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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Tue May 02, 2017 10:45 am
by David Campbell
Thanks, Shelley, and congratulations, Brenda, for doubling-up with an award in both sections. This raises an interesting discussion point. The Laura competition has a section called “Open Poetry” and one called “Open Bush Poetry”, and Brenda has clearly been successful with rhyming verse in both. So what’s the difference? (There are other competitions like this, such as the Ipswich Poetry Feast.) In other words, what are organisers looking for in making this distinction? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s possible that the bush poetry section is there to make sure that rhyming verse entries come in, thus boosting income.

But is there also an assumption that, as well as metre and rhyme, the bush poetry section is there to cater for poems that are more “bushy” in their subject-matter? I have no idea, but it theoretically creates a dilemma for entrants when faced with this two-category split. Which poems go where? I work on the basis that the assumption is true, directing more traditional rhyming verse to the bush poetry section and others that are perhaps experimental or topically contentious to the other section. And that has implications, especially if others are doing the same, as it limits the scope of what’s being considered as “bush” poetry. With one poem of mine I was specifically told by a judge that it would probably fare better in a non-bush competition, purely because of the subject-matter. So, although there’s been considerable broadening of what’s covered in written bush poetry competitions over recent years, I still find myself thinking with a fair number of poems: “Probably better to send that one somewhere else.”

Brenda, your opinion on this would be interesting given that you won both sections last year…was the winner of the 2016 “Open Poetry” category also rhyming verse?


Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Tue May 02, 2017 3:00 pm
by Wendy Seddon
Yes, many congrats Brenda and David - well done!

Looking forward to reading your works.

kind regards,

Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Tue May 02, 2017 5:04 pm
by David Campbell
Thank you, Wendy.

As an addition to my previous post I've tracked down "Flow", which was Brenda's winning entry in the "Open Poetry" section of the 2016 Laura competition. It's not on the ABPA website, but was published in Award Winning Australian Writing 2016, and it is rhyming verse...but with a very ingenious and complex structure. It's certainly not the standard traditional format, unlike "Murray Moon", which won the "Bush Poetry" section and is on the ABPA website. So I'm wondering, Brenda, if that's how you made your decision...sending the more unusual structure to the non-bush section. Or was it the more general, philosophical subject-matter? Or maybe both?


Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Wed May 03, 2017 4:44 pm
by Shelley
Hi David

Brenda is offline for a few days, travelling and performing. No doubt she will respond to your questions when she is back online, but in the meantime, I'd like to make a comment about these competitions which have "bush poetry" and "other poetry" sections.

Like you, I find these definitions quite puzzling. If a competition has "bush poetry" and "free verse", then it is clear. But what constitutes "other poetry"? I take the same approach as you do, reserving my more traditional subjects for the "bush poetry" section and trying out my more unusual rhymes and subjects in the "other poetry" section. But as you say, this potentially restricts the bush poetry section to less adventurous structures and topics - which does nothing to widen the boundaries of our genre.

For example, my Laura "bush poetry" entry was a traditional outback subject written as a rhyming couplet of 14-syllable lines throughout - very standard indeed. My "other poetry" entry also rhymed, but in a less conventional manner, with a varied pattern of syllables recurring through the poem (somewhat similar to my "Golden Wedding" from last year's Toolangi competition), and on a contemporary social subject. However, it still had consistent rhyme and metre, and referenced the Australian way of life, so it could have been entered in the "bush poetry" section.

It is a dilemma.

Waiting with interest to read Brenda's input on the subject ... and what do other writers think?


Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Sun May 14, 2017 12:38 pm
by David Campbell
As there have been no other responses as yet, Shelley, I'll report that, predictably, there have been some objections to the article. For example, my approach has been criticised by one poet as being too “nit picky”. Ironically, that was followed by a complaint about the highly subjective nature of judges’ decisions, an observation which fails to realise that a “near enough is good enough” approach to something as basic as metre only makes judging even more idiosyncratic. How far can the bar be lowered?

