Bush poets were Australian poets who wrote about life in the Australian bush during the colonial era. The genre came into its own with the founding of The Bulletin in 1880, which fostered Australian culture and promoted the bush as a source of national ideals. Bush poets associated with the publication, such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, used characteristically colloquial and colourful language, and their underlying thematic concern was the emergence and development of the Australian identity.
Some of their popular poems include:
- Henry Lawson – "Freedom on the Wallaby", "The City Bushman", and "Up the Country";
- Banjo Paterson – "The Man From Snowy River", "Waltzing Matilda" and "Clancy of the Overflow";
- Dorothea Mackellar – "My Country".
Banjo Patterson's Waltzing Matilda is even considered Australia's unofficial National Anthem.
Some of the Bush Poets of a past era were very prolific. C. J. Dennis wrote somewhere in the region of 3,000 poems in the approximately 10 years of his popularity. He wrote several books which were entirely a sequence of inter-related poems, the most popular of which was The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. This book has had many reprints, has been made into a film and also a one-man stage show. A large percentage of his poetry is written in the Australian vernacular.
The actual term "Bush Poetry" did not come into use until somewhere around the late 1920s. Prior to that time, all styles of poetry were 'lumped together', the majority of it found in newspapers and periodicals largely reflected stories and views of life in the country or "Bush" and usually had good rhyme and metre. After World War 1, changing styles in most of the arts meant that other styles of poetry gained in popularity at the expense of the traditional ballad. There were still a number of poets (often from rural areas), still writing in the traditional style and it was these poets who became known as "Bush Poets". It had little to do with the content, for all manner of topics were included, but rather with the style.
The Australian Bush Poet's Association
In 1994 an association was formed in Tamworth named the Australian Bush Poets Association. The association defines Bush Poetry as follows:
Australian Bush Poetry is metered and rhymed poetry about Australia, Australians and/or the Australian way of life.
Composed of writers, performers and those interested in either traditional or modern bush poetry, the association aims to encourage the development, interest and growth of Bush Poetry in Australia.
The Association publishes a bi-monthly magazine of news, events, and contemporary bush poetry, and maintains a calendar of bush poetry events. Bush Poets' Breakfasts are a popular part of many festivals today and each year at Tamworth many bush poetry events are held including The Australian Bush Laureate Awards.
The Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Award is the oldest and largest poetry competition for school aged children in Australia. These awards are named in honour of the famous Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar.
Bush Poetry also continues as a tradition in New Zealand, perhaps more in the South Island where back country living and wilderness activities are in greater abundance than in the more populated North Island. In the south there are regular bush poetry sessions as an integral part of Folk Music festivals and especially at the annual "Ballads,Bards and Bulldust" festival, featuring bush poetry as the central theme, held in the Maniototo district of Central Otago, scene of 19th Century gold rushes.
List of bush poets
- Barbara Baynton
- Adam Lindsay Gordon
- Henry Kendall
- Henry Lawson
- Shaw Neilson
- Breaker Morant
- William Henry Ogilvie
- Banjo Paterson
- "Australian Bush Poetry Events Calendar 2010 & 2011". Retrieved 22 August 2010.
- "Bush Poetry - Australian Bush Poets Association Inc. (ABPA)". Retrieved 22 August 2010.
- Lead organisation for Australian bush poetry Australian Bush Poets Association
- Bush Poetry in Australia History of Bush Poetry
- Bush Poetry Ballads and Yarns Aussie Bush Poetry
- Australian Bush Poetry Verse & Music Site Bush Verse
- Australian website for students of poetry Poetry Resource
- Biography of Henry Lawson Australian Dictionary of Biography
- Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards homepage