Category Archives: poets and poetry

Friday Australian poem #17: Bruce Dawe, “Homecoming”

Years ago I had a student just beginning Year 12 at a Jewish school north of Sydney; Bruce Dawe’s poetry was our first mission. Over the Christmas holidays (well, that’s what I’d call them 😉 ) he went to Queensland, found Bruce Dawe in the phone book and rang him up. “Hey, I have to study your poems!” Result? An invitation to come over for a cup of tea, and some good points to make in class…

An Air Force veteran himself, and veteran too of all manner of jobs, this very down-to-earth Australian poet found his voice and his anger during the Vietnam War. “Homecoming” is just one of many he wrote at that time, but is justly the best known.
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Posted by on November 30, 2007 in Aussie interest, OzLit, poets and poetry


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Friday Australian poem #16: Banjo Paterson “Fur and Feathers”

Having been serious on this blog — even deep and meaningful — in a few posts this week I offer this in a spirit of fun, and can almost guarantee you won’t have read it before! I found it in the whitewolf collection, and if you click the author name below you can see what he says about A B Paterson, one of the two best-known 1890s bush balladeers — though both of them lasted into the 20th century, Paterson rather longer than Henry Lawson…

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Posted by on November 23, 2007 in Aussie interest, Diversions, OzLit, poets and poetry


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Two passing thoughts

1. Small joys of blogging: right now someone in Kathmandu is reading Friday Australian poem #11: “Because” by James McAuley. Everyone should…

2. On tonight’s Compass I found myself most drawn to Inga Clendinnen, historian and atheist, and least to Jim Wallace.

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Friday Australian poem # 14: "The Australaise" by C J Dennis

Expanded since draft posting… And as for the wrong number: oops! 😉

After watching The Sounds of Aus on ABC last night my choice this week was clear. 🙂

Hosted by John Clarke, this entertaining story about the way we sound is told through an array of illuminating interviews with linguists, historians, social and political commentators, comedians, actors, and plenty of opinionated people with genuinely hilarious anecdotes. Those featured include Rachel Griffiths, Bruce Beresford, Bert Newton, Max Gillies, Denise Scott, Mary-Anne Fahey, Santo Cilauro, Simon Palomares and Akmal Saleh.

Is our accent really the legendary broad “Strine” of Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin? Why is it so hard for others to do? Are there regional variations? Is it a bastardised version of the Queen’s English? Is it under threat from global forces? And if it is, is it worth saving?

By examining the Australian accent and discovering its story, The Sounds of Aus reveals much about the Australian psyche and our national identity. Indeed, over the last two centuries, many of the conflicts about our identity have been played out through the accent, with our vision of, and our relationship with, the world reflected in the way we speak.
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Posted by on November 9, 2007 in Aussie interest, Diversions, immigration, Multiculturalism and diversity, OzLit, poets and poetry


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Friday Australian poem #12a

We couldn’t have a #13, could we? In fact if you check “Men in Green” again you will find a revised version. There had been an overlap last week between my role as an English tutor and that poem; I have a coachee, John, who was born in Shanghai in 1995. I had happened to bring an anthology to tuition and he had been given the task at school of finding a ballad or story poem to learn and recite. (I am glad some English classes still do this.) So we settled on “Men in Green” which he rather liked. I gave him a bit of context for it, and last week and yesterday we talked about it — among other things such as vocabulary and grammar exercises. (He has only been speaking English for about three years.)

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Posted by on November 2, 2007 in Aussie interest, Cultural and other, Education, Observations, Personal, poets and poetry


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Friday Australian poem #12: David Campbell “Men in Green”

This poem is literally the same age as I am, having been first published in The Bulletin in 1943. David Campbell, like my father, was in the RAAF. Both men were in Papua/New Guinea in that year, though my father was comparatively safe on the ground in Port Moresby.

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Friday Australian poem #11: “Because” by James McAuley

James Phillip McAuley (1917-1976) is, as you may see from that article, still something of a Right culture hero — perhaps even more so these days. He was certainly charming to me when I met him at one of the first English Teachers Association conferences I ever went to as a young teacher. At that conference he read “Because” and I was totally and deeply moved, and at that level I don’t care a bit what political arguments may centre on him or derive from him: I just knew I had been privileged to hear a truly great poem spoken by the man who wrote it and even more had the opportunity shyly and awkwardly to ask him how on earth he did it. “9 parts perspiration and 1 part inspiration” was part of what he told me over that memorable cup of tea…

The poem has moved me ever since, and hardly a senior class I have had has escaped my enthusiastic teaching of it. Yes it is conservative in form. McAuley was no friend of modernism, but then neither was Robert Frost. When a poem is as good as this one I simply don’t care; after all it could have only been written in this society in my lifetime. In that sense it is thoroughly modern. But enough from me. Can anyone read this and not to be moved?

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