Mementos by Bruce Dawe


Bruce Dawe. Photo source.


In a box in her mother’s room she found them then:

the spaghetti-legged girl, in the drawings from infant school

with hair like water-buffalo horns, the pudding-shaped cat

with currant eyes, the lop-sided house,

the gawky pastel flowers still staring out at the world,

the clothes-peg doll, the comb,

each in its tissue-paper wrapping thus preserved

from every hazard, especially that of the dust

which rose, so it seemed, from the very land itself,

infiltrating the house, the throat, the heart,

so that no word of what mother felt could ever be said

-even I love you folded away with infinite care,

for which she would have exchanged all else that was there.

Bruce Dawe

About Bruce Dawe:

In some of his poetry, including the well-known ‘Drifters’, Bruce Dawe describes his itinerant childhood in Melbourne and country Victoria. His first poems were published under the pseudonym of Llewellyn Rhys while he was a student at Northcote High School. After leaving school at the age of sixteen, Dawe worked as a labourer, farmhand, clerk, gardener and postman. In 1954 he attended the University of Melbourne full-time, where the influence of other poets, including AD Hope, Vincent Buckley and Philip Martin (qq.v.) was significant. From 1959 to 1968 he served in the RAAF, completing his first degree and his first three volumes of poetry during this period. Dawe has recalled with gratitude the interest and advice of poet Flexmore Hudson (q.v.) in preparing his first work for publication.

Dawe taught English and History at Downlands College, Toowoomba for two and a half years and in 1972 became a lecturer in literature at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (later the University of Southern Queensland). In 1990, after completing his masters and doctoral degrees, Dawe was made an Associate Professor of the University of Southern Queensland, and appointed its first Honorary Professor in 1993.

A prolific poet, Dawe’s work is often characterised by a light approach and the use of satire to explore frequently sombre themes such as the struggle of the individual to find meaning in everyday life, the domestic sphere, the effects of war, political oppression and corruption, and the importance of conservation. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature praises his skilful use of ‘speech cadences that combine the brashly colloquial of the spoken Australian language … with subtle and deftly placed lyricism’. Sometimes Gladness, first published in 1978, has never been out of print and is now in its sixth edition.

Teaching a literature class for the University of the Third Age (U3A), on a voluntary basis, has given Dawe a lot of satisfaction in the years since his retirement in 1993. (U3A is a learning community organized by and for people who can best be described as being in active retirement – the ‘third’ age. Its overall aim is to provide members with both the stimulus of mental activity and the satisfaction of a continuing contribution to society). He has taught classes in literature in Toowoomba and Caloundra to the present time (2007). (Source: AustLit)


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