And Other Poems
by Bruce Dawe
(Puncher & Wattman, 2011, 82pp, $24.00. ISBN: 978-1-92415-043-3. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Australia's most popular poet, Bruce Dawe, is no stranger to readers of this journal as over the years he has submitted numerous poems on themes congenial to Catholic sensibilities. Slo-Mo Tsunami is the latest of a succession of Dawe collections over several decades.
Without a doubt Bruce Dawe is a modern poet for those normally turned off by "modern poetry". His poems are readily accessible to the average educated person and deal with a wide range of topics interesting and relevant to contemporary readers.
Here good poetry enjoys an advantage over normal prose. The poetic medium allows more latitude 'to tell it as it is', to be politically incorrect. Humour and irony are seldom far away from Dawe's poems, along with their down-to-earth Australian flavour.
For example, in his wickedly funny satire on the commercialisation of Christmas, titled "The 'True' Meaning of Christmas", Dawe quotes Bart Simpson as a preface: "Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of the Baby Santa?"
The opening verse reads as follows: "In an igloo nice and warm/Secure from every Arctic storm/You'll find him whom you eagerly seek/And worship one December week/- That babe (by everyone adored)/Whom half of us cannot afford."
And the concluding verse: "But now the Price-Child has been born/Many await that later morn/When at the re-opening of each shop/Parents queue up again to swap/Dud batteries for ones that work ...".
Overtly religious poems are sprinkled throughout the collection along with others dealing with sport, pets, airport check-ins, politics, wars, wild life, TV, shopping, natural disasters and Dawe's own life story. Some of these have religious overtones. No wonder Dawe's collections have been listed for study at schools and universities: the poems make ideal springboards for discussion on topical issues and the students find them appealing and thought-provoking.
Readers of AD2000 might well award the prize for the most telling poem in the collection to "Committee Report for the New Universal Church of Good Intentions", a potent send-up of the dumbed-down cafeteria Catholicism so dear to church progressives.
Here are a couple of verses:
"We had, of course, little sympathy with that other/Medieval relict known as Sin;/Being ourselves so thoroughly non-judgemental,/We chucked that nasty concept in the bin!"
"Pope and Priesthood? Once we got our bearings/As post-conciliar democrats, we saw/That both would have to go, their places taken/By self-appointed lay-folk at the door."
This collection, like its predecessors, is highly recommended and deserves to sell well.