Then there are those who don’t like competitions anyway because they take the “fun” out of it all. The argument is that bush poetry is only good for its public entertainment value, the sort that brings in the crowds. In other words, forget about those who, for one reason or another, aren’t performers. Forget about those who (like me) only got involved in bush poetry in the first place because of the challenge posed by written competitions. Forget about the fact that written competitions reach out to people who have no contact at all with festivals or the performing side of things. Forget about the fact that written competitions can result in anthologies and books of verse by individual poets. (As just one example, look at the Bronze Swagman books and the poets whose reputations have been enhanced by winning that award.)

It’s a remarkably blinkered view. Bush poetry needs every form of expression it can muster, reaching the widest audience possible, and to denigrate one of those avenues just doesn’t make any sense. If you don’t like competitions, fair enough…don’t enter them. But don’t say they're a complete waste of time either. And if you do like competitions, then you need to be aware that there are ABPA guidelines for judges to follow. And one of those guidelines for written competitions is that poems should display “a clear mastery of metre”. I’ve given my opinion as to what that means. Those who disagree are welcome to give their own definitions. I’ll be very interested to read them!


Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Sun May 14, 2017 9:44 pm
by Wendy Seddon
I for one hear you loud and clear David.
I have a poem on the go which I am excited about. However, there is one line - a crucial line -
which doesn't rhyme. The metre is perfect and the emotion spot on.
It is exactly what I want to say.

The line is.....I'm honoured son, to be your mum.
The rhyme is internal so son and mum should rhyme.

It is the ONLY place that mis-hits. I will not be happy until I make it work.
It may mean that I change a whole verse and come from a different angle
somehow without losing it's potency.

That is what I call fun. Fun, challenging, vocabulary extending......
Anyway, that's how I see it.

Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Mon May 15, 2017 1:12 am
by Brenda Joy
I have just arrived home from wearing my performer's cap as an Irish bush poet at the Australian Celtic Festival, hence my late reply. I will start with the question from you David about how I decide what to enter where and in particular when it comes to the use of the term 'Open' which can mean Open (presumably non-bush) in subject matter or Open in form or simply Open as in Adult. I am constantly confused.
With the two winning poems in Laura in 2016 -- I put both of them into Open (as in Adult) and the organisers put one into the Open and one into the Open Bush category. This year my entry in the Open was both complex in structure and coastal/conservation in subject matter whereas my Open Bush entry was about the droving days. So that means that I basically go by both subject matter and form and sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don't.
Re all your other comments David -- I'm totally in agreement and like you, Shelley and Owly, I actually enjoy the challenge of getting it right in form and flow.

In addition, I am taking the liberty of posting the following article which I wrote several years ago as the ABPA Secretary and which was printed in the ABPA magazine. Milton Taylor's comment on the article was "Yew bloody beauty! We all do what we do and God bless us all."


Within the ‘family’ known as ‘Bush Poets’, there is such a wide range of creative individuals all with unique and special talents to offer towards the present and future survival of poetry with accurate rhyme and good metre about Australians, Australia and the Australian way of life.

In the spotlight are the professional and semi-professional performers who have adapted to popular demand and who utilise their skills as entertainers, comedians and entrepreneurs. They have brought about a resurgence of interest within the wider public. They are ambassadors and they play a valuable part in the whole movement.

Then there are the performers who enter competitions at poetry, folk or country music festivals. They utilise their skills as reciters of classic and modern verse with serious or humorous content. They provide pleasure and entertainment for those who appreciate and support the more traditional aspects of Bush Poetry. They help to preserve the culture through the spoken art form and so play a valuable part in the whole movement.

Then there are the writers who write poetry to perform within groups, social networks or communities. They exchange words, tips and ideas with others who see poetry as an enjoyable pursuit and who prefer to share and develop in a non-judgemental atmosphere of ‘camaraderie’. They help make poetry relevant to life and so play a valuable part in the whole movement.

Then there are the writers who abide by the demanding skills of their genre, who enter written competitions and who have their work reproduced in poetry magazines and literary publications. They reach to the readers of the present and the future and help to preserve the integrity of our craft through the lasting written art form and so play a valuable part in the whole movement.

Within this broadly stated framework of role plays, there are those who specifically target the needs of children, youth, adults or the aged. There are those who pass on their skills and experience through demonstrations and workshops. They foster the development of others and ensure continuity.

