Paul Magee studied in Melbourne, Moscow, San Salvador and Sydney. He writes poetry, and theoretical studies of poetics, broadly conceived. The latter range from interview-based analyses of poetic composition, philosophical and historical explorations of the links between epistemology and aesthetics, and critiques of the concept of national identity, including the ways national identities are ascribed to poets and their work.
A first book of poems, Cube Root of Book (John Leonard Press: 2006), was shortlisted in the Innovation category of the 2008 Adelaide Festival Awards for literature, and highly commended in the Anne Elder Award, and also the Mary Gilmore Award. Paul's second, Stone Postcard (John Leonard Press: 2014), was named in Australian Book Review as one of the books of the year for 2014.
Paul's second monograph, Suddenness and the Composition of Poetic Thought, was published by Rowman & Littlefield International in May 2022. The book explores the relationship between coming up with words in the everyday act of speaking (including the imaginary speaking we perform in our heads and call thinking), and coming up with words when composing poetry. It explores this relationship between speaking and composing through cognitive science, linguistics, philosophy and literary studies, and corroborates those knowledges with interview materials. Overall, the book provides insight into what is happening in the two to three seconds in which each successive phrase is forged.
With Kevin Brophy of the University of Melbourne, Jen Webb of the University of Canberra and Michael A.R. Biggs of the University of Hertfordshire, Paul was granted an Australian Research Council Discovery Award to investigate poetic judgement in 2012. Understanding Creative Excellence: A Case Study in Poetry (DP130100402, 2013-6), ran from 2013-2016 and saw the team interviewing 80 celebrated Anglophone poets in Australia, Canada, both Irelands, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and the United States. This material plays a prominent role in Paul's monograph Suddenness.
Paul's two current research grants involve teaching, and studying the effects of teaching, creative writing to ill and injured service people, as part of the University of Canberra's Defence ARRTS research tender (2015-2022; see further here), and co-"writing" A Book that Opens, with Paul Collis and Jen Crawford. Funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council supported project Imagining Futures through Un/Archived Pasts, this work involves exploring a form of writing that uses innovative transcription practices to bring Australian indigenous story-telling to the fore. The book will form an archive of story-based knowledge about river management down the Darling River and about care of the ancient fish-traps at Brewarrina. Every word in it, up to and including the publishing data in the frontispiece, will be generated as spoken discourse, recorded and then transcribed.
Paul was Chair of the 2006 UNAUSTRALIA conference which featured a keynote speech by Professor Jacques Rancière in the Australian Parliament House, national media coverage, an associated exhibition of contemporary art and a special workshop of fashion academics. Keenly involved in the promotion of the poetic word in a variety of public contexts, including as a founding member of the James Joyce Funferal, Canberra, Paul is currently working as Director of the carbon-neutral conference Out of the Ordinary: On Poetry and the World. Incorporating keynote readings by major contemporary poets, a panel on the relationship of poetry to ordinary language philosophy, a celebration of poetry and film and a special event dedicated to the exploration of Finnegans Wake, the conference will take place over December 5th, 6th and 7th, 2022.
Having served as President of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA) early in his career, Paul is now Vice-President of the Australian Universities Language and Literature Association (AULLA), AULLA representative in the International Federation for Modern Languages and Literatures (FILLIM) and ACT representative of the Australian University Heads of English (AUHE). At the University of Canberra he serves as Discipline Lead in Creative Writing and Associate Professor of Poetry.