Bruce Dawe, an Australian known poet, born 1930 is still one of the biggest selling and most highly regarded poets of Australia. His ability to write such influential poems has made an impact on a number of people, as each poem can be related to the ordinary living lives of Australians throughout the years. Bruce Dawe’s poems are interesting because they comment on the lives of ordinary people. This statement is agreed on.
In relation to the statement, three key poems can be linked being Enter Without So Much as Knocking (1959), Homo Suburbiensis (1964) and Drifters (1968). In the first poem mentioned: Enter Without So Much as Knocking, Dawe shows the living of a child in the Baby Boomers period, and the era after World War 2 (1950’s to early 60’s). The government had just released an election promise for any mother who beared a child to receive a ‘money’ bonus in return for adding to Australia’s population.
With around 3 babies per family on average during this time period, Dawe represents children born in that time period as if being born manufacturing, hence Bruce Dawe’s poems are interesting because they comment on the lives of ordinary people. The Poem Enter Without So Much as Knocking uses many poetic and literary techniques. These include imagery, similes, themes of sexism and stereotypes and rhetorical question. Dawe utilises the whole poem as imagery for the boy’s life.
Dawe’s creative sense made it so the audience who would read this poem would see that his life was a game show even in death. This example can be found when Dawe explores death in his sixth stanza. ”gave him back for keeps/ the old automatic smile with nothing behind it, winding the whole show up with a/ nice ride out to the underground metropolis:/ permanent residentials, no parking tickets, no taximeters/ ticking, no Bobby Dazzlers here, no down payments,/ nobody grieving over halitosis/ flat feet shrinking gums falling hair. ‘
In this example, Dawe’s use of imagery immediately conveys to his audience the type of life this man led. He also used black humour, using death as an escape from the life he led and still gaining ‘’prizes’’. The next technique used is Simile. Throughout the poem, Dawe represents the child as nothing more than just another person. No significance. No crucial part to his existence. Yet, in the fourth stanza, Dawe finally shows some notion of a positive emotion. The first ever look at happiness and only view throughout the poem.
In the stanza, the boy describes his liking for watching movies under a star lit sky, stating: ‘’… a pure unadulterated fringe of sky, littered with stars/ no one had got around to fixing up yet; he’d watch them/ circling about in luminous groups like kids at the circus…’’ The effect of using this technique emphasises the fact of something so pure, an actual happy emotion existing in this world, that seems to be so practical and sought out. To the audience it would show that Dawe is trying to create a hope that just maybe the boy will escape this game show fate and live to have the freedom he wishes.
The comment of his life also illustrates Dawe’s interesting view on life and ordinary people, as he represents the feeling of being barred from freedom. It also shows how society cannot corrupt the stars as they are too far away. Themes are also used throughout the poem. In the 1950’s to early 60’s women were still trying to attain for themselves. After the Second World War and during the baby boomers period, in stanza two of the poem Dawe comments on this type of living stating: ‘’ his included/ one economy-sized Mum, one Anthony Squires Dad, along with two other kids straight off the Junior Department rack. ’
This technique clearly represents the stereotypical, sexist views of the time period. Women were still seen as just ‘’house-wife’’ material, men were expected to make a living for their family and the average for the number of children per household was three. Anthony Squires as stated was a known Australian Brand Men’s suite. Dawe shows the audience in this quote the type of families seen during the 1950’s, as if manufactured or mass produced. Like a template. Every family had to have one of these. Families during this time did not bond or grow up together, but had been brought and constructed.
Another example of sexism can be found in stanza five, as Dawe says, ‘’ and then it was goodbye stars and the soft/ cry in the corner when no one was looking…’’ This shows the audience that in this society, during this time period, men were also stereotyped as they were not allowed to cry. They DO NOT cry. The final technique used in Enter Without So Much as Knocking is rhetorical question. Though only used once, it brings the whole poem together, causing Dawe’s audience to have a sudden epiphany. During stanza five, the child is undergoing what seems to be another part of his life.
Here we see his growing up, saying goodbye to corruption as the audience reads his corruption as he gives up fighting. The final lines hit the audience with a sense of realisation being: ‘’I mean it’s a real battle all the way/ and a man can’t help but feel a little soiled, himself,/ at times, you know what I mean? ’’ This conveys to the audience what an awful, corruptive world the world has become, and in return man himself has become soiled. Man has been blinded by his own corruption and formed his own stereotypes, and there is no way to return back to the way things were.
This is a vital view point and comment on the lives of people during this time period, as Dawe gives a descriptive insight on the matter. Moving onto the second poem: Homo Suburbiensis, another poem that signifies Dawes interest of people and their lives. Written in 1964, in the midst of the ending of the baby boomers period and a time of peace as women start finally getting their rights heard and the Australian government take a new leadership, this poem written by Dawe is a representation of an old man’s mind. The world he lives in is chaotic when wild, yet when in peace is of surpassing beauty like a well-kept garden.
