Techniques — Ellis Campbell, In Conclusion ...

Ellis Campbell’s Writing Techniques — Finally...
I am devoting this final column to satiric verse. That is holding up for ridicule politicians, royalty or whatever might be current news. In satiric verse the poet usually exaggerates things he believes unimportant and understates more important things. Politicians are the most popular target for satiric verse — for obvious reasons. If you wish to make money via a newspaper column or radio station this is the most likely verse to meet that market. Conversely it is also the least valuable as real art.
“A week is a long time in politics” is a popular and very true saying.

This applies to most “news”. What seems most important this week will be erased by some new development overseas, a new scandal in high places or a multiple murder somewhere next week. For satiric verse to have value the poet needs an ever ready market — you must write the poem and use it the same day. Or it will be too late. I suppose I should give an example from my own verse, as I have always done.

“He was more than just ambitious and officials grew suspicious;
and thought — his actions overwrought with guile.
But an illness soon beset him and his lawyer said,
Forget him he won’t live long enough to see the trial.”

This stanza was in the middle of the poem. Here is the final stanza.

“The whole thing was misleading — it was time to start proceeding —
our justice-system’s honour be upheld.
But the thought of jurisdiction caused an instant re-affliction
of something only freedom ever quelled.”

Perhaps you can guess who? I have enjoyed doing this regular column for ABPA. How much help it may have been to fellow poets I have no way of knowing. Quite a few have taken the trouble to tell me they have enjoyed my techniques and I thank them for that. I believe Bush Poetry is alive and well, and will go from strength to strength for some years to come. It had been a very important part of my life and I like to think I have contributed in some way to its continued popularity. I hope I can continue attending poetry festivals for some time yet and look forward to renewing acquaintance with so many wonderful friends who share this grand interest.

Ellis Campbell

Ellis Campbell’s Writing Techniques — But...
Perhaps I might add, “Try to always write on a subject you know and understand. I have seen some wonderful poems written by city dwellers on shearing sheds or droving trips that were spoilt by one glaring blunder. I hasten to add that the city blokes write just as well as the bushies, but they must write on topics they understand. Some poets do, of course, research their subject very diligently and gain an amazing amount of knowledge. However, there is usually something like the way a good horse grinds the bit between his teeth. the smell of a shearing shed after sheep have been locked up all night, or the eerie echo of a fox s bark as he scouts the scrub at night that escapes them. These things can only be fully understood by those who have accepted them as part of every day life—no amount of research reaches quite that far. A look at Bruce Simpson’s poems will show you the importance of authenticity. I am wary of writing a poem about the sea or a trip to China, for example, as I do not fully understand such things. Of course it is not unusual to see a judge who does not understand these things, either—thus it is possible to see a poem with ignorance of subject win a prize.”

I believe the writing of Bush Verse is now of a higher standard than at any other time during the twenty-five years I have been competing in competitions. Many good writers are emerging, apart from the old stayers still plugging away. There are a increasing number of poets making their presence felt in Bush Verse competitions throughout Australia.

Ellis Campbell