Behind all this are those who serve on the Australian Bush Poets Association committee formulating guidelines and disseminating information via meetings, magazines and websites and those who organise and co-ordinate events and competitions at state and local levels. They provide the underlying structure and communication network that ties the movement together.

In addition, there are the loyal followers, the audience, the listeners and the readers and last but not least, the partners, family members and friends who support bush poetry and the poets themselves. They are essential to the continued success of the movement.

Within the ABPA or in independent endeavours, poets and their supporters may choose to be involved in one or all of the above areas of service. So many facets and they all play a part in the whole keeping Bush Poetry alive for the present and into the future.

Whilst the importance lies not with the individual but with the art form itself, the wonderful thing is that there is a role of choice for everyone and each of us has the freedom to contribute in our own way.

There are few areas of life that offer such a diversity of uplifting opportunities and experiences. How grateful I am to belong to such a creative and dedicated family.

Brenda Joy

Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Mon May 15, 2017 1:17 am
by Brenda Joy
Having been so long-winded -- my last post serves as a great demonstration of why Facebook can never replace a forum. Whilst Facebook is a wonderful tool to promote who is doing what, where and how, those who enjoy the instant gratification of visuals would not be enticed to read and disseminate information and opinions on subjects dear to writers. LOL

Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Tue May 16, 2017 4:04 pm
by Shelley
BRENDA - well said!

The beauty of Aussie bush poetry is its diversity, and the ABPA umbrella is certainly large enough to cover us all. As you and David have so eloquently expressed it, we have a chance of realising our full potential only when we come together in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation.

I also agree with your comment that Facebook can never replace the Forum. It is definitely not the right arena for the type of in-depth discussions enjoyed here.

As to the interpretation of section definitions in written competitions - I guess we'll all go on making our best informed decisions, and continuing to be bewildered by the outcomes from time to time! ;)

WENDY - all the best with your rhyming dilemma. I can really relate to the situation as it is something that I face with nearly every poem I write. I'm sure the other writers feel the same. But as you say - the fun is in the challenge, and the creative fulfillment comes when the problem is solved! :D To quote Stephen's comment on the "Short Stories" thread: "I don't think I am learning anything as a writer if I am not pushing myself in some way." Indeed, yes!

DAVID - I'm so sorry to hear that you've received adverse reactions to your magazine article. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinions, but such negative feedback shows little respect for your impeccable credentials as a writer and educator. As a tireless ambassador for bush poetry, you deserve our appreciation.


Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Posted: Wed May 17, 2017 11:11 am
by Stephen Whiteside
I don't disagree with you, David, but I think writing a poem that displays a high level of creativity/imagination at the same time as displaying perfect rhyme and metre is actually an extremely difficult thing to do. My main concern about the bush poetry movement is that I feel technical excellence is favoured over creativity. In other words, I read a lot of poems that are technically perfect, but not terribly entertaining or interesting to read - and often excessively long. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me it seems many of the poems take far too long to get to the point, are repetitive, and often deal with hackneyed subject matter.

As you know, my main focus is on writing poetry for children. Although I write in rhyme and metre, I can be a little rough around the edges at times. What I find interesting is that a publisher will usually overlook relatively minor technical imperfections as long as they feel the poem overall has sufficient appeal. In other words, they prioritise creativity over the technique of rhyme and metre. A poem will be accepted for publication that might not pass master with a bush poetry judge. This doesn't mean my editors have lower standards, they just have different priorities.

Just out of curiosity, in recent years I have submitted a number of my poems for children to bush poetry competitions, and paid for written feedback. There is no doubt the judges are much more picky about the technical side of things than the editors I work with. I have often also been told a certain poem has great potential, but that it is too short to win a bush poetry competition, and been asked to expand it and re-submit it elsewhere. The judges would probably say it is unfair of me to say this, but it does feel as though I am being told "longer is better", even at the expense of repetition or verbosity. I have always been taught at the various writing classes I have attended over the years to say what I want to say, then stop when I am finished.

The complicating factor in all of this is that technical excellence is far easier to judge and far less subjective than creativity. It is easier to say that a poem is technically imperfect than to say it lacks imagination. This, I expect, goes a long way to explaining how we have ended up with the current priorities. (This is just my personal opinion, of course.)