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‘Drifters’ by Bruce Dawe Essay

Donald Bruce Dawe was born in 1930 in Geelong, Victoria, Melbourne, he is one of the most successful and prolific contemporary poets of Australia. He struggled with his studies, leaving school when he was sixteen, working as a gardener and postman. In 1954 he entered the University of Melbourne. He grew up in a household where his father, a farm labourer, was often unemployed and absent from home. The poem ‘Drifters’ by Bruce Dawe should be selected for the prestigious honour of ‘Best Contemporary Australian Poem’ as it is a realism poem, describes Australian lifestyle felicitously, which lead the Australian contemporary audiences easily fall in the poem and deeply engraved in their mind. Bruce Dawe drifted through his early years showing promise as a writer but finding little direction, which characterises his poetry and gives a voice to so-called ordinary Australians. Bruce Dawe has published 12 books of poetry. His poetries are described about life and how people deal with everyday obstacles. The poem that I am nominating is ‘Drifters’ by Bruce Dawe.

The poem ‘Drifters’ describe the life style that most Australians went through in the 1960s, due to economic hardship. This poem shows how they weren’t able to establish a stable lifestyle due to often moving communities and homes. Australian audiences feel emotional as it describes the subsistence of the late 1960s.

The poem ‘Drifters’ depicts the restless life of a transient and a rouseabout family. The poem demonstrates the destiny of the family’s existence. ‘Drifters’ is about a household who move from place to place, as the father needs to move to find work ‘notice how the oldest girl is close to tears’ shows that the hardship that the eldest sister has to go through, she realised that her nomadic lives may never change, she cannot live as a normal teenager as she is not stationed in one place long enough, to become friends with the same age as hers, she is gradually frustrated with her life. ‘Make a wish, Tom, make a wish.’ Bruce Dawe also shows a serious side in the poem, as the mother just wish to settle down and have the bright future which she has always dreamed of. As the poem explained, the family members do not agree with the idea of leaving just for the sake of leaving.

Bruce Dawe uses symbols to create moods showing sadness and the loss of hope. Dawe’s line ‘and when the loaded ute bumps down the drive past the blackberry canes with their last shriveled fruit’, the blackberries were used as an indicator of time, on their arrival the berries were the ‘first of the season’ but by the time when they drove past the blackberry cane was they’re saw only ‘their last shrivelled fruit’. This tells us that they perhaps only stayed for about two or three months. ‘The brown kelpie pup will start dashing about, tripping everyone up’ The dog run around barking, shows the scene of a chaotic house, it also conveys a sense of bad luck to the family. A “kelpie” is an Australian sheepdog, in Scottish it refers to an evil water spirit that takes the form of a horse and drowns travellers.

This cross-meaning gives the poem a sense of danger, implying that the family is not only traveling with a puppy for the children but is also an omen of bad luck. The unexpectedness of the move is conveyed by the fact that the tomatoes are still green on the vine. They never live in the one place long enough for the tomatoes to ripen. This could be the same for other aspects of their lives, making new friends could be an example. They started to become friendly with the people of their neighbourhood, but soon they’ll have to move again. “the bottling set she never unpacked from Grovedale”.

This shows how the wife has accepted the fate she lives. Bruce Dawe also uses repetition ‘Make a wish, Tom, make a wish.’ as the ending of the poem with a strong sense of hope and the use of ‘and’ several times throughout the poem, conveying an ongoing, enjambment or confession. ‘Drifters’ is directed towards the transient workers, describing the Australia phenomenon. The poem ‘Drifters’ continues to have meaning in today as today’s global citizens regularly migrate to new continents.

‘Drifters’ by Bruce Dawe writes about ordinary Australian people in the suburbs confronting their everyday problems, depicting a typical Aussie modern day rouseabout. Bruce Dawe using poetic techniques and craftsmanship to depict the hardship that the Australian had gone through, which successful in immersing and engaging the attention of the readers. We can understand the personal’s thoughts through multiple language and poetic techniques through the poem.

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