Australian Bush Poetry, according to the Australian Bush Poets Association has “strict meter and rhyme.” I guess it is also about Australia. In 2019 I travelled to Orange to the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival and competed in the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Competition where I received third place with my poem, Our Darling is Dying. The poem speaks about how the Darling/Barka River was dry and the causes as well as the effects in the first nations people of Wilcannia, the Barkindji people.
In February 2020, I returned to Orange to have another go with a piece of poetry titled Happy Harry Koala. It is about a koala who loses his home to forest destruction and then his new home to bushfire before meeting a man who plants forest corridors and this allows Happy Harry Koala to become reunited with his family and allowed koala populations to recover. I wrote this as a solution to koala population decline with the perspective of an environmental scientist(which I am) in mind and also from the perspective of someone who has worked in forest establishment (which I have). My scores from the three judges were: 1. above 90% (from the 3 times bush poetry champion) 2. above 70% from the second judge and 3. a scathing review just above 50% from the judge representing the Australian Bush Poets Association who commented words to the effect, “this is not bush poetry and is more like a kids story.” I agree that Happy Harry Koala is a kids story however it is written with strict rhyme and meter and in the form of Australian bush poetry. I didn’t place in the top three but I did a fantastic performance and the scores of the first two judges reflected that.
You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. C’est la vie (That’s life).
Yesterday, the 17th of June 2021 I got a couple of new rhyming lines stuck in my head. When that happens I know that I need to begin writing and that the rest of the poem is there in my subconscious ready to be “downloaded.” In fact I often think that when I am writing that I am channelling “divine consciousness” and that “i” am only the conduit. So I began writing about a man who fell into a toilet.
Here in Australia we have a slang name for our toilets which is the word “dunny.” Back in the day our toilets used to be detached from the house and you would need to go in a walk outside, down the stairs into the back yard. These days there are some “dunnies” which are composting toilets which save on water and are basically a hole in the ground leading to a large receptacle chamber. This receptacle can be above or below ground level but is full of poo, wee, toilet paper with a bit of wood sawdust thrown in from the bucket next to the toilet.
Another peculiarity of the bush dunny is that they are often places that frogs like to inhabit. It would not be a pleasant experience to fall into a toilet but thats precisely what happened to Phil McColl. Finally, the word “thongs” in Australia refer to a type of rubber sandal that you slip onto your feet and are NOT a piece of underwear. The SES is the State Emergency Service.
Phil McColl fill me hole
A peaceful place is Froggy Flat and my story’s funny
About a man called Phil McColl who fell head first in the dunny
It was a dark and lonely night and this is not a joke
As Phil walked to the toilet, the dunny made a croak
He turned his phone torch on and opened up the door
And as he walked inside, the dunny croaked once more
Then the dunny kept on croaking in the middle of the night
He shone the torch about to find everything all right
It was long drop compost with not a pleasant smell
As he opened up the lid he tripped and his phone fell
It was dark inside the dunny but he knew his phone was right
It had landed on the sawdust and Phil could see the light
He went back to the kitchen and got a pair of tongs
His feet were cold and so he put on a pair of thongs
In the dark he couldn’t see the thongs belonged to his wife
They were too small and the cause of the coming strife
His wife awoke to an empty bed and also needed to pee
In the dark she donned Phil’s thongs because she couldn’t see
In Froggy Flat the dunny is down the garden path
In Phil’s big thongs Mrs McColl slipped and fell flat on her arse
Phil was head first in the toilet and he was leaning in
Reaching for his phone when Mrs McColl burst in
Saw her thongs on Phil and she began to yell
And in surprise Phil lost his grip and that is when he fell
Head first down the dunny and landed on his phone
He wiped it off and that is when he found he wasn’t alone
There inside the dunny was a giant green tree frog
Staring him in the face and croaking on a log
Mrs Mac looked down the hole and said what can I do
I’m busting for a pee and I really need to poo
I’ve got a turtle head and it’s starting to poke out
Call the SES you stupid woman, Phil began to shout
Mrs Mac got angry pulled up her nighty and had a sit
The she let it rip and Phil got covered in more shit
She went back to the kitchen and made a cup of tea
Called the SES and all Phil’s mates to come around and see
They had to dig him out as Phil was firmly stuck
With a pump, an excavator and the local sewage truck
That afternoon Phil was feed and he gave a happy shout
He’d been stuck in shit fourteen hours before they dug him out.
