Saturday, May 2, 2009

NSW Greats 2: Dorothea Mackellar and Dame Mary Gilmore

It seems only reasonable given that we've just had two of our most celebrated male poets, to continue on with a couple of female poets.

Dorothea Mackellar has the distinction of having written one of the most evocative poems about Australia ever penned. Australia is known as the sunburnt country christened thus in Dorothea Mackellar's "My Country". To some it may seem a small contribution, this poem, but that's like saying penning Waltzing Matilda was a small contribution. At one time we all learned My Country at school. It is a beautiful beautiful poem that will invariably bring tears to my eyes at least.
Though Dorothea was a Sydney girl, she had family links to the Gunnedah region. There is a statue of her in Anzac Park Gunnedah NSW.

The Dorothea Mackellar poetry awards are held annually for Austrlian school students.

"As patriot, feminist, social crusader and folklorist [Dame Mary Gilmore] has now passed into Australian legend." She is without question one of the great personages to come out of NSW and her story is best understood by reading the above linked biography.

I have to be honest with you and say that before today I was not familiar with Dame Mary's literary works. Of course I have heard of her. Well more than heard of her, she was always very well known. What I had known of Dame Mary I learned from reading about Louisa Lawson (Henry's mother and herself destined for this list of greats). It seems Mary was a fellow feminist and campaigner against injustice and deprivation as well as a poet. Mary had a relationship with Henry Lawson and though it was never substantiated, she claimed that they had been unofficially engaged.... but she didn't get along with his mother. The two women were quite antagonistic to one another.

I have to say that reading her poetry I can see why she gained such a reputation. Do follow the link and read such gems as "The Waradjery Tribe"; "Singapore"; "No Foe Shall Gather our Harvest"; "Marri'd" or "Nationality".

Dame Mary adorns one side of the Australian $10 note.

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