Can bush poetry survive?

Recurring debates on important poetry topics.
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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: What is 'bush'?

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:30 am

I think maybe that's what Valerie is trying to say, Neville. And I think most of us have some sympathy with her position. The problem is that it's too narrow, too rigid.

I once heard Greg Champion say that he regarded anywhere east of Warrigal Road as 'the bush'. If you live in Melbourne, you'll find that a very funny comment. I certainly did, partly because there is actually a grain of truth in it.

On the other hand, I imagine there are plenty of people in Australia who regard Alice Springs or Kalgoorlie or Tennant Creek or Mt. Isa or wherever as the 'big smoke'. It's all relative, isn't it.

Of course, at the end of the day it tends to be the perceptions of the city dwellers that 'win out', because that's where most of the people are (and where most of the money is).
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
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Terry
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Terry » Mon Apr 02, 2012 12:19 pm

G/day Stephen,
It's a bit like the old saying 'How long is a piece of string' isn't it'
Without having a clue of how to resolve this, I don't think this constant talk of needing to change helps, if that's your thinking then do it, but don't keep going on about it, (not you Stephen) I even get a bit fed up with some of it myself at times and I don't care what anyone writes. Yes I know everyone should be entitled to say what they want to but why antagonize as it apparently seems to. It's hard if not impossible to please everybody, but in a spirit mateship perhaps some comps. should be reserved for out and out poetry about the bush and others open to any type of rhyming poetry - just a thought - or is this the case already?

Terry

Vic Jefferies
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Vic Jefferies » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:08 pm

At the risk of repeating myself I think the definition of bush poetry has now become so wide (at least) within the ABPA that no one is really sure what is and what is not bush poetry.
Obviously our current definition of poems about Australia and the Australian way of life written with rhyme and metre does not constrain us to writing about the bush and in fact there is a great deal of poetry written in Australia (and the world) with metre and rhyme which clearly is not bush poetry.
I really do think that what most of us are writing now could be very easily and more clearly described as "Folk Poetry." That is we are very much like folk singers who write and sing about everyday occurrences.
I agree with Val Read it is disappointing to see non bush poems and smut win bush poetry competitions but it is happening more and more.
Our organisation has now become so diverse it is difficult to say just what the future holds.
In reference to the old masters: Lawson wrote on many and varied topics and without checking I would hazard a guess and say most of his poems are not about the bush; Dennis of course wrote very little about the bush while Paterson also wrote on a wide variety of subjects.
As for when did the bush poetry era end well Edward Harrington has often been referred to as the last of the bush balladeers and he died in the 1960's.

Vic Jefferies

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:39 pm

So, Vic, I'm confused. If most of us are not bush poets, and Lawson and Dennis were not bush poets, what exactly is a bush poet?
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
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David Campbell
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Re: Can bush poetry survive?

Post by David Campbell » Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:16 pm

Nothing much to add, except to say "thank you" to everyone who's contributed to this thread. A lot of excellent points have been made, providing clear evidence that the flame still burns brightly! Marty's right...Banjo, Henry and the others wrote about their times, as should we about the present. I particularly like the idea that we "write some new history". Off to do just that!

Cheers
David

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David Campbell
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by David Campbell » Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:26 pm

Just to say that I've replied to Valerie by email, although only briefly. We simply have different opinions, that's all, and I doubt there's anything I could add that would change her view in any way. Stephen's comments here clearly illustrate the problems associated with any narrower definition of 'bush' poetry, so I'm sticking with the ABPA version as the way to go.

Cheers
David

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Glenny Palmer
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Glenny Palmer » Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:33 pm

G’day All,
With all the disruptions of recently moving house, I have not actually seen any of the poems referred to in this thread. However, I have seen the discussions. It seems to me that we need not be so focused on “what is Bush Poetry” but more on how we allow it to be perceived out in the entertainment world. For some time I have been grieved to see what I label “Vaudevillian” often overtaking the hard won professionalism of some Bush Poetry presentations/events. Some of these performances are quite funny and can have the audience laughing their heads off; some are bordering on the “Comedy Club” type innuendo and/or outright smut. What alarms me is, if the sensationalist seeking journalist is present, that the picture that graces his/her publication will not be of a highly skilled artist/craftsman who has earned his/her reputation as such, but some clown, in his clown costume, beaming his clown smile, under the heading of “Bush Poet.” What image of our genre do we expect the public to then adopt?

