Australian poet John Blight (1913-1995) wrote eight books of poetry between 1945 and 1985. He regarded himself as a loner, progressing independently. Yet his correspondence with a number of influential contemporary poets and the poetry itself suggest that he was part of a complex network of literary relationships. This thesis interprets how Blight was located in the community, and connected to it, by a close reading of his poetry and correspondence. The correspondence is a kind of creative interaction that connected the solitary writer and other writers, commenting on trends and encouraging one another.
Firstly, the early Blight is seen in the context of a restricted literary community, confined to the mentorship of Douglas Stewart and to his friendship with Judith Wright. He was dependent on both for criticism, guidance and encouragement. His awareness of other writers was made through keeping scrapbooks of all poems published in the Bulletin; and later, he collected from the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian. From these, although he scorned any notion of his poetry being derivative, he connected with contemporary writers and selected, for his own purposes, what seemed to work in the making of an acceptable poetry. In this first stage, Blight's largely autobiographical unpublished novel, Down Stream, is analysed as a means of understanding Blight's position as a "lonely" poet.
Secondly, Blight's discovery of the sea as his particular place and subject engaged him in writing about that community. He connected with the natural world by examining human life and habit in relation to the life of other creatures. The chapter on this phase concentrates on how Blight addressed several universal questions in his series of sea sonnets. Most critics regard these as his best work.
Thirdly, Blight's public identity, once he was projected into a wider social community, is considered by looking closely at his extended correspondence with other poets and editors, notably Bruce Beaver and Rodney Hall, and at the poetry which changed quite dramatically in this era. Although he was not comfortable with the role of social commentator, he was closely connected with other writers and established a respected place in their community. To help understand how he regarded himself as part of the contemporary writing scene, his incomplete book of criticism, Some Poets of Account, is examined.
Each stage of Blight's career is constructed by balancing the published (and some unpublished) poems and the letters that often provide clues to Blight's progress in the community. A complex statement about the individual poet and the Australian literary scene over forty years emerges.