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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 2:31 pm 
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Sorry David

I hadn't read Glenny's poem, but have now and it's a lovely poem as you'd expect having been written by Glenny.

To answer your question honestly - no I don't see it as what I'D call bush Poetry, but that's just my opinion.
A poem doesn't have to fit mine or anyone's idea of where it sits to be a very fine poem; as this one is.

I enjoy reading poetry from the days before what we now call Bush Poetry was around, and I hope Glenny wont mind me saying that this poem reminds me very much of that era when so much gentle and touching poetry was written.

Terry


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:19 am 
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Excellent points, Shelley, especially the emphasis on reading competition guidelines carefully. In the recent Toolangi competition somebody entered a beautiful Shakespearean sonnet, but the rules specified poems written in and around the style of C J Dennis, and Dennis didn’t write sonnets.

Don’t worry about commenting, Terry. I always assume that a heck of a lot of people disagree with my comments, but a forum is about tossing ideas around, even if all it does is make others aware that there’s another perspective. Your reference to syllable-counts highlights one of the dilemmas that judges in written competitions face and it also creates a puzzle. On the one hand you’re “in favour of strict rhyme and metre”, but on the other you’re “not worried about strict syllable line count”. To me that’s a contradiction because counting syllables is a basic check for strict metre. Here’s an example, using Shelley’s cleverly constructed “Golden Wedding”, which won the open section at Toolangi.

When I first read it I thought “What’s going on here?” Because in the first five lines there are four different line-lengths. A syllable-count gives 14, 10, 6, 8, 10. But then that pattern was repeated in the next five lines, so I knew it was no accident. And the rhyme scheme is unusual: ABCCBADEED. And both of the metric and rhyming patterns are repeated precisely in the other stanzas, with the added complication that the A-rhyme is carried through the whole poem. My main test with metre is the question: “Is the poet in control?” and “Golden Wedding” is a terrific showcase for this. There’s clearly a lot of careful planning involved in the poem, and, when the storyline and skill with the Dennis vernacular are added, I had no hesitation in giving it first prize.

But what do you do with a poem that is quite different in terms of technical accuracy, a poem that is very powerful but with an unpredictable mix of two distinct metres and a syllable count that looks like a dog’s breakfast? It’s a brilliant performance piece, but the ABPA score sheet for written competitions says poems should demonstrate “a clear mastery of metre”. Technically, this poem doesn’t. What poem am I talking about? “The Man From Snowy River”. If we use TMFSR as a template for bush poetry then it allows a considerable amount of latitude in terms of metre because (as Irene indicates) the “old masters” weren’t always too fussed about precision. Their poems were meant to be read/recited aloud, not pored over and penalised for irregularities by a judge in a written competition.

So bush poetry originated with verse that was sometimes far from precise in terms of metre, but then a whole lot of ABPA rules were created in order to facilitate judging in written competitions. And now we have the odd situation where people hark back to the likes of Paterson, Lawson and Dennis as exemplars when, in fact, their poems would regularly have fallen foul of the ABPA written competition score sheet. Judges are caught in the middle. How do we interpret “a clear mastery of metre”? I lean towards precision. To me, “mastery” does NOT mean a haphazard mix of different metres, nor does it mean random combinations of masculine and feminine line-endings. There needs to be a pattern, a demonstration of that word “control”. If I see a poem with quite erratic metre in a written competition I wonder why the writer didn’t take a bit more time to get it “right”. Is it carelessness, a case of not considering it important, or a lack of understanding?

So there’s the dilemma for judges. Do we ignore basic structural weaknesses and allow other factors (storyline, for example) to outweigh them? What do we do when poems like Shelley’s, which are technically perfect, are up against others which take quite a few liberties with metric structure and (to me, anyway) completely fail the ABPA’s “clear mastery of metre” test. In other words, where do we draw the line when it comes to relaxing the rules of “strict” metre in written competitions?

From the perspective of an entrant, it’s very frustrating to put time and effort into getting a poem’s metre strictly correct, enter it into a competition, and see it get beaten by an entry with a metre that’s all over the place. You can’t help thinking “Why bother being so careful?” Irene asks the question: “Can we not accept that our competitions run according to our guidelines…?” But do they? And if they’re not following the guidelines in something as fundamental to bush poetry as metre (and on the poetry page there’s clear evidence that some aren’t), why can’t we push the boundaries in other directions as well?

Cheers
David


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:10 am 
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David you misunderstood what I meant about syllable count.
what I meant was that you can vary the the count like the old blokes did at times and still maintain meter.
Naturally I stick to the rules (or at least try to) if entering a comp.

To me,the most important thing about a poem is that I have to like it. No matter how cleverly a poem is written,
there's no guarantee that it will capture peoples imagination.
Some of the best and most revered poems were written with very simple meter and rhyming patterns, it was all about the choice of words that made them great. (in my opinion)

We seem to have a fixation about competition poetry, there's nothing to stop people writing as the wish, indeed many do just write for pleasure of it and who are we to question that.

Poetry will continue to evolve and find its own niche as it always has, but there will always be adherents to the older successful styles, possibly because there is so much to learn from them.

Terry


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:33 am 
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I know what you’re getting at, Terry, but I’m trying to tease out the meaning of “clear mastery of metre”. You see, when talking about the “old blokes” you have the advantage of a whole body of work for each of them…a great many poems. So you can see, with all those examples, the skill they had with metre. But if I’m judging a written competition I don’t have that advantage. All I have in front of me is one anonymous poem after another, and, if the ABPA score sheet is used, I have to give a mark out of 100 for Rhythm/Metre according to this: Poets should demonstrate, whatever the pattern (or patterns) used, a clear mastery of metre, avoiding inversions and laboured changes from the speech patterns relevant to the poem. Special recognition should be considered for any metrical pattern that is particularly effective because it is unusual or inventive.

