Crow’s Breath


ISBN: 978-1-921924-81-1 Format: 208pp Rights: All rights: Transit Lounge Release / Publication Date: 01 /05 /2015

This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.


Winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry and Christopher Brennan Award (for lifetime achievement in poetry) and shortlisted in the Steele Rudd Prize for a collection of short fiction, John Kinsella returns with a not-to-be-missed addition to the canon of one of Australia’s most original and incisive writers.

A man who never sleeps takes a cross-continent train journey into landscape and memory. A gregarious woman and a reclusive man move to an Irish village where history and tradition (the famine pit nearby, the festival of Halloween) enact their dark forces. In an Australian town dying from the encroachment of salinity, a young girl attempts to bring life to a dead dog. Whether documenting love or horror , or finding quotidian absurdities in Australia or the world , the powerful stories in Crow’s Breath capture the precariousness of everything we most value with unsettling tenderness and beauty.

‘Energetic and ruthless. Kinsella’s writing is stunningly good’ Australian Book Review
‘Kinsella knows how to distil stories to their essence’ Herald Sun

John Kinsella lives on Ballardong Noongar land at ‘Jam Tree Gully’ in the Western Australian wheatbelt and has also lived in USA, UK, Ireland and other zones. His recent publications include the poetry volumes The Argonautica Inlandica (Vagabond, 2023) and Spirals: Collected Poems Volume Three (2014-2023) (UWAP 2024). Previous story collections include the awards-listed Pushing Back (Transit Lounge 2021) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His verse novel Cellnight was published by Transit Lounge in 2023.

Kinsella’s Crow’s Breath is as fine a collection of short fiction as we are likely to have this year

Peter Pierce, Age/SMH, 23 May 2015.

From a literary perspective, the collection excels within the conventions Kinsella subverts in other prose works – offering the same kind of contrast and pleasure as reading Joyce’s Dubliners after Ulysses. These are well-crafted short stories, full of the pleasures the best short stories offer – twists, moments, epiphanies. They inhabit a wide range of modes, most commonly the gothic and realist. They are united in their concise intensity.

Many of Kinsella’s characters are brutal, but is this cause or effect? Perhaps humans are simply unsuited to living in these haunted places, whether here in the wheat belt or on the coast of Ireland or in Ohio. In “Sleeper”, it’s only when a train-traveller becomes an eagle and flies “over the sand made from shells ground down over the millions of years since this place was an inland sea, the bluebush” that the beauty of the “treeless place” is revealed.

The Saturday Paper, May 16 2015

Kinsella’s work is magnificent, raw; the words coming together in form and shape to evoke the essence of the moment in time he is creating.

Janet Mawdsley,

The stories that make up John Kinsella’s Crow’s Breath
 are remarkable for their brevity or, more specifically, for their ability to condense whole worlds — the social lives of small towns, complex family relationships, histories and hauntings — into a few short pages. Few of the stories are more than five pages long, yet they are dense enough, and allusive enough, to resonate much further and conjure narratives that extend beyond the limits of the text.

Fiona Wright, The Australian 20 June 2015