-shoppers, but for those prepared to think and re-think where and what we are,' wrote Bruce Dawe.

'Enriched by insights from science and a formidable grasp of language, McMaster reveals herself here as one of our most serious poets,' wrote Geoffrey Lehmann.