Alas; poor Botany Bay your lot is very hard Better your Colony had never been made- Your low minded Obstinate Governors Knavery He still strives to hide under the cloak of verity His love of Paltry Self is daily increasing As the credit he gives his Rascals is hourly provingAnother early poet who was definitely a convict was Francis MacNamara, better known as "Frank the Poet". He was born in 1811 in Cashel, Ireland, transported to Botany Bay in 1832, then to Van Diemen's Land in 1842. He left Launceston 23 August 1850 "Free by servitude" and died at Pipe Clay Creek near Mudgee NSW in August 1861. Only two of his poems were published in his lifetime, the longest called A Dialogue between two Hibernians in Botany Bay was published in the Sydney Gazette on 8 February 1840 while he was incarcerated in Parramatta Gaol. A very sad tale indeed! Well, these days poets have many other avenues to make their work known, including zines. So, now to a couple of poetic zines we've recently acquired that appealed to me. I really enjoyed Edward the boy with a skull for a head by John Stewart. Has a sad start, but a happy ending that made me smile. There is someone for everyone and we should celebrate our differences and not try to hide them or conform! On a different note, I loved Tamara Lazaroff's zine Briefly, birds - reflections in poetry and prose. With spring in the air, and birds all around us, these gentle, heartfelt thoughts show someone coming to a sense of peace with herself and learning how to spread her wings and fly!
Poetry week - remembering times past, looking to the future
It's National Poetry Week from 5-11 September and this made me think about some of the early Australian poets, as well as the creators of today (especially zinesters). Unfortunately many of the early examples are anonymous - written by convicts or others who didn't want "the authorities" to identify them! A little example from 1792 is a four-line poem that was reputedly discovered by Governor Philip 'in the crown of his hat the day after he set sail' from the colony of New South Wales to return home to England in 1792. It was reproduced in a newspaper called The Atlas in the 1840s as part of an historical article talking about the first days of the colony, and the departure of Governor Philip. AustLit, one of the earliest poems composed in Australia was another anonymous one called, "Alas, poor Botany Bay" - although this was probably written by a free settler rather than a convict. It is a savage satire on the administration of governor John Hunter containing allegations of corruption. Apparently it was originally produced in the form of a 'pipe' - a handwritten roll of paper that was secretly distributed around the colony to embarass the government. There is a hint that D'Arcy Wentworth a colonial surgeon (and father of the more famous William Charles Wentworth) might have been the author. To give you a bit of the flavour of this diatribe, here are the first few lines: