Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bruce Dawe: a poet of social and political critique

Currently I am enjoying Australian poet Bruce Dawe's Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems 1954-1997. This is such a rich collection. There is much to like in Dawe's poetry.

In particular, I enjoy that Dawe is a poet with a strong sense of social critique whose poetry engages with the social and political issues of the day. Homecoming is an anti-war poem written about the processing and return of the dead during the Vietnam War.


All day, day after day, they're bringing them home,

they're picking them up, those they can find, and bringing them home,

they're bringing them in, piled on the hulls of grants, in trucks, in convoys,

they're zipping them up in green plastic bags,

they're tagging them now in Saigon, in the mortuary coolness-

they're giving them names, they're rolling them out of

the deep-freeze lockers-on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut

they are bringing them home

- curly-heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms

- they're high, now, high and higher, over the land, the steaming chow mein

their shadows are tracing the blue curve of the Pacific

with sorrowful quick fingers, heading south, heading east,

home, home, home- and the coasts swing upward,the old

ridiculous curvatures

of earth, the knuckled hills, the mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness...

in their sterile housing they tilt towards these like skiers

- taxiing in, on the long runways, the howl of their homecoming rises

surrounding them like their last moments (the mash, the splendour)

then fading at length as they move

on to small towns where dogs in the frozen sunset

raise muzzles in mute salute,

and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs

telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree

and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry

- they're bringing them home, now, too late, too early.

copyright courtesy of Bruce Dawe

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