I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world,
to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

11 August 2013

Bush Ballad, Seventies Style

At dVerse today they're writing cowboy poems — a great tradition, I've just learned. In Australia we have bush poetry, a contemporary oral form, very popular. Before that, in our earlier days, there were bush ballads glorifying rural life and the countryside. 

In 1977 I was travelling the outback with my then husband Bill Nissen and our two young sons. We broke down, were low on provisions, there was nothing but empty land in view, and it was HOT. We did get help from another passing traveller, but meanwhile I was inspired to this jaundiced little ditty, in the heavy, sing-song rhythmic pattern of the old bush ballads — a riposte to their rosy view of rural Australia. It became an oral performance piece and was also published in Street Poetry (Melbourne).


Oh, you're trekking out of Darwin
in a big Ford truck,
or you've took and boiled your billy
on the old Cloncurry track.

The cattle die behind you
and the red dust sucks you up —
they'll shear you quick as look at you
in the Great Out Back.


23 comments:

  1. Ah, when I was in Australia, I did want to see the Outback. It didn't happen. I do picture that its ambience was / is similar to what had here in the United States in the 'wild west.' Nice share, Rosemary.

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    1. I think they each have their own flavour, but there would indeed be similarities.

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  2. Rosemary thanks so much for sharing this one from the files! I like the sing-song rhythm of it.

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  3. I like the cadence of the bush ballad ~ Your country is one I would like to visit someday as my brother lives there ~ Good one Rosemary ~

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    1. 'It's a big country', as we say. Where does he live?

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  4. whew...ha....not a song i want to be singing if i break down...ha..hoping i make it to the next town...smiles...got a cool rhythm, def sing song...sounds a rough place for sure...

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    1. You wouldn't want to be stranded there too long! But in fact we were still on the beaten track, although it appeared so isolated.

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  5. What a great share Rosemary. I can imagine this being sung!

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  6. Oh this would make a GREAT performance piece for sure! Can see the grins of appreciation now!

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  7. That kind of country needs a good sense of humor. :) Love the whole spunky poem.

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  8. Love the Aussie point of view in this, the wry humor... and the notes preceding. Talk about lemonade from lemons! Amy

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  9. oh heck..that must've been so scary...luckily there was someone to help.. for us in germany this is hard to imagine as germany is so densely populated...and not so hot as well usually.. great piece...

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  10. What a story.. Can't imagine the horrors to be stuck out there. Love how you made the names of places into the poetry, it adds authenticity..

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  11. The thought of being stranded in the outback really fills me with anxiety...perhaps explains why I moved to another small island (UK to NZ) than to Oz. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. I think I've said before today...in the outback someone will stop for you...I've found that I am more stranded in the city no one stops they just drive on by... Cool little poem too!

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    1. Yes, quite right. I was, as I said, feeling jaundiced ... and someone did stop.

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  13. I would love to see you perform this piece with myth and reality tied up in this tiny little box. I only know the Out Back through the unforgettable film "Rabbit-Proof Fence" (2002).

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    1. A wonderful film indeed! But they were travelling south to north along the edge of Western Australia; we were travelling west to east along the back roads of Queensland.

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    2. (i.e. a somewhat different kind of outback.The Queensland one, where we were, was settled and mostly turned into grazing land, vast and largely empty.)

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  14. A sweet poem, Rosemary. I've been there...and I've been there alone too. I remember the time in 1973 when Nick Coleman and I hitched east to west across the Nullarbor. Hot as billy-o during the day of course, at night the temperature plunged to near freezing. We built fires and as the fuel and embers gave out less and less heat, we crept closer and closer to it...till I'm woken by a ruckus...Nicky has set his sleeping bag on fire. Very interesting place, the outback. Sure. Kill you as soon as look at you. Cheers, Rob

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  15. Ha ha, glad I stirred up some reminiscences, Rob.

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