So imagine TMFSR lobs on your desk for judging and you’ve never seen it before and have no idea who wrote it. You read it and think “Great story!” But you’ve noticed that it switches randomly from one metre to another right through the poem, so you do a syllable count and find that (for example) the first four stanzas have different patterns. What mark out of 100 do you give it for Rhythm/Metre? Is it an example of “clear mastery”? Then the next poem that arrives is Lawson’s “The Fire at Ross’s Farm”. Another great story. But just one metre is used and there are only three lines that slip up and break the pattern of syllable counts. What mark do you give this one?

That’s why I’m wondering, in the light of some of the evidence we’re seeing in competitions, where we draw the line. After all, writing bush poetry is much easier technically if we can chop and change between metres without any discernible pattern. And if we can also shift randomly between masculine and feminine line-endings it becomes even easier. (Have a look at “Metric Madness”, which I’ve posted in the Members’ Poetry section and you’ll see what I mean.) But, to my mind, that sort of thing makes the Rhythm/Metre section of the score sheet pretty irrelevant, so this all comes back to where we are with Irene’s comment that: “…you need to have clear guidelines and criteria against which to judge a competition.”

Of course, as you say, if people are writing for their own amusement they can do whatever they like, but judges have to make decisions and be able to justify them, or questions are asked. So if “clear mastery” is going to allow mixing metres and line-endings at random in written competitions there needs to be some general agreement about that.

Cheers
David


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 12:41 pm 
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I also understand what you're saying David - probably my fault as this post was more about competition writing and I was talking more generally.
But after having my arm reluctantly twisted to judge on the odd occasion I know exactly what you mean.
I personally don't enjoy judging, and will avoid doing it whenever possible. (hope I've already judged my last one)

Terry


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 2:29 pm 
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Hi David and Terry

I can relate to what each of you is saying.

Firstly David - thank you so much for your commendation of my poem "Golden Wedding" (from the CJ Dennis Toolangi written competition 2017). As I said in an earlier comment on this thread, this is one competition where a writer can push the boundaries with rhyme schemes and structure, because Dennis himself did so. Even so, I took a risk with the non-standard structure I chose - especially not knowing in advance who would be judging the open section. I'm very happy that it was you, and that you didn't discard my work on first reading, but looked closer to see "what's going on here"!!

Like you, Terry - I don't envy the task of our judges. I have judged a couple of small (non ABPA) competitions and it's not easy. While the final choice does definitely come down to "wow" factor, you find poems with huge potential but which simply have too many errors to be considered for short listing. That's a pity - and could often be corrected with minimal effort.

As for how far we stretch the boundaries - I agree with you David, that when it comes to written competition we must follow the guidelines. If we don't apply the basic definitions of bush poetry to entries, then we might as well call it an open poetry competition - and immediately, we lose our identity. Those definitions don't just apply to rhyme and metre - they also involve subject. If a poem was written with consistent rhyme and metre but concerned the plight of elephants in Africa, it would not be a proper winner of an Australian bush poetry competition. Likewise, an Aussie subject with inconsistent rhyme and/or metre does not fit the definition of bush poetry. Within that broader definition, some written competitions impose other restrictions (must be a rural topic etc), which is their right, and likewise must be followed to be judged a winner.

An artist might paint the most outstanding landscape in the world, but it's not going to win the Archibald prize for portraiture - no matter how much "wow" factor it has. It simply doesn't meet the criteria.

However, when it comes to moving within the boundaries of the bush poetry definitions - I believe entrants (and judges) have quite a deal of latitude. There are so many options with structure, rhyme and metric beat! I agree with you Terry, that complex is not necessarily better - and some of the most moving poems are the most simply constructed. But I agree with David that we don't need to always confine ourselves to "standard" structures. The important thing is that whatever style and structure the poet chooses, a winning bush poem must demonstrate consistency, and a mastery of rhyme and rhythm (as per the ABPA judging sheet).

As an entrant in written bush poetry competitions, I know the time and effort it takes to construct, read, re-read and analyse my work. Some writers might consider that a chore - but to me it is all part of the fascinating and enjoyable journey of crafting poetry. If I thought that a judge was going to ignore the basic criteria, I would definitely think twice about entering.

Cheers
Shelley :D

_________________
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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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:18 pm 
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Fear not Shelley, I'm sure all who take on the task of judging, try their best to stick to the guidelines as laid out by the ABPA, regardless of their own leanings.

The thing I find hardest about judging is the knowledge that I'm passing judgment on another writers work and as a writer myself I know just how much effort goes into each poem I'm reading.

I may not always get it right, but I do try my best to have an open mind and don't play favourites on styles or subjects - I simply try to find what I think are the best poems, though they must comply with the ABPA guidelines, and I'm sure all judges do the same.

But as stated before I never look forward to judging.

Terry


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:08 pm 
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Shelley's final paragraph is one that needs emphasising. Getting a poem "right" for written competitions takes a lot of careful thought and revision. That might seem an obvious statement, but long experience has taught me that it's not understood by quite a few people. Many poems in written competitions look as though they've been thrown together with little thought for basic standards. As has been stated many times before, you can cover up a multitude of technical sins in a performance, but on the page in black and white there's nowhere to hide. There are criteria which should be followed.

And, as Shelley says, if there's a written competition where the judging seems unreliable in that regard, why would you bother entering?

Cheers
David


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