Bush Poetry

Henry L CaveYesterday I was privileged to participate in a bush poetry gathering, held at the Henry Lawson Cave in the Sydney suburb of Willoughby, and recited “Clancy@TheOverflow”, a “modernised” version of Banjo Paterson’s classic poem “Clancy of the Overflow”. For the text of Banjo’s original, see http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/patersonab/poetry/clancy.html .

The modernised version is by Joe Wolfe, a professor of physics at the University of New South Wales, and can be found at http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/~jw/clancy-at-the-overflow.html . Joe has also written an updated version of Banjo’s “The Man from Snowy River”, and the text of that is included at the same website.

Bush poetry seems to be a thriving business, with many bush poetry events, including both spoken and written poetry competitions, all around the country. The Tamworth Country Music Festival, held every January, even has the Golden Damper Awards for bush poetry!

Why not write us a review of Joe Wolfe’s work, or tell us about your favourite bush poems? Just click on “comment” below.





About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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10 Responses to Bush Poetry

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    Joe’s modern version is pretty good!

    This is as close as we come to Bush poetry on this side of the pond, I think. Ian Tyson is my favorite.

  2. What a splendid idea for a gathering. Joe Wolfe’s updating of Clancy is brilliant — and still applicable. I think there are even more reasons now to trade with Clancy than there were in Banjo’s day. That said, I wouldn’t be commenting on your event without the Internet — so mixed blessing.

    As for my own favorites, there are so many poems that are wonderfully evocative of what I love about the bush. Here are a couple of excerpts that particularly speak to me, reflecting as they do my own experience:
    In the Spring, when the wattle gold trembles
    ‘Twixt shadow and shine,
    When each dew-laden air draught resembles
    A long draught of wine:
    When the sky-line’s blue burnish’d resistance
    Makes deeper the dreamiest distance,
    Some song in all hearts hath existence,—
    Such songs have been mine.
    -from “A Dedication”
    Adam Lindsay Gordon
    Back to the road, and I crossed again
    Over the miles of the saltbush plain –
    The shining plain that is said to be
    The dried-up bed of an inland sea.
    Where the air so dry and so clear and bright
    Refracts the sun with a wondrous light,
    And out in the dim horizon makes
    The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes.

    At dawn of day we could feel the breeze
    That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
    And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
    That comes and goes in that scented air;
    For the trees and grass and the shrubs contain
    A dry sweet scent on the saltbush plain.
    for those that love it and understand
    The saltbush plain is a wonderland,
    -from “In the Droving Days”
    Banjo Paterson

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Adam Lindsay Gordon and Banjo Paterson: two great Aussie poets! (Even though some of the bush poetry bunch would regard Gordon as a bit hifalutin’ for their liking!)

      • Yes, I know — and yet much of his best stuff is very Australian — and Gordon himself always considered being a horseman more important than being a poet. So I’d say he’s got at least one foot in the bush camp.

  3. Mandy says:

    I can just imagine you reciting that Rob!

  4. annieambo says:

    Thanks for posting the photo Rob. I can hear you and the laughter it generated. Really wish I’d been there too.

  5. Rose Edington says:

    What a difference context makes! I’m in the USA. When I saw Bush Poetry in the subject line, I thought our former President was adding poetry to his art work. I had to laugh at myself when I realized it was the Dazzler’s blog. I remember how much I enjoyed hearing you read Bush poetry to us on our outback trip — so many years ago, but sometimes it seems like just yesterday.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Yes, Rose, it was indeed a long time ago! But the good memories are still there.
      Bush Poetry of the other kind sounds scary. I once heard that George W couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so I think that writing poetry might be a bit of a challenge for him.

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