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             20 March, 2023

Category:  Articles » Arts & Culture » Poetry


Australian Bush Poetry Is Alive And Well

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2006-07-11 20:10:35     
Article by Ric Raftis

After many years of taking a spell from the minds of many Australians, Bush Poetry is once again making a resurgence and becoming popular again.

Australian Bush Poetry has been around since the European settlement of Australia. Poetry was written by farmers, squatters, drovers, shearers, horsemen and a myriad of other everyday people.

If we look back through history, the bush poetry that has survived, and there has been plenty of it, reflects quite accurately the times in which those people lived. The stories are wonderful and cover all aspects of life in Australia at the time. There are stories of droving treks, exploits of endurance, great feats of horsemanship, the pain of separation, in fact you could find a poem on almost any topic you would care to name.

Among the greats of Australian Bush Poetry we have names like A.B."Banjo" Paterson, who was probably Australia's best known and loved poet. When you mention bush poetry to Australians and ask them if they know of any, they will generally reply with either "The Man From Snowy River" or "Clancy of the Overflow", two of Paterson's greatest. But he is also well known for many other great poems including "A Bush Christening", "Lost", "Mulga Bill's Bicycle", "In The Droving Days" and a multitude of others. Paterson was a great writer and wrote not only poetry, but also short stories which reflected quite accurately his love of Australia and the outback.

Henry Lawson was another of the great Australian poets who had a truly expressive flair for depicting the "underdog". A socialist and staunch republican, even before the days when republicanism became a real issue for Australians, Lawson was promoting the cause. His very first published piece of work was entitled "Song of the Republic" and was written in support of the striking shearers in 1891. Whether this was put to music at the time, I don't know, but a more popularised version of it has been arranged by Hugh McDonald and called "Sons of the South". Lawson also wrote some other truly classic pieces such as "The Fire at Ross's Farm", "The Roaring Days", "Faces In The Street", "The Lights of Cobb & Co" and "The Sliprails and the Spur" to name but a few.

Apart from these truly stand out poets, there are many others as well who will long be remembered by their work. Will Ogilvie would have to be up there with the best of them. A Scot, who came to Australia only for a period of time, wrote some truly magnificent pieces whilst here, but also continued to write poetry when he went back home to Scotland. He had a magnificent way of depicting scenery and a fantastic manner of creating visions in peoples' minds when his poetry is read or recited. Among his poetry, I think that "The Riding of the Rebel" is his most brilliant.

R.M Williams, the great Australian bushman and businessman, arranged for the publication of Ogilvie's work in a book called "Saddle for a Throne". It can be ordered through most saddlery shops.

These are just some of the more well known poets. There are also others who have written well loved pieces and a bit of research on the web will turn them up. Do a search on poetry by Adam Lindsay Gordon, John O'Brien, Henry Kendall, Thomas E. Spencer and you will be rewarded with a wealth of first class Australian Bush Verse. Yes, indeed, Australian Bush Verse is alive and well. There are competitions, performances, festivals and poets' breakfasts happening now all over Australia. There are also many clubs in place where you can join in and participate in keeping this magnificent art form alive.

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