Alison Croggon is an award-winning novelist, poet, theatre writer, critic and editor who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She works in many genres and her books and poems have been published to acclaim nationally and internationally. She is arts editor for The Saturday Paper and was co-founder and editor of the performance criticism website Witness (2017-2021).
Alison Croggon’s most recent book is a new translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies (2022). John Kinsella describes the translations as “incendiary work”. In 2021 the creative non-fiction Monsters was published by Scribe Publications in Australia, Britain and the US. She is the author of the epic fantasy series The Books of Pellinor. The Bone Queen, released internationally through 2016/17, was a finalist for Best Young Adult Novel in the 2016 Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction. The first volume, The Gift (The Naming in the US), was nominated in two categories in the Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Australian Speculative Fiction in December 2002 and named one of the Notable Books of 2003 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. The US edition, The Naming, was judged a Top Ten Teen Read of 2005 by the editors of Amazon.com. The series has since been published in five European countries and to date has sold more than a half a million copies in the UK and US alone.
Her most recent fantasy is the middle grade book The Threads of Magic (Walker Books and Candlewick 2020/21). Other titles include Black Spring, released in 2012/14 in Australia, the UK, the US and Germany. It was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book of 2013 and shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature in the 2014 NSW Premiers Literary Awards. The River and The Book, endorsed by Amnesty International UK, won the Wilderness Society’s 2016 Prize for Environmental Writing for Children and was shortlisted for a WA Premier’s Award for Young Adult fiction. Fleshers, the first book in the science fiction series Newport City she is writing with her playwright husband Daniel Keene, came out in 2018, with the sequel, Pinkers following in 2020.
The Australian Book Review described her as “one of the most powerful lyric poets writing today.” Her poems have been widely published in journals both in Australia and overseas, and are included in many major Australian anthologies. Her most recent poetry collection is New and Selected Poems 1991-2017 (Newport St Books 2017), which brings together work from nine previous collections. Other titles include Theatre (Salt Publishing 2008), Ash (Cusp Books, Los Angeles 2007); November Burning (Vagabond Press Rare Objects Series, Sydney, 2004); Mnemosyne, (Wild Honey Press, Ireland, 2001); The Common Flesh: New and Selected Poems (Arc Publications, UK, 2003) and Attempts at Being, (Salt Publishing, UK, 2002).
Her first book of poems, This is the Stone, won the 1991 Anne Elder and Dame Mary Gilmore Prizes. Her novel Navigatio, published by Black Pepper Press, was highly commended in the 1995 Australian/Vogel literary awards. Her second book of poems, The Blue Gate, was released in 1997 and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Poetry Prize. Attempts at Being was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and also was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US.
Alison’s theatre writing includes several opera libretti. Most recently she was commissioned by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra to write additional dialogue for Beethoven’s Fidelio, performed by Eryn Jean Norvill for the 2020 Perth Festival. In 2014 three operas were performed, including Mayakovsky, score by Michael Smetanin (Sydney Chamber Opera), The Riders, score by Iain Grandage (Victorian Opera/Malthouse Theatre) and Flood, score by Gerardo Dirie (Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University, Brisbane Festival). The Riders and Mayakovsky played to sell-out houses, and The Riders was named Choral/Vocal Work of the Year in the 2015 Art Music Awards. It was nominated for four Green Room Awards and won two, including Best New Australian Opera. The libretto for Mayakovsky was shortlisted for the Drama prize in the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.
Also with Michael Smetanin, she wrote Gauguin (Chamber Made Opera, Melbourne Festival 2000) and the acclaimed operatic adaptation of the Franz Kafka story The Burrow (WA Opera/Song Company, Perth Festival, Sydney, 1994; Chamber Made Opera, Melbourne 1995; and broadcast by ABC Radio).
Her performed plays include My Dearworthy Darling (The Rabble Theatre and Malthouse Theatre 2019), Lenz (Mene Mene Theatre Company, Melbourne Festival 1996), Samarkand and The Famine (Rules of Thumb season, Red Shed Company, Adelaide 1997 and ABC Radio 1998), Blue (CIA, La Mama, Melbourne and the Street Theatre, Canberra, 2001). ABC Radio commissions include Monologues for an Apocalypse (2001) and Specula (2006). She also wrote lyrics (music by Alan John) for Confidentially Yours (Playbox Theatre 1998, Hong Kong Festival 1999). she co-wrote a music theatre work for young adults, Night Songs, with her husband Daniel Keene and composer Andreé Greenwell for Bell Shakespeare’s Mind’s Eye.
Many of her poems have been set to music by various composers, including Smetanin (Skinless Kiss of Angels, Elision New Music Ensemble), Christine McCombe (To The Wider Ocean, Salford Sonic Fusion, Manchester UK 2015), Margaret Legge-Wilkinson (Canberra New Music Ensemble) and Andreé Greenwell (Villainelles), Gothic Seymour Centre, Vivid Live, Sydney 2015).
In 2020 she was appointed arts editor for The Saturday Paper. Her critical work has been published widely, including in The Monthly, The Saturday Paper, Overland, Australian Book Review, Radio National and the Guardian. She was Melbourne theatre critic for the national daily newspaper The Australian and Melbourne critic for the national weekly news magazine The Bulletin from 1989-1992. In 2009, she was named Geraldine Pascall Critic of the Year. From 2013-15, she was theatre critic at large for ABC Arts Online and since 2018 has been co-editor and founder of the performance criticism website Witness Performance.
She was review editor for Meanjin (2019-2020), poetry editor for Overland Extra (1992), Modern Writing (1992-1994) and Voices (1996) and founding editor of the literary arts journal Masthead. Since 2000, she has toured frequently in the UK and the US, among other things reading at the Poetry International Festival at Royal Festival Hall in London, the Soundeye International Poetry Festival in Cork, and the New Writing symposium at the University of East Anglia. In 2000 she spent six months as the Australia Council Writer in Residence at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge (UK). In 2015, 2017 and 2020 she was invited by the Centre National des Écritures du Spectacle, as part of the Odyssée-ACCR Program in the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, for residencies at La Chartreuse de Villeneuve lez Avignon. In 2015 she was awarded a two-year Australia Council Fellowship for Literature.