Bush Poetry - or Rhyming Verse?

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Shelley
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Bush Poetry - or Rhyming Verse?

Post by Shelley » Wed May 03, 2017 5:20 pm

Hi All

This thread is prompted by a report on last night's TV news. They were interviewing footballer Sam Thaiday, who spoke about how he used poetry to overcome learning difficulties at school. He then talked about the poem he has composed ("Rise"), which is in praise of the NRL Kangaroos.

His comments were very interesting. He said it is essentially a bush poem, but he decided to call it an "ode" because he knew that would make it more marketable than calling it bush poetry.

The reporter said, "Shakespeare, Frost, Wilde - now Thaiday", as pictures of each filled the screen. I am not questioning the ability of these famous dead poets - but why not "Paterson, Lawson, Dennis ..." or "Kendall, Gordon, Ogilvie ..." ???

So, apart from the disappointment that bush poetry is perceived as less marketable than an "ode", with the implication that we are somewhat down-market ... this news report raises interesting points that we have at times discussed in the past on this Forum.

Let's assume that I write a poem that is definitively Australian in content. That fulfills one criteria of bush poetry. Now let's look at the consistency of rhyme and metre. Let's say I write a sonnet on an Australian subject (Henry Kendall did!) What is it? Is it a sonnet, or is it a bush poem? If I entered it into a bush poetry competition, would it meet the criteria?

What about a villanelle? I have written one on an Australian theme. Would it be an acceptable entry in a bush poetry competition?

These forms (sonnet and villanelle) have their origins in Europe. Odes began with the ancient Greeks. I doubt that few (if any) forms of metric structure were entirely invented by Australians - rhymed and metred verse has been around for centuries. But just as Australian art developed its own unique character, our writers honed and developed rhymed and metred poetic structures to include elements of the Australian way of life. As you read through the development of bush poetry, you can see it moving further away from the "Englishness" that characterised the first Australian poets, as gradually the Australian voice began to emerge.

So - what about Sam Thaiday's "Rise"? Is it a bush poem - an ode - or both??

http://www.smh.com.au/video/video-sport ... 4ti7e.html

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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David Campbell
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Re: Bush Poetry - or Rhyming Verse?

Post by David Campbell » Thu May 04, 2017 11:02 am

I suspect "both" is probably the answer, Shelley, although it's interesting that he preferred "ode" to "bush poetry"...maybe because the subject wasn't "bushy" enough? But Bob's written plenty of paeans to rugby and I don't think he ever referred to them as an "ode". For me, rugby and bush poetry have never seemed a good fit. There's not much rhythm in rugby! But AFL is another matter...

With regard to sonnets and villanelles etc, it's probably fair enough to say that the dominant form in bush poetry has been the ballad. That is, the longer form of verse that tells a fairly detailed story, either serious or humorous, so sonnets and villanelles could struggle in a bush poetry competition. Paterson and Lawson certainly wrote ballads most of the time, and the ballad form was already well established when they started writing. They simply gave it an Australian voice. Dennis, however, did create a new, distinctly Australian style with his use of the vernacular and the quirky metre of "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke". That, in my opinion, is one reason why he stands head and shoulders above the other two.

Cheers
David

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Shelley
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Re: Bush Poetry - or Rhyming Verse?

Post by Shelley » Sun May 07, 2017 7:31 pm

Hi David

Yes, I agree with your "both" verdict! As to whether rugby (or AFL) and poetry are appropriate bedfellows - well, I wouldn't dare comment!! ;)

Cricket, on the other hand ... didn't you once write "An Ode Ter Cricket"??? And then there's tennis ... Queensland poet Rupert McCall penned a quirky bush poem about an imaginary tennis match between Roger Federer and Rod Laver - and he recited it in front of both of them at a gala dinner about 18 months ago.

Certainly it's true that the ballad is the most accepted form of bush poetry - in fact, I remember a poetry book from the 1960's that had a chapter titled "Bush Ballads are Better Because ... " It's also true that by virtue of their brevity, sonnets and villanelles would struggle to shine in a bush poetry competition. But it's interesting to contemplate whether they could still properly be termed "bush poems" if penned on Aussie subjects.

Lastly, I totally agree with you about the unique mastery of CJ Dennis - certainly his innovative style took Aussie verse ahead in leaps and bounds to a whole new level.

When I was a teenager of about 14 (and knew everything, as you do), I remember going through a short period of disdain for Aussie rhyming verse after high school took us in the direction of Whitman, Frost, et al. Fortunately for me, my new-found intellectual superiority did not survive the first withering glare from my Dad - who was a firm advocate of the bush ballad in all its glory!

As they say in the classics ... the rest is history! :D

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: Bush Poetry - or Rhyming Verse?

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon May 08, 2017 11:13 am

It may be true that not all bush verse is rhyming verse, but it is also true that not all rhyming verse is bush verse.

I'll put up my hand here (as I have done before...) for A. A. Milne, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Ogden Nash, Pam Ayres, Hillaire Belloc, R. L. Stevenson, Max Fatchen, Bill Scott, Eleanor Farjeon, T. S. Eliot, Marriott Edgar, Doug McLeod, Robert Service, et al.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

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Shelley
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Re: Bush Poetry - or Rhyming Verse?

Post by Shelley » Wed May 10, 2017 2:54 pm

Indeed yes, Stephen!

Such a rich reservoir of rhyme to read, appreciate and recite!!

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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