We can argue interminably about definitions, and never reach a conclusion or a remedy by doing so. It is impossible to overcome any problem without first identifying what that problem is. I therefore suggest that the aforementioned is distinctly a considerable component of the problem of any perceived loss/future harm to our genre’s credibility. What to do to overcome this? I suggest that any such “Vaudevillian” events are required to be promoted as exactly that, and not as “Bush Poetry.” How to enforce this? Exactly the same way that we already do with, eg. “Free Verse.” That is a genre that also has its own following, and I am yet to see an ABPA sanctioned “Free Verse” component in any of our genre’s festivals. If our association is to be seen as more than a “toothless tiger” surely it could start demanding that “Vaudevillian” events be conducted/advertised as such…perhaps as “Vaudeville In Verse” or “Comedy Club Bards” or whatever. This should eventually eliminate such sad scenes that I have witnessed, where a very dignified elderly lady has sat squirming through a parade of explicit innuendo and sometimes foul language, when she came with the valid expectation of hearing quality poetry.

Now, before the machine guns are trained upon me, I make this distinction. Truly professional performers know their audience; they know what mix is appropriate, and I do not consider those such as Greg North etc as “Vaudevillian.” There is a vast difference between a clever and professional writer/artist, and a much less proficient performer chasing a cheap laugh.

I see no impediment to applying this requirement to written competitions. Written judges are ABPA accredited and should be given the same guidelines as the performance judges. They have not been accredited by the ABPA because they can’t sort the wheat from the chaff. And I think…this is what Val may be referring to, at least in part?

Goodo.

Glenny Palmer
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Terry
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Terry » Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:59 pm

As A final note on this whole regrettable episode I can't tell you how disappointed I feel about it all.
I joined this forum to learn, make friends and to try and improve my writing and of course join in the odd debate even if they got a little heated at times.

But this time some have resorted to ridicule one of Australia's top Bush poets, it was fair enough to have a go at Valerie if you were offended with her poem and voice your views on her letter but unfortunately, I feel in the end it has been well and truly overdone.

Perhaps I'm blinded by friendship but I stand by what I've written here.

Terry

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Glenny Palmer
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Glenny Palmer » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:47 am

Hey Terry.
At times, I have an inherent capacity to convey the opposite of what I mean. I sincerely hope I haven’t done so this time, (?) as I was trying to grasp the essence of what Val was saying. I can see she is passionate about preserving our genre, as I am too. This discussion prompted me to voice an issue that I had thought was along similar lines….ie. an aspect of something that I personally believe is negatively impacting on our genre’s credibility, which is what Val’s concern seems to be. Perhaps your reply was “in general” and not specifically answering mine? I do hope so.
In any case, I'm sure this will all settle down soon, & I’m sad if this thread has caused upset to anyone.
All the best
Glenny
The purpose of my life is to serve as a warning to others.

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: A Reponse From Valerie Read

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:18 am

Terry, if anybody is guilty of what you are suggesting, it is probably me as much as anyone. My initial impulse was to stay out of it, but once I had dipped my toe in the water I just had to keep going. Nevertheless, I think I have been quite restrained. I certainly don't feel I have anything to apologise for.

Terry, I don't think you appreciate how profoundly disturbing it is to so many people to see such deeply conservative - and indeed regressive - views given such prominence.

Probably more than anything what got up my nose was the phrase 'our Aboriginal legends'. This sentiment is pretty much a direct lift from the 19th century.

As I asked earlier, who exactly are the 'we' that the 'our' refers to? Presumably it is a reference to 'mainstream' Australia. It either assumes that Aboriginal people are fully integrated, or simply that they do not exist. Of course, we can take the view that we are all 'one big happy family', but that is to ignore the reality. In my view, the whole question of the future of black-white relations in this country is the biggest social challenge we face.

I have had little contact with Aboriginal people in central or northern Australia, but I do know something of the reality in metropolitan Melbourne, where the very identity of Aboriginal people is often challenged, not only by white Australians, but also by their black cousins in the more remote regions.

It is painful, complex, difficult, sad. But attempts to simply airbrush the whole issue away are even worse.

At times like this I feel embarrassed to be a member of the ABPA, and really start to wonder if it is all worthwhile.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
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