Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

In the Footsteps of CJ Dennis

Many fine writers have made their mark on Australia's rich poetry heritage - but for me, one man's genius stands above all ... the eclectic and multi-talented Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis ("Den" to his friends).

CJ Dennis (1876-1938) is best known for his poetry collection The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (published 1915). The use of working class vernacular in a classic love story, with illustrations by Hal Gye, made this book wildly successful. Several sequels followed - The Moods of Ginger Mick (1916), Doreen (1917), Digger Smith (1918) and Rose of Spadgers (1924).

However, Dennis' poetry was not limited to "The Bloke" and his adventures. He wrote traditional bush verse, children's verse, poetic responses to current events and news items, and a clever satirical fantasy piece The Glugs of Gosh. His final work The Singing Garden is a beautiful word picture in poetry of a year of changing seasons at his beloved home Arden at Toolangi in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges. This location has been preserved and every year the CJ Dennis Society holds a festival at The Singing Gardens and Tearooms during October.

In conjunction with the annual CJ Dennis Festival, a written poetry competition is held, where entrants are encouraged to write poetry (and sometimes short stories) which "channel" Dennis' work in some way. As a lifelong Dennis devotee, this is a challenge I truly enjoy. Over the last several years I've been fortunate enough to have some success with my entries, including twice winning the Marion Mayne perpetual trophy for open written poetry. So in tribute to "Den", here are my poems written in his footsteps.

By the way, for those not familiar with the peculiar vernacular of The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke and related works, I do suggest you read some of these poems aloud, to avoid being bamboozled!

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