Poetry Techniques — For Writing and Performing Bush Poetry

David Campbell

David Campbell lives in Victoria, Australia and is currently enjoying retirement after a working life in various education-related fields, including twenty years as a teacher of senior mathematics and English. He divides his time at the keyboard between poetry (both traditional and free verse), short stories, and newspaper articles.

David particularly loves Australia’s great history of traditional (or bush) verse and is disappointed at the extent to which it is so often ignored in mainstream literary publications despite its huge popularity, whether written or performed, at the many bush poetry festivals held throughout the year. Although he has also had success with free verse, he is keen to promote traditional poetry, particularly in terms of the assistance that a mastery of rhythm and rhyme gives to any form of writing. Not only is bush verse accessible to all, it is a tremendously valuable teaching tool when working with young children. With this in mind, he and his wife Ellinor, together with illustrator Cathy Scott, produced Simply Poetry!, a book of original poems for pre-school children. David has also contributed extensively to two other poetry books for children and published collections of award-winning bush poetry and short stories. One of his short stories featured in Best Australian Stories 2005 (Black Inc.) and his work has also appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing 2009 and 2010 (Melbourne Books).

Read David’s article From a Judge’s Desk.

For further details, go to David’s website.

Glenny Palmer
When I was born I was as light as a feather.....which really tickled my Mother’s fancy. That was way back in 19@# in Clermont, central Queensland, to typical “Aussie Battler” parents. The larrikin inherent in the people of the post-war outback community, flourished in me, a freckle faced, carrot haired kid. My father was a poet in demand in the pubs and work campsites, while Mum was undoubtedly related to the original “Aunty Mame”. Dad’s transient work as a plant operator eventually dictated a move to the “Big Smoke” (Brisbane), where my brother and sister and I could have a stable education. While Dad galloped around on bulldozers, we lived with Mum, and waited for the rain to periodically chase Dad home for a few weeks. It was the highlight of our lives when he appeared unannounced on our doorstep, as he would give us each, a whole shilling to spend at the pictures! I spent most of my waking hours scheming to run away, back to the bush to Dad.

In my youth I sang and danced in little theatre, and also studied at art school. I married young and had 3 daughters, and adopted a baby boy. Now, I’m Grandmother to a brood of 11. I have a career background in writing sales training material, and in training and motivating specialty sales people. I then established my own furniture and service business, which I ran for 7 years.

In my early forties, we chucked it all in, sacked all the kids, and headed for the outback in a caravan with “The Wandering Wordsmith” painted all over it. In 1994 we attended a bush poetry concert in Beaudesert, where I discovered that I was not the only person left still writing ballads! kindred spirits! what JOY! The great Bob Miller took me under his wing and took me to Tamworth’s Fireside Festival, where I met more of these strange creatures known as “Bush Poets”. I was in Heaven!

Some of my achievements since then are:
1995. Inaugural Australian Lady Bush Poetry Champion
1996. Australian Lady Bush Poetry Champion
1997. Featured performer at ‘The Cowboy Poetry Gathering’ Elko Nevada USA and at the “Autrey Museum Of Western Heritage” in Los Angeles.
1997 and 1998. Reserve Australian Lady Bush Poetry Champion
1997. “Australia Day Cultural Award” for “Services to Bush Poetry and the Promotion of the Australian Identity”.
1997. ‘The Blackened Billy Poetry Award’ winner.
Featured on television in “Brisbane Extra”, and “Totally Wild”, and appeared on “Australian Story”.
2007. ‘The Bronze Swagman Poetry Award’ winner.
Published by Pan McMillan, the ABC, and have produced 2 poetry books, 3 CDs and 2 cassette tapes of my work, and a poetry writing instructional booklet.

I now enjoy conducting adult and children’s poetry writing workshops and performing at many and varied venues. I judge /compere/ perform in Australia and overseas. I am very interested in seeing people reach their potential, and in promoting poetry as an asset to personal development. I am keen to pass on the support and knowledge that many Bush Poets have given to me during my time within this marvellous group of creative people.

I now live ‘at the end of the Earth’…(according to one of my lovely daughters) i.e. Theodore, in western Queensland. I am fully occupied with survival, and renovating my little country home myself. I have also learnt very quickly how to use a power saw, and to successfully argue with motor mechanics.

