Not surprisingly, the Australian bush landscape was a dominant subject in pre-20th C and even 20thC Australian poetry. References to dry, oven-fierce heat, an overbearing summer sun, parched land have peppered much Australian poetry even into the late 20thC such as Les Murray’s iron-brown and limitless, the plains/were before me all day (from his poem “Recourse to the Wilderness”) or the sense of the sun as a beast as in At dawn, the sun would roll up from his lair/in the kiln-dry lake country, fire his heat straight through/the blind grey scrub/ (from “Recourse to the Wilderness”). Even though the latter half of the 20thC saw a shift of focus in poerty to the cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, convicts, swagmen, struggles with the challenges of the “bush,” even a strange sense of homelessness among those who settled in Australia – seem to be enduring, dominant flavors in Australian poetry. Judith Wright in her poem, “Two Old Men” write, The trouble with our relationship to Australia is that we still don’t live here…We could move out perfectly easily, we still haven’t swallowed the place. It hasn’t even succeeded in swallowing us. [from P.K. Elkin Australian Poems in Perspective, p. 145]
This month’s poetic challenge is to suggest an internet search about Aussie poetry. I’ll leave you with a few lines as well as their poets and sources to whet your appetites [the slash symbol [/] indicates line breaks. Source for all quotes is P.K.Elkin’s Australian Poems in Perspective. U. QLD Press, 1978.
The road unravels as I go,/walking into the sun, the anaemic/ sun that lights Van Diemen’s land.
[from Michael Dransfield’s “Minstrel”, p. 216]
It is your land of similes: the wattle/Scatters its pollen on the doubting heart;/ [from James McAuley’s “Terra Australis”. p. 162]