Tools of the Trade

As with all forms of the creative arts, the traditional rhyming verse known as Australian Bush Poetry must be crafted. Poems don't spring miraculously from random thoughts, just as an artist cannot hurl paint at a canvas to create a landscape. Tools and processes are involved. During 2023 in my monthly newsletter eLines (published 2013-2023) I featured original poems written to illustrate the use of some of these techniques.

Accurate and Consistent Rhyme

It goes without saying that rhyming verse should rhyme! The challenge is to make the rhyme both accurate and consistent. Rhyming the last word syllable is defined as "masculine" rhyme (e.g. cat/hat or expect/reflect). Rhyming the second-last syllable is "feminine" rhyme (e.g. parking/barking or conflicted/restricted). Both types of rhyme may appear in the same poem, but they must do so in a consistent pattern.

Disturbing the Peace © Shelley Hansen 2023

I am sitting in my office, craving time to write and think,
but the peace I strive to find is somewhat lacking
as the noise of passing traffic strains my senses to the brink,
sending each poetic inspiration packing!

For this road on which I live holds calm and quietude no more.
It's become a thoroughfare, its passage linking
routes for trucks that carry cane, and for commuters by the score,
and for some whose pace is far too fast, I'm thinking.

This is progress. Yet I wish I could return to days gone by
when this byway was a country lane location –
when koalas graced our trees and birds could safely walk or fly,
and each crossing did not risk obliteration.

Consistent Metric Beat (Rhythm)

Not all of the world's rhyming verse has consistent rhythm or metric beat. However it is an attribute of Australian bush poetry. There are a number of different types of metre in common use and a bush poem may use any or all of these in combination. The metric beat of a bush poem may be simple or complex – but it will always form a consistent pattern of beats per line, throughout the poem's verses. In this example iambic metre (da DA) is consistently combined with anapest metre (da da DA) in the following pattern: da DA da da DA da DA da da DA.

Pioneers © Shelley Hansen 2023

I climbed to the ridge and gazed from on high
and felt all the force of times long gone by
when here, to this place, my ancestors came
to forge out a life – heads high, without shame.

The valley below gleams bright in the sun,
the river dissects its breadth with its run.
They cleared with the axe, grew crops on the land,
with timber fresh-milled, built houses by hand.

They left us their trust. Their legacy lives
and into our bones, fresh hope it still gives.
Let's never forget those old pioneers
whose ethics resound down pathways of years.


Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter or consonant sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. It can add rhythm and emphasis, and also inject mood or emotion. The most well-known use of alliteration in poetry is the tongue-twisters we learned as children - "Betty Botter bought some butter", for example. In the following poem the letter S has been used to demonstrate the point.

Simplicity © Shelley Hansen 2023

Sometimes (she said) I think of times when simple virtues thrived,

when summer sang a sprightly tune, and common sense survived.
I think of spending holidays at Gran and Grandpa's place
when work began at sunrise, with a smile of sweetest grace.

It's sad (she sighed) to see how life today is full of stress,

when sometimes kids so very young are under some duress.
Scholastic pressure shakes them and their sanity is stained
by constant saturation from a world that;s unrestrained.

But then (she said) I saw some kids who seemed to buck the trend.

They flew their kites, which soared and swooped. They seemed to love to spend
their Sundays in the sun and sand, beside the surf's swift flow
I heard them laugh. It made me smile, like days so long ago.


Boom! Buzz! Growl! Whirr! These words, whose pronunciation sounds exactly like the sound they are describing, are examples of onomatopoeia. Used in poetry, words like this can set a dramatic scene or create a subtle mood.

Summer Storm © Shelley Hansen 2023

The booming rumble, deep in distant hills,
the swoosh of wings as birds rise up and fly.
The buzz of bees in sultry summer heat,
the hush, as breeze abates. The leaden sky.

It breaks! The sizzling lightning splits the air
with crash of thunder following behind.
The plop of sudden raindrops strikes the roof
with clink of hailstones closely intertwined.

The wind begins to roar with angry strength,
the branches sway and crack beneath its force.
We, like the birds who shelter in the trees,
lie hidden till the storm has run its course.

At last the calm returns. A lazy drip
runs tinkling down the drainpipe to the path.
I gaze aloft and marvel at the sight -
twin rainbows in the deluge aftermath.


In poetry, enjambment is the continuation of a sentence or phrase without a pause beyond the end of a line, overlapping into the next line. When used in conjunction with normal "end-stopped" lines, it creates a "flow-on" effect, a smooth transition of phrase, and the connecting of one thought with the next.

Dear Me © Shelley Hansen 2023

Dear Me, I am writing this letter, inviting
your young teenage self to lend ear.
Life's yours for the taking, a new dawn is breaking,
but let me be perfectly clear
that hindsight's bright vision can't change one decision
that's made in the wrong mental gear.

Contrition will billow when head hits the pillow.
Mistakes made by others before,
though lasting or fleeting, do not need repeating
by you. You can learn from a score
of those whose example is certainly ample
to teach you what risks lie in store.

Be kind and be caring with those who are sharing
your life. Don't neglect to take time.
If you are extending to those who are bending
and falling behind on the climb,
you'll find that the giving enhances the living,
restoring life's rhythm and rhyme.

Dear Me, coming seasons will teach you the reasons
that choices should always be wise.
I know you're not hearing, and cannot be peering
at life through my faded blue eyes.
Just go on believing in all you're achieving,
and most of all – reach for the skies!


Personification is a figure of speech in which the poet describes a non-human object or concept as if it were a person, having human thoughts and feelings. Taken one step further, an entire poem may be written from the point of view of a non-human identity – for example, an animal, a ship, a house, or a geographic location such as a river.

