Born in Adelaide, Jeff Guess taught English in country and metropolitan secondary schools, ‘Writing Poetry’ at the Adelaide Institute of TAFE, and tutored at the University of South Australia. His first book LEAVING MAPS, published in 1984, was hailed by Judith Rodriguez in The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘a major collection’. Samela Harris (The Advertiser) has written of his collection WINTER GRACE ‘Methinks he is the finest living Australian poet.’ He has had ten collections published. Jeff has written two textbooks on teaching poetry and edited numerous poetry anthologies. He has won many first prizes for his poetry and been awarded five writing grants, and is often on judging panels for major poetry competitions, including the John Bray Award.
His poetry has been published widely and has appeared in most Australian newspapers and magazines. He is represented regularly in leading literary magazines: AUSTRALIAN POETRY, ISLAND, OVERLAND, QUADRANT, MEANJIN, STUDIO and WESTERLY; and major newspapers: THE AGE, THE CANBERRA TIMES, and THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN. In addition to his published work in Australia, he has been published in America, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Wales.
His work is frequently anthologised, appearing in:
THE TIN WASH DISH, edited by John Tranter (ABC Books 1989);
THE SEA’S WHITE EDGE, MATTARA PRIZE WINNERS, edited by Paul Kavanagh; (Butterfly Books 1991);
THE PENGUIN BOOK OF CHRISTMAS POEMS, edited by K.Pearson and C.Mooney (Penguin Books 1992);
THE OXFORD BOOK OF LOVE POEMS, edited by Jennifer Strauss (Oxford 1993);
THE AUSTRALIAN CHRISTMAS BOOK edited by Kay Fairfax (Collins/A&R 1995);
FAMILY TIES edited by Jennifer Strauss (Oxford 1998);
THE INDIGO BOOK OF MODERN AUSTRALIAN SONNETS edited by Geoff Page (Indigo 2003);
WINDCHIMES Asia in Australian Poetry edited by Noel Rowe and Vivian Smith (Pandanus Books 2006);
THE QUADRANT BOOK OF POETRY 2001-2010 edited by Les Murray (Quadrant Books 2012).
WHEN ANZAC DAY COMES AROUND edited by Graeme Lindsay (Forty South 2015)
LEAVING MAPS (Friendly Street Poets 1984)
FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON (Studio 1987)
PAINTING THE TOWN: The Gawler Poems (Wakefield Press 1988)
REPLACING FUSES IN THE HOUSE OF CARDS (Poetry Australia 1988)
RITES OF ARRIVAL: Poems from Museums of the History Trust of SA (Wakefield Press 1990).
SELECTED SONNETS (Collins/A&R 1991)
LIVING IN THE SHADE OF NOTHING SOLID (Five Islands Press 1998)
WINTER GRACE (Five Islands Press 2004)
THE SILENT CLASSROOM (Pembroke School 2008)
AUTUMN IN CANTABILE: The Gawler Poems (Arts SA 2011)
SUPPOSING HIM TO BE THE GARDENER: The Mary Magdalen Suite (Sherwin & Stone 2017)
THE N0. 12 FRIENDLY STREET READER (Friendly Street Poets 1987).
THE INNER COURTYARD: A South Australian Anthology of Love Poetry (Wakefield Press 1990).
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR (Salisbury Council 1992).
THE NO. 18 FRIENDLY STREET READER (Friendly Street Poets 1994).
POETRY AFTER LUNCH: The University Readings (Adelaide University 1996).
A FALL OF RAINBOWS (Williamstown Women Writers 1997).
NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Eremos 1999).
NEW POETS SEVEN (Friendly Street Poets/Wakefield Press 2002).
ENCOUNTERS (Ariel 2002).
TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT (Pembroke School 2008)
MY TEACHER IS A BALLERINA (Trinity College 2011)
Jeff He has co-written a textbook on teaching poetry in primary schools: HANDS ON POETRY (Twilight Publishing 1991; republished Dominie 1993). He has written a textbook for tertiary students entitled WRITING POETRY, published by the Adelaide Institute of TAFE. There are entries for him in the International Authors and Writers Who’s Who, the Who’s Who of Australian Writers and the Oxford Companion to Australian Literature; and an article by Geoff Page in A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (UQP 1995). The National Defence Force Academy Library in Canberra holds his papers, manuscripts and letters, as part of the ‘Australian Special Research Collection’ and also the Archives of the State Library of South Australia ‘Collection Development’.
What I value in his work is the quiet human voice of a person who thinks his own thoughts. The poem rises in an integrated way from experiences maturely reflected on.
I admire his work. I find it tender and perceptive, unafraid to show feeling. It's also inventive, with an eye for the angles of experience in which poetry can catch and accumulate.
Jeff Guess is the greatest living South Australian poet. Bravo!
Peter Goers (Sunday Mail)
Jeff Guess is a good poet, among the best we have currently.
In my opinion, Jeff Guess is one of the most important poets writing in South Australia. His poems are thoughtful, and acutely observant and demonstrate an ability to handle language and control technique.
I class Guess' work up there with KS Mackenzie and Ray Mathew; better than Stewart; and fully deserving of the national acclaim given Robert Gray.
Jeff Guess is one of the most interesting and versatile poets in South Australia, able to tackle a wide range of subjects and willing to experiment with new forms. His work is deeply reflective with a strong spiritual element and is the expression of a world view which is generous and compassionate. His work has intensity, impetus, and grace.
His poetry shines with the light of passion and experience. Written with warmth, intelligence and exceptional insight, he captures time, place and humanity, from the universal to the delightfully local.
One of the most accomplished poets presently writing in South Australia.
A significant Australian poet.
Paul Grover (Studio)
Jeff Guess’ name sings contemplative whimsy – but his poetry cuts to the chase. Succinct and sweet, it taps the timeless nerve of human universality while telling our culture’s tales with infinite grace. Methinks he is the finest living Australian poet.
Samela Harris (The Advertiser)
Jeff Guess’ quintessential well-made poem evokes the transience of human life while longing for some kind of permanence. He finds much of the transience and some of the permanence in country towns, which he recreates in achingly beautiful visual imagery.
Guess’s poems are reflective and subtle, often drawing the reader into an imaginative journey to make connections between a documented past or place or work and some moment of present epiphany.
The winning poem ‘War Cemetery’ is outstanding with beautiful shifts in rhythm and sometimes a brilliant use of line and stanza breaks; lines of a sensitivity and intelligence that permeate the whole poem. They are lines worthy of Tennyson or Larkin, and that unforced poeticness is everywhere apparent.
Dennis Haskell (Westerly Centre, University of Western Australia)
Your work has been on my radar for many years, from
back when I first started getting serious about poetry
in the early 80’s. Your attention to craft and technique and your fine ear have always stood out.