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Personal profile



Toby Davidson is an Australian poetry scholar, creator, facilitator and editor. His research interests include Australian, New Zealand, British, Irish and American poetry, the public commemoration of writers and interactions between poetry and Australian politics. He is especially interested in supervising MRes or PhD theses on Australian literature (including film) and poetry in any medium or form. He is a member of ASAL (Association for the Study of Australian Literature), AAALS (American Association of Australasian Literary Studies), the ARC Centre for the History of Emotions and the North Shore Poetry Project.

Toby's critical study Christian Mysticism and Australian Poetry (2013) is the fifth book in the award-winning Cambria Press Australian Literature Series curated by general editor Professor Susan Lever. This unprecedented study of Australian Christian metaphysical poetics from 1820 to 2010 was praised by David Malouf as 'at once comprehensive and finely discriminating ... [it] sets Australian poetry in an entirely new light.' Christian Mysticism and Australian Poetry was shortlisted for the 2015 ASAL Walter McRae Russell Award for the best book of literary scholarship in the preceding two years.

From 2013-14, Toby was the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library Visiting Scholar. His collaborative archival work with the JCPML led to a public oration at Curtin University and then at the 2015 Prime Minister’s Seminar at Old Parliament House on the invitation of the Museum of Australian Democracy. These collaborations led to new transdisciplinary research on WWII Prime Minister John Curtin's lifelong engagement with Australian, British, European, Irish and American poetry. This research is the subject of  Toby's second critical monograph, Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry (University of Western Australia Publishing, 2020).  

Since 2012, Toby has co-ordinated the annual Francis Webb Poetry Reading at Willoughby Library Chatswood. This community outreach event invites poets, scholars, film-makers, painters, local historians and high school students from Webb's former schools St Pius X College and CBHS Lewisham to perform the works of this under-appreciated Australian prodigy (1925-73) who wrote extensively about Australian history, art, music, his Catholic faith and his personal experience of mental illness. Toby’s Francis Webb criticism extends beyond his editorship of Webb's Collected Poems (UWA Publishing, 2011) to five refereed articles in Australian and North American journals. 

Toby's individual and co-authored articles have been published in the following peer-reviewed journals: Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature, E-Rea: Revue électronique d’études sur le monde anglophone, JASAL (Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature), Journal of Australian Studies, Island, Literature and Theology (Oxford Journals), New Scholar, Philament, Rivista di Studi Italiani, Westerly. Individual book chapters also appear in Contemporary Literary Criticism (Gale), Feeding the Ghost: Essays on Contemporary Australian Poetry (Puncher and Wattman), The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (OUP) and Veronica Brady: A Living Legacy (ATF Press).

An inter-Departmental team led by Toby used GPS and Google Maps technology to create the first interactive map of commemorative sites for Australian writers in the urban environment. Fieldwork over two years led to 65 statues, plaques, writer's houses, literary walks, dedicated parks and sculptural works being photographed, transcribed, GPS-located and uploaded to a digital database designed by Dr Stephen Collins (Dept of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies). The result was Words in Place: A Digital Cartography of Australian Writers and Writing in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra (http://wordsinplace.net, 2015). The findings of this MQRDG-funded project are critically discussed in two supplementary co-authored articles with Words in Place co-creators Professor John Potts (MMCCS) and Assoc Prof Donna Houston (Geography and Planning). 

Toby has convened two conferences for the Department of English: 'Modernisms and Modernities: Comparing Literary and Cultural Experiences' (with Fudan and Hamburg Universities, Shanghai 2017) and 'Australian Literature: The Road Ahead' (Macquarie 2013). He has presented papers on Australian literature at national and international conferences since 2006. In 2014, he was a keynote speaker at Victoria University's 'Truth or Beauty: Verse Biography' conference in Wellington, New Zealand. At the 2018 ASAL conference, Toby presented the Mary Gilmore Award for best first collection of Australian poetry to Quinn Eades for Rallying.

Toby's own poetry has appeared three times in Black Inc's Best Australian Poems series. His debut collection Beast Language (Five Islands Press, 2012) was praised by Copyright Australia Limited (CAL)  Chair of Poetry Robert Adamson as 'A remarkable first book of poetry ... A wondrous achievement' and by acclaimed poet and editor Judith Beveridge as 'A real treasure.' Poems from Beast Language have been anthologised in Contemporary Australian Poetry (eds. Judith Beveridge, Judy Johnson, Martin Langford and David Musgrave), The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry (eds. John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan) and The Weekly Poem: 52 Exercises in Closed and Open Poem Forms (ed. Jordie Albiston).

Poems from Toby's forthcoming second collection Four Oceans (Puncher and Wattman, 2020) have been published in Antipodes, Australian Poetry Collaboration, Cordite, The Disappearing (Red Room Company), The Hunger (eds. Michele Seminara and Robbie Coburn), Mascara Literary Review, Meniscus, Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics, Rabbit: A Journal for Non-Fiction Poetry, Truth or Beauty: Biographical Poetry (eds. Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby, Angelina Sbroma), Verity LA and Westerly. ‘Creature Quatrains’ was shortlisted for the 2016 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize.



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Research Outputs

At the Non-Existent Statue of a Speared Arthur Phillip

Davidson, T., 15 Nov 2019, Verity La.

Research output: Contribution to Newspaper/Magazine/WebsiteWebsite contribution

At the Non-Existent Statue of a Speared Arthur Phillip

Davidson, T., 2019, Australian Poetry Collaboration, 31.

Research output: Contribution to Newspaper/Magazine/WebsiteWebsite contribution


Davidson, T., 2019, In : Meniscus. 7, 2, p. 89 1 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalOther journal contribution

Robert Harris redux

Davidson, T., 23 Apr 2019, In : Sydney review of books.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Open Access
  • Turn Back

    Davidson, T., 2019, In : Rabbit: A Journal of Nonfiction Poetry. 28, p. 87-88 2 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalOther journal contribution