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Good morning members of the Australia Day Council. My name is Elliot Verhagen and I am here today to present two Australian poems that I believe you should consider for your new anthology publication as they represent Australians and Australia in an authentic way. I will provide an explanation and justification for my choices based on my opinion of their representations of some aspect of Australia, Australians, Australian life, ideologies, history and experience and the overall quality of the poetic text and techniques.
There were three separate stages in the development of Australian poetry and they can be distinguished as The Colonial Period, The Nationalist Period and The Modern Period. The Colonial Period was until 1880's and was native poetry that was shaped mainly by overseas patterns. The Nationalist Period was from the 1880's until the 1920's and this was when independent and consciously Australian poetry was achieved. Finally, The Modern Period was from the 1920's on. It was poetry that was a combination of the first and second periods where the poetry produced was both distinctive and mature.
The first poem I have chosen which I sincerely urge you to consider including in your new anthology publication is "I am Australian" also known as "We are Australian". It was written in the modern period in 1987 by Australian poets Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton. This poem gives the feeling of being connected to a country. It shows how we see ourselves as Australians. No matter where we have come from we are still Australians.
The second poem entitled "The Man from Ironbark" was written in the nationalist period in 1892 by the well-known Australian poet Banjo Paterson. This poem talks about a bushman who finds his way to Sydney to have a shave where a larrikin of a barber attempt's to play a cruel joke on him. The true Australian bushman colours come through as the bushman battles to what he believes is his death.
Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton's "I am Australian" lyrics are filled with many historic and cultural references. Its popularity has allowed it to be considered as one of the many patriotic songs deliberated as an alternative to the national anthem (Advance Australia Fair). This poem was written in the modern period.
The poem uses many lyrics that directly relate back to the history of Australia and hence build a picture of the true Australian Spirit of the country and its people. I'm the drought and flooding rains conveys the hardships that were faced in the past and the hardships that are still left to be faced. This great land means our country and I'm the mountains and the valleys talks about the beauty of our country. The soil where our crops are grown is shown through the lyrics I'm the black soil of the plains. Finally, I am the rock, I am the sky is illustrating that we are a part of everything in our great land of Australia.
I am Australian talks about the spirit of being Australian. Through the lyrics it shows how we never give up and we will keep trying no matter what problems we face. It shows that Australians are fun loving people who like to make jokes and find humour in their problems. This poem tells us how a country's spirit is developed by the way the people live and struggle to develop a country and make a living on the land. It is telling the story of how we see ourselves as Australians. The overall spirit of Australia is clearly depicted throughout this poem and that is why I believe it should be included in the new anthology publication.
My second choice of poem, Banjo Paterson's "The Man from Ironbark" should also be included in the anthology as it clearly depicts the history and lifestyle of Australia. This poem plays on the myth that city folks are better off than Bushmen. It illustrates the Australian qualities of larrikinism from the barber and the battler from the bushman. These are also true Australian Spirit qualities.
The lyrics use typical Australian language such as "I'll make this bloomin' yokel think his bloomin' throat is cut". Bloomin is an Australian expression of anger and exaggeration towards a subject. It stereotypes Australian city people as being larrikins who love a bit of fun. This was shown in the seventh stanza when the barber said Twas just a little harmless joke, a trifle overdone. It also stereotypes bushman as being battlers.
It is the Australian spirit to fight for what you believe in and in this case the man from ironbark was fighting for justice and he was doing this by leaving the barber with a vivid memory of never to cross a bushman. This was shown in the last line of the fifth stanza when the bushman said But you'll remember all your life the man from Ironbark. Even though the bushman though he had a slit throat he had the spirit of an Australian which kept him fighting on to what he believed was the death.
This poem uses simple poetic techniques such as comedy, mood, rhyme and rhythm to make it catchy and memorable. The rhyming scheme involves an AA BB CC structure which helps to effectively keep the beat of the poem. This poem clearly reflects the Australian spirit and the values of being Australian and illustrates the history of our way of life. This is why it is my belief that this poem should be included in a new anthology publication.
Australia is a young country, still forming much of its identity, so how it is portrayed in music, poems and literature is of great importance. That's why both the poems mentioned reveal the desire of what it means to be Australian. They provide a voice and contribute to the further development of this modern multicultural land and Australian Spirit. For these reasons, I sincerely urge you to consider both poems for a new anthology publication.