C.J. Dennis Associated Material


It was astonishing the easy way in which C. J. Dennis wrote his verse. He mostly wrote in pencil on an ordinary cheap writing-pad, and what he had to say he put down quickly, surely and without trouble; no chewing it over - any thinking it out would have been done while he was filling the lamp, getting in some wood, shaving, doing some carpentering or walking to the post office and back.

He'd write his verses with no more effort than it would take him to write a letter; with this difference, though: with the verse he'd look serious and far-off. But when he'd drafted something that pleased him, especially if the lines had any fun or humour in them, he'd say "Ha!" loudly, his face would light up, his eyes shine, and, stuffing more tobacco in his pipe, he'd light it and settle down again to another session with himself. He always punctuated his writing as he went along; no leaving it till later and no going back to grimly chew over what he had written and make alterations.

Once he'd got an idea you'd hear that same gleeful "Ha!" and as far as he was concerned the job was practically done. The actual writing give him no worry. No running his fingers worriedly through his hair, no pacing up and down the room (popular idea), no screwing up sheet after sheet of paper (another popular belief) and tossing them dejectedly into the fireplace.

He'd beat time in the air with his pencil as he wrote. You might have thought he was conducting an imaginary orchestra. He typed all his manuscripts, and they were model manuscripts.

He enjoyed writing A Book for Kids (issued again in 1935 with the title changed to Roundabout). He was a kid himself at the time, and I'm sure he got as much fun writing it as the kids get reading it. With the rest of us around him, he sat in front of the fire, feet up, writing the verses for it. When he finished one he'd read it to us.

He did not object to noise while he was writing, did not mind in the least the perpetual screeching of the sawmill at the back of his place, liked to have his gramophone playing and the wireless going full blast ahead.

The poet was not temperamental.

From "Australian Poets Speak" edited by Colin Thiele and Ian Mudie

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003