A peaceful place is Froggy Flat but you won’t find Phil McColl
The locals now refer to Phil McColl as Fill me hole
Not everything is shit and as Thundercloud, I know that every cloud has a silver lining. After the Banjo Paterson Poetry Competition and festival in 2020 I decided that I was in no hurry to return to Nimbin and decided to take the slow road home and stop in the little country towns along the way. What is an 8 hour drive took me more than 24 hours. I left Orange late in the morning, stopped in Molong and saw the New South Wales over 50s cricket championship final and I was one of the only spectators. Then I stopped in Dunnedoo for lunch. It was late in the evening and I was tired when I reached Bendemeer so I stopped in a park, drove up beside a picnic shelter and rolled my swag out on the picnic table by the creek. I awoke early the next morning and continued to Armidale where I got a coffee at Maccas, then I continued up the hill through “the Pinch” to Black Mountain where I turned off and went to see Captain Thunderbolt’s Cave. Thunderbolt was a famous Australian bushranger a bit like Robin Hood in that he took from the rich and gave to the poor.
It was 6:30 am and a misty mystical morning with crepuscular rays of sunlight beaming through ancient yellow box and white box eucalyptus trees. Small white flowers lined the track and the beauty and silence of the Australian bush made me feel blessed to experience its tranquility while dainty birds tweeted, flitted and flew from bush to bush. Butterflies danced about in the air and dew drops glistened from spiders’ webs in the mist. I entered Thunderbolt’s cave and could imagine his big black thoroughbred horse in there with him waiting for the clang of tackle and chains and clop hooves of the Cobb and Co mail coach coming up “The Pinch.” In the distance I heard a more modern sound, a truck coming up the Pinch.
I returned to my car and there I found a necklace with a rocking horse and a wishbone. The next stop was Guyra ten kilometres up the hill and instead of passing through on the New England Highway I decided that I’d get another coffee and visit the town. It was 8:30 am and as I drove into Guyra I noted all the empty shops with “for lease” signs. I thought to myself, “this town has a lot of potential” I got out of my car at the Northern end of town near Kirks IGA and as I walked down the street looking for a place to buy a coffee I looked in the empty shops and thought about what business I could put there. Finally I saw a shop that I thought would make a lovely gallery, and then I saw this place I am sitting in now writing this blog.
I looked in the doors and saw a foyer with shelves down the side and behind that I could se a grand empty theatre and a stage. My jaw dropped. I walked on to the Council Chambers and spoke to John who was raising the flags. When I returned to the theatre I pulled out my phone and called the owner of the building. He came down and we walked inside. As soon as I got into the auditorium I said, “I’ll take it.” he showed me around and I knew I was going to something big. I got back into my car and started driving.
Then it hit me. “The Australian Poetry Hall of Fame.” We could celebrate all the great poets and the unknown poets of Australia. We could nurture poets. We could preserve Australian poets, poetry, languages (not just English but the first nations languages) songlines and more. We could make “The Greatest Poetry Show on Earth” That was February 2020 and I opened on the 24th of March 2020 the first day of COVID19 lockdown. It’s been a tough first 16 months, I sold my double decker bus “Atlantis” the Free blue Library to finance the Australian Hall of Fame but I am still here. You can support the Australian Poetry Hall of Fame gofundme page to help me continue to build this as a successful venture to celebrate Australian poetry and poets.
I started the Guyra Farmers and Craft Market in the theatre every Saturday morning and two of my stall holders have gone on to open businesses in Guyra. I started Wednesday Words open mic poetry night every Wednesday evening and have made a wonderful friend, Gladys Wilson who is my dad’s age and has been inspired to write poetry. Guyra is a cold town in Banbai Country, halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. At 1330m altitude it’s one of the coldest towns in New South Wales; but it snows and we can make snow people.
The sun shines and the winds blow
It’s dry, wet, there’s sleet and snow
If you live in Guyra you will get cold
Become tough and strong, live real old
Living in Guyra has wind and sun
People here walk fast and run
Frosty, brisk and wide blue skies
Red sunset and misty sunrise
Ice on Mother of Ducks Lagoon
Spring rains bring more ducks soon
Sunset and the fresh day ends
Sitting around fires yarning with friends
If you enjoyed this and would like more to read more of my poetry the you can support me at www.buymeacoffee.com/thundercloud