I note Rosemary Dobson’s work is set from 2009 in the HSC, so more may appear later on at English/ESL. My immediate inspiration, however, was Poetry special: The Continuance of Poetry by Rosemary Dobson on Radio National’s “The Book Show” this week.
Rosemary Dobson was born in Sydney in 1920—the daughter of English immigrants and the grandaughter of poet, critic, biographer and essayist Henry Austin Dobson. And she is the only one of five featured poets who is still living. Her first collection, In a Convex Mirror, was published in 1944, and all up, she’s written 13 collections of her own work and edited several anthologies. Her work has attracted many awards over the years, and in 2000 Rosemary was given an honorary Celebration by the National Library of Australia.
The work we’re focusing on today, ‘The Continuance of Poetry’ is both an elegy and a celebration. It’s a meditation on the nature of friendship and loss, which Rosemary Dobson wrote in memory of her friend and fellow poet David Campbell. This series of 12 poems were composed on the occasion of his death. They were written more as a private memorial than a public statement of grief. The series is in fact an intimate reflection on what happens when two minds meet and share together the richness of their mutual poetic heritage. And in this case that heritage has as much to do with Chinese literature as it does with Australian poetics.
An example of her work:
To be a scarecrow To lean all day in a bright field With a hat full Of bird's song And a heart of gold straw; With a sly wink for the farmer's daughter, When no one sees, and small excursions; Returning after To a guiltless pose of indolence. A fine thing to be a figurehead with a noble brow On a ship's prow And a look to the end of the world; With the sad sounds of wind and water And only a stir of air for thinking; The timber cutting The green waves, and the foam flashing. To be a snowman Lost all day in deep thought With a head full Of snowflakes And no troubles at all, With an old pipe and six buttons, And sometimes children in woollen gaiters; But mostly lonely, A simple fellow, with no troubles at all.