Let the Poetry Begin!
I wrote ‘Desert Piece’ at the age of twenty-one. It was my first poem as an adult. I was feeling very depressed about life in general and life in Australia in particular. Two years earlier I had arrived in Queensland with my parents and twin brother, Jim, determined to make a success in my new home.
My school experience in a Somerset public school had been less than an overwhelming success. I disliked the system, which was designed to subdue the individual and to promote obedience and uniformity. Going to Australia, the land of huge spaces and individualism, seemed perfect for me.
I wanted to go to university, to study English and, above all, I wanted to be an operatic tenor! My first move was to get into Queensland University, in St Lucia, Brisbane. I enrolled with the Queensland Correspondence School and did a crash course to pass my Senior Public Examination in five subjects in just over six months. I had no conflict with teachers to distract me and passed with flying colours. Unfortunately fate then stepped in.
I was called up at the age of nineteen for National Service in Australia. Only one male in ten was balloted and Jim and I were among the lucky ones! I volunteered to apply for officer training in Portsea, Victoria for eleven months, and was accepted. As a twin, Jim could then do six years in the Citizens’ Military Forces as a part-time soldier. I didn’t particularly want to be a soldier, but it was the start to a career, and I badly needed a career. For reasons best known to my training officers, I found myself a bit of a square peg and resigned, after ten months, before they could kick me out! I behaved impeccably, but apparently, lacked leadership qualities! Oh well!
I was back where I had started, but a year older and totally lacking in self-confidence.
It seemed to me that the dry outback was just the right image to describe me! I wrote this poem as a way of expressing my feelings of frustration with life and felt better afterwards. Years later, I realise that, while poetry can’t fix the world, it can release ideas and images which are both therapeutic and insightful. As with most things in life, things got better with a bit of hard work and application. The good thing is that I am left with a poem to show for it. Better than a medal!
I’ve trudged the dry outback –
A rolling patchwork back-drop,
Scrubby dust and flies,
The country talking in their shivering wings grizzling.
I’ve seen sun’s fried egg on blue
Snap the bouncing dust-ball
And so, too, have I been
Sucked of moisture, spat
And fallen, dried sand, to the ground.
I was born in England soon after the war. I moved , with my family to Australia in 1966, where I was a soldier (briefly), a public servant, an opera singer, and an English teacher.