Australian Poetry

ChrisMansellAustralia is one of those places on my ‘bucket list’ of places to visit. I travel frequently to the Philippines, and the “land down under” is just a couple more hours away by air, but as of yet I haven’t managed a visit. My son, on the other hand, spent an entire month in Darwin along the northern coast. He had nothing but praises for the people and the culture.

The Australians are truly a unique breed of people, given their origins and history. While the indigenous peoples of Australia have their own unique and fascinating history and culture, those whose ancestors found their selves transplanted from Great Britain to the Australian countryside have a distinctly different perspective. Many of the early British immigrants found the features of the Australian bush in stark and dramatic contrast to the green and temperate climate of their home land. Many of the early poets of Australia insisted that in order for Australians to have their own identity, their perceptions of who they are must necessarily emanate from the bush, not from their ‘mother land’.

Some of the early and best known poets included Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Paterson, known for having written the lyrics to Waltzing Matilda, the unofficial Australian national anthem, wrote extensively on life in the bush. Both he and Lawson were frequently featured in Australia’s first literary magazine, The Weekly Bulletin. In fact, these two bush poets were frequently in debate about the true conditions of Australian life. The story goes that Lawson assailed Paterson for his famous work The Man From Snowy Mountain. Lawson claimed that Paterson was nothing more than a ‘city bushman’ who romanticized about life in the bush. Paterson, on the other hand, accused Lawson’s In Defense of the Bush as being fraught with doom and gloom. Both men agreed that the bush was central to developing a true Australian identity — just with vastly different perspectives.

Of course, not all Australian poetry is based on life in the bush. Contemporary poets abound throughout the country, providing fresh and unique viewpoints. Chris Mansell, born in 1953, is one of the many poets who have made their mark on the literary world and a living in writing and teaching. Like many of today’s poets, Mansell earns much of her living in performing her own works. She has managed several small poetry magazines and is the operator of an independent press for publishing the works of Australians current poets and writers. Mansell offers a quick glimpse of life at an Australian university with her poem, Nature.

Nature
by Chris Mansell

I still hope that I have the opportunity to visit Australia. The bush poets provide us with such an entertaining portrait of the rugged life of the Australian outback that it piques ones curiosity and encourages us all to see what it’s truly about. But then the contemporary poets, like Mansell, however point out to us that there is much more to Australia than what Paterson and Lawson are sharing with us.



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