What is Bush Poetry?

Mention "bush poetry", and people immediately make assumptions which are as varied as they are numerous. Some immediately think of the "droving days", of ringers, shearers, cattlemen. Others equate bush poetry with what you hear out the back of the pub under the influence of a "few too many". The reality is far more diverse.

According to the Australian Bush Poets Association website, "by definition Australian Bush Poetry is metred and rhymed poetry about Australia, Australians and/or the Australian way of life".

Early bush poetry developed from the traditional ballads and sea-shanties that came to this country with the first European settlers. In time, a distinctive Australian voice began to emerge as poets wrote of our natural wonders, our history, and events experienced by themselves and others. Put simply, famous exponents of the genre (such as Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and their peers) illuminated the world in which they lived. Bush poetry is truly Australia's first homegrown popular culture.

Modern bush poets are no different, and the range of subjects they tackle is as vast as it ever was. Many use traditional rhyming poetry to capture episodes of Australia's history, or to tell the lifestyle tales which still persist in the outback regions. Others take up the challenge of modern topics, and their poetry deals with the issues and events that permeate our 21st century world. Therefore, we now see cutting-edge bush poetry on subjects such as domestic violence, child abuse, aged care, environmental concerns, substance abuse, and medical issues such as cancer, dementia - and more recently, COVID-19.

Today, bush poetry is as relevant as it ever was. The Australian Bush Poets Association website includes a comprehensive online library of prize-winning modern bush poems from 2008 onwards. This rich treasure of verse from today's best writers is being continually updated, and I highly recommend that you check it out here:

The Australian Bush Poets Association is committed to preserving the craft of traditional Australian poetry. Membership is open to all - read more on the ABPA website:

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