A Balanced Diet

A couple of weeks back Dean, of the "Happy Antipodean" weblog, had this to say in a comment about a poem that I had transcribed here:

Perry, why do you persist in transcribing the irrelevant effusions of second-rate versifiers just because they're Australian? Are you so tightly wrapped in the flag?
It's a decent enough question, but one I didn't attempt to answer at the time. I covered the second part by stating that the major aim of this weblog is to cover Australian literature in all its forms. If that gave the impression that I was exhibiting any form of rampant nationalism then that was unfortunate. It was only a secondary by-product and not the main aim.

I did, however, get to thinking about Dean's original comment and wondered if he might have a point after all. I have come to the conclusion that he does, that a lot of the poems I transcribe here are of only minor interest and are mainly second-rate at best. But you know what? I don't really care. They are of interest to me, and that's the best guide I can think of.

A couple of times over the past year I have made some minor asides about the need for all readers to think of their literary input as a form of diet, nourishment for the soul if you like. All the nutritional literature will tell you that a balanced diet is what you should aim for, in any one day sampling across all the basic food groups. It's okay to dip deeply into stuff that isn't overly good for you occasionally. Trouble arises when that's all you do.

I tend to think that reading works exactly in the same way. We need to read across all literary forms and genres, fiction and non-fiction, to get a decent dietary spread. "Binge-reading" in one grenre or another is okay for a while - just remember to come up for air once in a while.

And what this means is that, at times, you're going to read crap. Sturgeon's Law tells us that 90% of everything is trash. It doesn't matter what the subject is, the law applies equally. There really isn't any avoiding it, unless, of course, you're got a really good built-in trash filter. You might have, I don't. And again it's not something that bothers me.

I have a particular liking for Australian poetry from period of about 1850 to the start of the Second World War. It probably comes from a lack of understanding of modern poetry on the one hand, and a sense that a poem should say something to me on the other. Some of the work that falls into this period will fit under the genre name of "Bush Ballads". Unfortunately, a lot of people think it all should fall under that heading, thereby condemning it to the trash bucket without proper consideration. But again, it all comes back to a balanced diet. I do read some modern poets - not a lot it must be said but some. I particularly like Dorothy Porter's work and can generally find something in poems of Les Murray and, sometimes, David Malouf. But it's to the late 19th and early 20th century that I keep returning.

I started transcribing poems for this weblog when I began it back in December 2004. I believed then, as I still do, that there was a vast amount of work published during the period which had never, or rarely, seen the light of day after first publication. I thought that a pity.

The poems that appear on Matilda are selected using several criteria, the most important of which being that I need to find something of interest in the work. How others see them is not something I can determine. But I'm going to keep transcribing the works for as long as I can find pieces I'm interested in.

Some of them will be good, and some rather trashy. But that's just the nature of the beast.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 1, 2007 4:06 PM.

2007 Sydney Writers' Festival was the previous entry in this blog.

Poem: Unwritten by M. Forrest is the next entry in this blog.

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