The Homestead's Tale © Shelley Hansen 2023

You see me as an old abandoned shell –
my windows dark, my sad voice weak and faint.
But oh, the tales of love that I could tell!
What rich and glowing scenes my words could paint!

I've seen the valley flood plains come alive
with torrents whipped by cyclone's angry frown.
I've watched the cattle struggle to survive
the drought that turns their verdant fields to brown.

I've watched the generations come and go
at first in ships, and now in metal birds.
I've seen their joys and sorrows ebb and flow
and kept the secret of their many words.

They've left me now, decaying on this ridge,
yet still I hear their whispers in the night.
I watch each one traverse my garden bridge
(or is it just a trick of morning light?)

Pathetic Fallacy

The notion of pathetic fallacy takes personification to a higher level, when an object, often part of the natural world, is treated, not just as a person, but as though it feels the full spectrum of human emotions. Simple examples would be "an angry blizzard", "a lonely flower", "a laughing brook". In this context the word "pathetic" carries its classical meaning, related to the Greek "pathos", meaning "emotion". The word "fallacy" acknowledges that the concept is not accurate or logical. However it can be very powerful in poetry.

The Sky Was Joyful © Shelley Hansen 2023

The sky was joyful on the day
when I met you and saw the way
light up ahead across the years.
The clouds, once weeping, dried their tears.

You came to me and broke apart
the heavy chains which held my heart.
The stars began to laugh and dance
to celebrate our sweet romance.

Sometimes the seasons throbbed with pain
like melancholy drops of rain,
until the smiling sun peeped through
to clothe the dismal sky in blue.

The years have flown on sprinting feet,
but life with you is just as sweet
as first it was when skies above
proclaimed their blessing on our love.


To describe something by likening it to something else is known as "simile". "As black as ink", "round like a circle", "as pretty as a picture" – these are examples of simile. In poetry, the use of simile contributes to creative imagery and helps to paint a visual word picture for the reader. It is especially pleasing when poets use an unexpected simile – for example, instead of the frequently-used "as rare as hen's teeth", a more poetic option could be "as rare as a blue rose".

Dusk to Dawn © Shelley Hansen 2023

The dusk brings cooling air to outback night
like breath of lovers, soothing and serene.
The dark draws down to earth, absorbing light.
No glow appears to permeate the scene
save only stars, which blaze like fireflies –
so near and yet so far above our eyes.

The rays of dawn present a blush of pink
as soft as silk upon the lightened east.
The rising sun appears above the brink
of low horizon, wakening a feast
of tiny insects for marauding birds
whose morning music has no need of words.


Metaphor is a technique which takes the simile one step further – by saying that one thing actually is something else. Examples are – "he was a fish out of water", "hope is a bird that sings", "the ocean pools of her eyes". Metaphors can give a poem an imaginative and abstract quality. Sometimes a whole poem can be a metaphor.

Life's Voyage © Shelley Hansen 2023

Set the sails and weigh the anchor –
life's a voyage, not a place.
Do not cherish hatred's canker –
we are still one human race.

Sea is mistress of the sailor.
What is master of the soul?
Prejudice – a ruthless jailer
takes an unrelenting toll.

Secret bitterness abolished
banishes the storm-filled night.
Keep the porthole clean and polished –
see the vista, shining bright.

Islands in the stream may crumble –
seek safe harbour by the docks.
Turn the stones on which you stumble
into vodka on the rocks!


In most aspects of writing, one of the most powerful tools a writer can use is dialogue. Without dialogue a short story becomes an essay. Poetry is no exception – dialogue in a narrative poem can be very effective. It can lift a story poem into something that puts the reader "in the moment". This example, utilises a well-known old Cherokee Indian story .

Two Wolves
© Shelley Hansen 2023

"Come here, my boy," the old man said,
"and let me make you wise.
Do not allow the stain of rage
To blind your youthful eyes."

"But, sir," the boy replied. "It's hard
to calm my angry soul.
The things I see, the things I do –
each takes a heavy toll."

The old man said, "Two wolves – one bad,
one good – lie deep within.
They struggle for supremacy.
Which wolf will surely win?"

"I do not know," the boy replied.
The old man smiled. "My son –
the wolf you feed will have the strength
to beat the other one."


Two aspects of the soundscape of a recited poem are assonance and consonance. Assonance is the use and repetition of vowel sounds across multiple words, for example, "reef and beef" on the restaurant menu. Assonance using a variety of vowel sounds (especially long vowels) creates a lyrical "singing" feel to a poem – and it also works in prose.

Summer Storms © Shelley Hansen 2023

Over yonder dale and dell
sounds a song I know so well –
mournful crows with echoed "aark" –
open-throated, low and dark.

Slowly, thunderheads arise –
rolling eastward through the skies.
Summer storms which bring no rain
fill our parching hearts with pain.


Closely related to assonance is consonance - the use of repeated consonant sounds anywhere in the words (not just as rhyme or alliteration). Here's a tongue-twister example – "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts". With its short vowels and the repetition of "s", this produces a "punchy" effect. Consonance can be used to give a poem an upbeat feel. It is especially effective when writing poetry for children.

Simple Things © Shelley Hansen 2023

Clipping, clopping down the street
comes the pie man's horse and cart.
"Pies! Hot Pies!" his ringing call
peps me up and lifts my heart.

Dinging, donging round the bend
comes the ice cream man's pink van.
Soft serve swirled in crunchy cone –
I will buy one if I can!

Plums and peaches, filled with juice!
Here's the fruit man with his tray!
After dinner, we might have
fruit and cream for sweets today!

Childhood days have passed us by.
Yet, through each dark, weary mile
in a world that turns too fast
simple things bring back a smile.

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