The man’s thoughts are shown by the garden. Homo Suburbiensis is also referred to as the modern day Garden of Eden. Another side note worth mentioning is the fact that the title is a parody of scientific classification, as if stating that the garden is also an experiment on the observations of men overtime. Techniques used in this poem include alliteration, symbolism and onomatopoeia. The first two techniques explored are alliteration and symbolism. The way Dawe has written this poem is vital to his audience, as the lines represent the continuation of life, crucially emphasising this point entirely.
The alliteration is then used in the third/fourth stanza stating: ‘’He stands there, lost in a green/ confusion, smelling the smoke of somebody’s rubbish. ’’ The alliteration technique shows the continuous, ominous feeling. Almost repetitive, as Dawe gets his audience to relate to the sense of repetition. Also, back in this time period, rubbish was only collected once a week. Households would set their wastes alight and pour in the ashes weekly. This gives Dawes audience a good insight into the 1960’s and their views on pollution and rubbish.
The symbolism technique, however, links back to the previous comment of the poem being a modern appropriation of the Garden of Eden as the continuous ‘s’ words would symbolise a snake. Dawe creates a sense of an animal that threatens the peace unless harmed to his audience. An underlying danger ,which, at any given moment could strike and end all peace in a single bite. It also emphasises the fact that Dawe is trying to relate modern man to this threat compared to the original Garden of Eden to show his audience just how easily it is to upset a balance of peace unless treaded on lightly.
The final technique used is Onomatopoeia. During this stanza, Dawe has the old man retell what his senses pick up, letting the audience be introduced to both hearing and sight. This being: ‘’…a kid/ a far whisper of traffic, and offering up instead. ’’ This technique is used to emphasise Dawes involvement of human senses as well as depicting the old man and his interest in the world – also linking back to the earlier statement of having ‘’Homo Suburbiensis’’ as a possible scientific view on man.
These sounds are the only thing that can be heard in his garden, and like the snake, intrude and make Dawes audience realize that they are still being compared to the Garden of Eden to their modern world. The old man, also, can be seen to be lost in thought as he only ‘’vaguely’’ hears some sounds. This techniques use in return also shows Dawes interest in modern life compared to the genesis of the bible and his link to his faith and the Garden of Eden. It shows his audience, again, the problem of corruption and what it has done to man.
The third and final poem is 1968’s Drifters. Written describing Dawes own childhood, the poem represents yet another key concept in the viewing of ordinary lives in this time period. Drifters is about a family (representing Dawes own family) who moved from place to place, as the father needs to move by season due to the demand from his job. Though it is seen to be written in a casual manner, if read carefully, Dawes audience would see the seriousness behind it. Techniques used throughout the poem include juxtaposition and dialogue. The first technique used is juxtaposition.
Family members often have to compromise or sacrifice what they want in order to belong to their family. Some members, however, wish to establish a permanent sense of place and others don’t. The use of juxtaposition is then shown to the audience as the differing perceptions of moving are based on how long they stayed in one place. The oldest girl is on the verge of tears and the youngest is ‘beaming’. Another example of this is found in the mother’s acceptance of her families ‘drifter’ lifestyle through by stating: ‘’bottling-set/ she never unpacked from Grovedale. ’ Again Dawe and his view point, even when personal, is both interesting and true to the time period when written as it gives his audience an understanding of both the emotion and sacrifice caught in the constant knowing of impermanence.
The second and final technique used is dialogue. Repetitive dialogue was used constantly throughout the poem. A lack of permanent place, as mentioned before, is just a continuous spontaneous lifestyle. A feeling that anything could happen. An example of this can be found when she simply says: ‘’Make a wish Tom, make a wish. ’ The kind of lifestyle led and the emotions that come with it like excitement, when announcing that yet again they will be moving on is shown through the unusual endings of particular lines, for example ‘’tripping/ everyone up. ’’ And ‘’she was/ happy here. ’’ The position of line placement represents their emotions as well as the continuity of their lives and the way they live yet again. Dawe and his visual on life tells his audience of his own memories and the hardship he may have faced due to his family being so spontaneous, as well as any other child who went through the same thing as he during this time frame.
In conclusion, all three poems used being Enter Without So Much as Knocking (1959), Homo Suburbiensis (1964) and Drifters (1968) show that Bruce Dawe’s poem are indeed interesting because they comment on the lives of ordinary people. This is shown throughout each of the three poems using various language techniques and personal insight, making his audience see that Dawe truly was and still is a unique Australian writer.