What Makes Good Poetry

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Vic Jefferies
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What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Vic Jefferies » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:17 am

Don't think I have posted this here before, but I think Lehman and Gray's opinions are worth considering and for those interested, they have produced a cracking anthology of Australian poetry.

What makes good poetry

Geoffrey Lehman and Robert Gray in choosing "well done" poetry for their book. Australian Poetry Since 1788. UNSW PRESS 2012 said:

" We have found that we mainly judged poetry by a readily comparative measure, by it's use of the techniques of poetry....Of course content is what is most moving in a poem; but the language first has to be effective. A good poem is appreciated at least as much as poetry as it is as message.....
What we looked for, were the marks of poetry; imagery, rhythm, musical texture, aphoristic phrasing, mastery of form, and an original tone of voice...We were attracted to all the manifestations of poetry .......anything that persuaded us that it was well done "

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Shelley
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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Shelley » Mon Apr 25, 2016 7:27 am

Excellent definition, Vic - I totally agree with Lehman and Gray.

Sounds like a good addition to the library :)

Cheers, Shelley
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Neville Briggs
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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:11 pm

It is a very good definition Vic. It would be good to adopt that for the bush poetry competitions, rather than the wooden phrase " accurate rhyme and good metre" which says very little about the spirit of poetry.

I have a copy Vic. It's heavy reading, 1090 pages :)

In view of their stated definition, I thought it was interesting what would appeal to two modernist poets for an anthology like this.
Among the " bush poets' they have a few offerings including , C.J Dennis's The Play, Both the family friendly version and the Adults Only version of The Captain of the Push by Lawson , Paterson's Saltbush Bill and just one by John O'Brien Said Hanrahan. and also Dorothea Mackellar's My Country which usually doesn't seem to appear in contemporarily published anthologies.
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Vic Jefferies
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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Vic Jefferies » Mon Apr 25, 2016 5:55 pm

I agree Neville but you are a bit short on the list of bush poets in the book. I noted:
Charles Harpur; Charles Thatcher; Adam Lindsay Gordon; Henry Kendall; Charlie Yorke; Thomas E Spencer; Mary Hannah Foott; Alexander Montgomery; Alice Werner; Jack Moses; WT Goodge; Mary Gilmore; Harry Breaker Morant; Barcroft Boake;
EJ Brady; Will Ogilvie; Joseph Tishler; Jack Mathieu and Hugh McCrae plus many more. You might have the abridged edition.

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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon Apr 25, 2016 6:40 pm

No I just have the abridged brain, not enough energy to look them all up . ;)
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David Campbell
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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by David Campbell » Mon Apr 25, 2016 7:30 pm

As this anthology supposedly represents poetry from 1788 until about 2011, under the heading of "bush poets" how many of those published wrote something in the last 50 years? The Bronze Swagman is reputedly our most prestigious award, and it's been going since 1972. Any of our BS winners get a mention? Veronica Weal and Graham Fredriksen each won it three times.

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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:27 pm

Good question David. very good question.

Just a slight tangent , on Saturday , the ABC TV featured a war poem by Yvonne Harper, ( performed by Greg Aitken ). Flashes from the Front.
Yvonne Harper has been a winner in some bush poetry comps. I don't think she has won the Bronze Swagman but her work has appeared in the 2013 book.

https://open.abc.net.au/explore/124279
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David Campbell
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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by David Campbell » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:24 am

Neville, Yvonne hasn’t won the BS, but it’s good to see her poem getting an airing on the ABC.

With regard to the Lehmann-Gray anthology, there would seem to be two possibilities. Either they don’t know that contemporary bush poets exist or, if they do, they don’t consider them worth publishing. Of course, many poets will be omitted from such a wide-ranging book, but to completely ignore several decades of a whole genre would seem negligent, to say the least. Graham Fredriksen wrote poetry as good as, if not better than (in modern terms), anything produced by the “greats” of 100 years ago, but I suspect Lehmann and Gray have never heard of him. Or if they have, they’d subscribe to the common view in the mainstream poetry world that “bush” poetry is something that was written a long, long time ago, and anything produced recently is just a pale imitation of that. In that case, what we write apparently doesn't fit their definition.

When sourcing contemporary poetry for these anthologies the editors don’t look to places like Winton and a competition called The Bronze Swagman, or to Tamworth and the Blackened Billy, or to Bundaberg and the Bush Lantern (notice a theme here?). Instead they go to award-winners in the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize at Griffith University, the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize, the Australian Book Review’s Peter Porter Poetry Prize, or to magazines like Meanjin, Overland and Island. You won’t find contemporary bush poetry in any of those places. We’re not even on the radar.

So, yet again (we’ve been over this before but it’s still worth asking) here are some questions. Does it matter? Do we care? Is the ABPA’s primary (only?) role to celebrate the traditions of our colonial past, as some have argued? Or, if we want our contemporary verse to be recognised and published alongside all the non-rhyming varieties, how do we go about breaking down the barriers?

I just find it depressing that such a mammoth book (1086 pages) apparently (please correct me if I’m wrong, as I don’t have a copy) couldn’t find space for a single poem written by someone whose name we might recognise from the last few decades of bush poetry.

David

Vic Jefferies
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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Vic Jefferies » Tue Apr 26, 2016 5:05 pm

David wrote:
So, yet again (we’ve been over this before but it’s still worth asking) here are some questions. Does it matter? Do we care? Is the ABPA’s primary (only?) role to celebrate the traditions of our colonial past, as some have argued? Or, if we want our contemporary verse to be recognised and published alongside all the non-rhyming varieties, how do we go about breaking down the barriers?

Firstly I think Lehmann and Gray's anthology is a good book to have and to read, not only as a reference book, but also one that covers many years and many forms of poetry.There is a fair representation of early bush poetry with some wonderful writers represented however as David notes not enough from contemporary bush poets.

To answer David's questions, I think it does matter and we do care that modern bush poets are under represented in this publication and similar anthologies. We can all think of people like Bruce Simpson, Graham Frederiksen, David Campbell and many, many more whose work is worthy of inclusion in any modern collection of poetry, but largely go unnoticed by today's editors.
I don't believe the primary role of the ABPA is to celebrate the traditions of our colonial past but rather it is to foster, nurture, preserve and promote "traditional" Australian poetry and to afford those who write and enjoy such poetry an opportunity to do so with like minded people.
While it is obvious there is now a strong (indeed rampant) bias against "bush" poetry it is my firm belief if that if the work produced is good enough it will eventually be appreciated. This has proven to be the case in so many other fields that I am sure quality is undeniable. After all The Banjo, Lawson and the rest had to overcome classical poetry in their day to be published and so can we.

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Re: What Makes Good Poetry

Post by Terry » Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:24 pm

David,
I think one of the biggest misconceptions regarding modern bush poetry, is that it's all about the past.
to some extent this may be true of some war poetry which is understandable. But much of our modern efforts; although written largely in the style of the old masters, is based on the experiences of today's poets, in their own lifetimes.

I sometimes wonder if some of these people are worried that if modern bush poetry gets too much exposure it may be more popular in some quarters than their own - Modern Bush Poetry covers a wide range of subjects and styles.

I also think the name Bush Poetry - as much as I like it - has played a part in this - it does tend to sound a bit narrow.

Terry

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