See Glenny’s articles:
An Exercise in Writing Humour
“Unstrained Melody” writing tools (pdf)


Ellis Campbell
Ellis, the eldest of six from a humble family, stayed in the bush to help his father cut railway sleepers while his mother shifted into Gulgong to get the younger members of the family a little more education. He took up sheep shearing when he turned seventeen and followed this work for 33 years, working in four states of Australia. In the off season he cut railway sleepers, did farm work, built fences, cut timber for stockyards, broke in horses and trapped rabbits. He retired from bush work at age 50 and went to Dubbo to work as a gardener at Dubbo Base Hospital, where he worked till his retirement.

The ambition to write tugged strongly, however Ellis believed his lack of education was too much of a handicap. He did write a few poems to amuse the other shearers in the sheds, and then threw these away. Finally, in 1981 when he was 54 years of age, Ellis began entering his work in literary competitions around Australia. He has now won more than 550 awards, including 123 first prizes and 90 second prizes. Most of these awards have been won with his beloved bush verse or traditional Australian style poetry, but he has also won awards with free verse, short stories, performance poetry, novels, odes, sonnets, sestinas, haibuns, cinquains, tankas, tetractys, epigrams, limericks and Chaucerian style poetry.

In 1995 the NSW branch of the FAW admitted him to the degree of Writing Fellow. In 2004 Gibb Smith, publishers of Salt Lake City, published Cowboy Poetry — The Reunion to commemorate 20 years of cowboy poetry in USA and Canada. One poem each was selected from 76 poets. Only five Australian poems were included: Paterson’s, Clancy Of The Overflow, Ogilvie’s The Pearl Of Them All, Carmel Randle’s Vera, Marion Fitzgerald’s Banjo, May I Have This Dance and Ellis Campbell’s Wanda Jill. Apart from Writer’s Voice Ellis also subscribed to FreeXpresSion, ABPA, Yellow Moon and Outback Writers. He was also made an Honorary Life Member of Metverse Muse — published in India and contributed to by poets from nearly every country in the world — several years ago.

Ellis, through his eighties, travelled the eastern states extensively to attend performance poetry festivals, participating in about seven per year. He was also featured live four times on Australia All Over. His poem Beach House Honeymoon is track 7 on the ABC CD Macca’s Sunday Best.

Ellis’s poetry was even recorded in Hansard of the NSW Legistlative Assembly.

His writing articles start here.

Noel Stallard
After thirty five years of teaching in both primary and secondary schools, Noel Stallard resigned in order to take the traditional bush poetry to the young and not so young people of Australia.

At first Noel concentrated on the works of the poet-priest, Monsignore Patrick Hartigan better known under his pen name of John O’Brien because Noel believed this unsung pioneer poet had much to offer modern Australians.

For over fifteen years Noel, having gained the Approval Card of The Queensland Arts Council, has performed for students and adults in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT and internationally in Ireland. Noel has broadened his range to include Banjo Paterson, C.J. Dennis, Henry Lawson and a variety of modern bush poets.

In recent years Noel has written his own bush poetry, and in 2001 had his first book published entitled, “Chalk Dust and Bull Dust”. More than 1000 copies were sold that year and the book is now into its fourth printing.

At the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January 2002 Noel won the Golden Damper Award for Traditional Bush Poetry reciting C.J. Dennis’ poem “The Play”. He also won the Golden Damper Award for his Original Bush Poetry piece, “Both Ladies Wore Red”. (In the fifteen years history of the competition only one other poet has achieved the double success in the one year.)

In 2003 he won his third Golden Damper Award with a performance of Bobby Miller’s, “Raymond” in the Traditional Section and gained Second Place in the Original Section with his own poem, “All Present and Correct”, a tribute to the last Anzac, Alex Campbell.

These Golden Damper Awards are to Bush Poetry what the Golden Guitars are to Country Music. He also won First Place at the John O’Brien Festival in Narrandera for Written Bush Poetry in the traditional section with, “Jack Riley — Bushman Game” and First Place in the comedy section with, “Both Ladies Wore Red”. His highest achievement as a bush poet to date, is winning the 2003 Australian Championship at Mulwala. This required the performance of six poems in two days of competition. This is Australia’s highest award for a performing bush poet.

Noel is active in the local scene encouraging newcomers and peers and served as the President of the Australian Bush Poets Association for four years.

In 2009, Noel’s first children’s book “The Bush Animals Band” was awarded the Australian Bush Laureate Award for the ‘Best Children’s Poem of the Year’. He has also published his second children’s book “See What I See in the Sea”.

Noel has a strong belief that, if we want to know who we are and where we are going; then we need to know who we were and where we came from. Thus the importance of our traditional bush poetry.

Read his article Performance Tips.

Visit Noel’s website.