Reprint: Poetry: A Mirror of Thought by O. Farquhar

Much has been said in these columns lately regarding poetry -- its decline, appreciation, etc. Have you ever been in a mirrored restaurant, especially on a dull, miserable day, and watched the very varied occupants of the tables, the sad-looking, or sometimes artificial flowers, the crude pictures on the walls, the paper-covered lights, etc., then looked round the mirrors, and seen all these things reflected? Everything you have been looking at only a moment before is changed by the glamour of reflection. The lights look like one version of fairyland, the flowers look as if they were growing there; that dull-looking girl with the snub nose and prominent teeth is shown in animated conversation with a friend; only the animation is noticeable. That shabby, genteel man is reflected, but without his shabbiness, and so one could go on enumerating the subtle changes the mirror seems to make.

To my mind the true poet, like the mirror, reflects with the same effect the people's thoughts. What a sense of satisfaction we derive when we seen portrayed in good verse some thought we have vaguely felt, yet could not find suitable words to express. We like it, we preserve it, and sometimes memorise it. Of course we know there are some people who cut out every piece of printed matter   which they see cut up into lines beginning with capital letters, but they are few. I myself read most verse I see; but if the first stanza offends my ear I generally stop there, unless out of curiosity I try to discover why it was printed.

Most of the Australian verse I have read from any one pen (probably I have not read a quarter of that published) reflects the thoughts of either the illiterate, the larrikin, the underdog, the bushman, the ardent admirer of Greek mythology, the high brow airing his wide vocabulary, or the person who is fond of "Blah." When I was younger I often felt timid in the company of the last-mentioned, and wished I had adopted a more exaggerated form of pronunciation; but since hearing our late beloved King George speak (per medium of the radio) I have been thankful I did not do so.

When we do get an Australian poet (and we will) who is able to reflect the thoughts of all classes in good, plain, simple English, we shall find that he will be acclaimed our national poet, and that a keen interest in poetry will not then be lacking.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 November 1936

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 2, 2010 11:25 AM.

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