Open discussion on the evolution of Australian and New Zealand Thought

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Neil Whitfield's Friday Poem - Kenneth Slessor's Five Bells

I little while back Neil Whitfield and I were having a discussion about the "decline"/decline - the inverted commas are Neil's, the absence of them mine - in Australian literature. For those who are interested, you can find an entry point here.

One great outcome from my perspective was that Neil started a Friday Australian poem series. In response, I started writing a companion piece.

Last Friday, Neil took Kenneth Slessor's Five Bells. This is one of Australia's most famous poems. Do read it out loud.

Now this was actually a slightly difficult poem from my perspective. I first came across it at school and found it difficult. So it was many years since I had actually read it.

What to say that might be helpful?

To answer this, I started digging into the people, and especially the writers, who surrounded Kenneth Slessor, looking at the links and ideas.

I hope to write this up properly. In the meantime, a question.

One of the things that I am interested in is the differences in thought across Australia. Australia has never been a single uniform country.

In this context, why did so many Melbourne writers come (or seem to come) to Sydney in the period before the second world war? What was there about Melbourne life and society that caused this apparent shift?


ninglun said...

Do look into Sydney's Bohemia, and the links between Slessot and Norman Lindsay.

Rafe said...

John Docker wrote a book on the Melbourne/Sydney difference and I think he pointed to the dominance of hard left thought in the intellectual circles of the south compared with the iconoclasm of John Anderson that was so influential on progresive thinkers in Sydney. Yes, before Anderson there was the Vision group around the Lindsays.

Another striking difference is the way that Australian football is a passion at all levels of society in Melbourne, uniting the Chairman of the board and the doorman (though they may wear different colours). In Sydney the three codes of football (add soccer as a fourth in recent times) tend to cater for different followings, so there is no general discussion on Monday morning that embraces the whole office.

Jim Belshaw said...

Neil Rafe, those are interesting comments.

Neil, I had spotted the link to Lindsay and the Bohemians. I am not sure that I can do full justice. Why don't you write a short post for this blog?

Rafe, good comment. I want to link it back to the social structure in teh two cities.