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Poem: If I Could Write Like Henry Lawson

Books & Poetry

In today’s Poet’s Corner, Jeff Cook pays tribute to one of Australia’s best-known writers and balladeers.

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If I Could Write Like Henry Lawson

I love the works of Lawson, for he told of what he saw
As he lived his life of misery, sort of keeping daily score
Of what went on around him and the places that he’d been
And he makes me feel I’m with him, in his “word-paint” of the scene

He told us of bushranging days, and cons and spielers too
And shearers, drovers, horses, dogs, “A prouder man than you!”
“The star of Australasia”, and one called “The Bushfire”
“My army, Oh my army” and “Jack Dunn of Nevertire”

He wrote many poignant verses that almost make you cry
His stories told of life those days beneath the outback sky
Or mixing in the city, or droughts across the plain
Or tramping around the country, or riding on a train

His stories dealt with hardships with a knowledge from within
For hardship was a part of life that seemed to followed him
His writings conveyed feelings that were meaningful and true
with involvement that could leave no doubt he really was true blue

He told us too of loves he had experienced in his life
the love of people, places; things apart from man and wife
Of bonds that grew ‘tween man and dog, or man and horse he’d tell
Or man and hillsides, rivers, plains, and city life as well

But what he showed us most was that he saw what others don’t ‒
The way one man sees beauty, while the bloke alongside won’t
And he described what was around him in a way I must admire
in a style that was as versatile as the story would require

Though I’ll never see what Lawson saw, or describe like he did
But a dream of mine has always been (since I was just a kid)
to write my own short stories on the way that I see life
The happiness, and normal things, the triumphs, and the strife

So I guess I’ll keep on writing and keep hoping that some day
I’ll be stricken by the writing bug and write things in a way
That people find enticing: enough to buy the book
That is filled with little stories ‒ and is written by Jeff Cook.

Jeff Cook’s poem today is one of a great many he says he has written since the first in 1990 on the death from cancer of a young close neighbour and friend. Jeff grew up in a farming family of six children, left school at 13 to work on the farm, and always thought he would be a farmer all his life. His life changed soon after writing his first poem, when he also lost the family farm to interest rates of over 20 per cent. About then, he published his first book of poetry, and soon found himself broadcasting it on radio stations around Australia. With his verse, he says he tries to capture the spirit of Australia and its diverse peoples. While he has followed many pursuits in his 69 years, he has now settled down to driving a school bus, entertaining with guitar and song, and writing and performing his own brand of poetry.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to poetscorner@solsticemedia.com.au. Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.

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