Forests of Poetry

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Stephen Whiteside
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Forests of Poetry

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:13 am

I was recently challenged by another writer, for whom I have great respect, to defend the very notion of writing bush poetry. His argument was that bush poetry, as an art form, was perfected about 100 years ago. What artistic merit, therefore, can there be in simply perpetuating it?

To quote him directly: "I think that the only justification for producing art in a superseded style is to parody or extend it; replicating it is a sort of technical trick; clever certainly, but what's the purpose?"

I think there a number of defences that can be offered, but this is one that has appeal for me.

Way back when, we all lived in the forests. As our technologies developed, we began to manipulate the world around us, to make it more to our liking. We now live in steel and concrete constructs, and the old forests themselves are facing extinction. While this suits many of us perfectly well, others are not so happy. It is this huge shift from our roots that has spawned the green movement. A significant proportion of our population is now fighting to support the very forests that we once took so much for granted.

(There is an irony operating here, I know, because many bush poets are quite contemptuous of the green movement, but I'll put that aside for the time being.)

In a way, it seems to me, rhyming verse is like a literary equivalent of the forests. Particularly in the days preceding the widespread use of the printed word, wandering minstrels with their rhyming stories were the principal mode of news dissemination. Now we have television, radio, the internet, etc. Similarly with entertainment.

Yet there are those amongst us who miss the intimacy of the old ways, who strive to preserve the early forms of communication/entertainment before they are lost forever. We are the 'greens' of the world of literacy.

There is one aspect to this argument that makes me feel rather uncomfortable. It casts us bush poets as 'radical conservatives' - yet, in a sense, that is exactly what we are - or so it seems to me.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

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Zondrae
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Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by Zondrae » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:20 am

Well written defence of our genre Stephen.

However, I write with rhyme and metre because, this is the way I think poetry should be. I often think in rhyming couplets. To me, everything in nature has an ebb and flow. Therefore there is metre in nature itself. We may think we are masters of our environment but we fool ourselves. Therefore, to me, it is a pre determined thing that we blend with the natural rhythm all around us. I have written some pieces that don't conform but they are spontaneous, unusual and often about things or events out of my normal sphere.

So to me, there is a place for many styles of poetry. Most of us write on subject matter that is contemporary and we prove at every Poets Breakfast and by the numbers entering competitions that it has a following. Why should we be forced to defend our style?
Zondrae King
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Leonie

Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by Leonie » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:12 am

I find it interesting that we are often put on the defensive about our preference too. I was recently asked why 'bush' poetry particularly and was tempted to just say "why not?", but was afraid he would tell me. :lol: In the end I just said it was a personal preference, much like I happen to like paintings that look like a photograph, rather than abstract ones.

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Bellobazza
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Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by Bellobazza » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:39 am

G'day Stephen...
I don't suppose that your debating friend was 'attacking' contemporary bush poetry, but merely engaging in a point of intellectual discussion. I would have a problem though with his assertion that the form was "perfected a hundred years ago". We live in an imperfect world and only fools and politicians, (all politicians are fools, but not all fools are politicians), would claim to be perfect in their chosen field of endeavour. As far as I can see, not even the likes of Lawson, Paterson or Dennis ever felt completely satisfied with their efforts.

But, even if we concede the point, why would one abandon an art form that has been perfected in any case? The thong (and, although I'm referring to footwear, the case might be argued for that other type of aparrel) was perfected long ago, yet it is as popular now as ever.

Come to that, I remember a time when square dancing was a very popular pastime. There are still groups around the country who continue to enjoy this activity, even though the hey-day of barn dances is long gone. If they continue to find fun and friendship through this particular style of expression, good for them and good for us who do the same through our appreciation of bush poetry.

Cheers, Will.
"Each poet that I know (he said)
has something funny in his head..." CJD

warooa

Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by warooa » Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:27 am

Interesting . . . so is there such a creature as a 'red-neck literary greenie'?

I reckon there's a poem in that

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Dave Smith
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Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by Dave Smith » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:36 am

Hi Folks While I am not tertiary educated or have a vast vocabulary I do know that our whole life is bound up by rhythm starting with our heartbeat and flowing through the way we walk, run, play, talk, and play music. I think in rhyme most of the time, have loved Banjo, Henry, O’Brien etc all my life so I guess it is only natural That I would try to emulate people that I hold in such regard.

I hope I make sense.

TTFN 8-)
I Keep Trying

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Wendy Seddon
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Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by Wendy Seddon » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:47 pm

I know what you mean Dave, I'm wired for rhyme too, it's just natural and makes sense to me. The problem is putting it all together!
"All appears to change when we change." - Henri-Frederic Amiel

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Dave Smith
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Re: Forests of Poetry

Post by Dave Smith » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:56 pm

Owly This is true, reading it and performing for other people mate I just love that, writing bush poetry now there is a different kettle of fish altogether.

TTFN 8-)
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