Friday, March 23, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

The Not-So-Good Earth
By Bruce Dawe

For a while there we had 25-inch Chinese peasant families
famishing in comfort on the 25-inch screen
and even Uncle Billy whose eyesight’s going fast
by hunching up real close to the convex glass
could just about make them out—the riot scene
in the capital city for example
he saw that better than anything, using the contrast knob
to bring them up dark—all those screaming faces
and bodies going under the horses’ hooves—he did a terrific job
on that bit, not so successful though
on the quieter parts where they’re just starving away
digging for roots in the not-so-good earth
cooking up a mess of old clay
and coming out with all those Confucian analects
to everybody’s considerable satisfaction
(if I remember rightly Grandmother dies
with naturally a suspenseful break in the action
for a full symphony orchestra plug for Craven A
neat as a whistle probably damn glad
to be quit of the whole gang with their marvellous patience.)
We never did find out how it finished up . . . Dad
at this stage tripped over the main lead in the dark
hauling the whole set down smack on its inscrutable face,
wiping out in a blue flash and a curlicue of smoke
600 million Chinese without a trace . . .

In this series it must sometimes sound as if I claim acquaintance with all the poets whose work I share with you. But I’ve never met Bruce Dawe, whom I (and many other readers) consider one of our best. He’s prolific — having published 12 books of poetry so far, plus other material — and has a wide range, from social commentary and satire (as above) to the tender and lyrical. Much of his work shows a particular gift for the Australian vernacular.

Google him and you’ll find many references, one of which told me that, after leaving school at 16, he later went on to receive four university degrees (BA, MLitt, MA and PhD) — all completed by part-time study. The rest of this detailed literary biography, including his awards and his books, is here. (Though the Wikipedia article via the link on his name, above, is easier reading and covers much the same ground.)

His poems are harder to find online, though there are lots of study guides and discussions of them, reviews of his books, and even books about his poetry.

Here are a few poems, from study guides and blogs:

enter without so much as knocking


‘a’ is for asia

homo suburbiensis

There don’t seem to be many of his books still available either, but Condolences of the Season, his ‘selected’, is at Amazon. If you can only get one Bruce Dawe book, that's the one to get!

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Thanks for the work you do, Rosemary, presenting these fine poets to us, whom we might not 0otherwise chance across. I remember the first tv we had, when I was nine, how magical it all was. Thankfully, ours never tipped over!

  2. These are amazing! I really enjoyed them. Thanks.

  3. Wow, I am so glad you do this column! It is refreshing to have this insight into other poets! He is a remarkable talent :D

  4. It's always good to get the appreciative feedback; thank you all. Yes, Bruce Dawe is an amazing and brilliant poet.

  5. Thanks, Rosemary, for introducing me to Bruce Dawe. I had not read his work, but will now!

  6. What a remarkable poet and poem! Thank you for the introduction.

  7. I enjoyed this article, Rosemary!

  8. you can read it over and over and the words convey depths of meaning and contrast to our own technologies and what they deliver to us. Thanks Rosemary.


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