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Farewell Bruce Dawe

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

At Pearson we were saddened to hear of the passing on 1 April of poet Bruce Dawe. Generations of Australians know and love Bruce's work through six editions of his collection Sometimes Gladness, a standard on senior English booklists. Cheshire and then Longman Cheshire (which came under Pearson ownership in the late 1960s) proudly published Bruce Dawe's work from the 1960s through to 2006.

Author and former Pearson Publisher Robert Engwerda was the publisher of Sometimes Gladness.

'Bruce Dawe’s ‘best of’ collection, Sometimes Gladness, first published in 1978 became the flag-bearer of the poet’s work. Somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 copies were sold, making him one of Australia’s best-selling poets.

'Dawe’s great appeal to many Australians lies in the language he wraps his themes and subjects in. 'Life-Cycle', is still as perceptive and amusing about Australians’ love of football as has ever been written. That salvation comes to many in the form of the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk would surprise few who read their daily newspapers from back to front.

'But Dawe’s range of subject extends well beyond Australian suburban, deceptively so. His poetry may sound very Australian, but his choice of subject ranges far and wide. There is television and the media, war in Vietnam, grief and remembrance of those loved and gone, coming to terms with getting older.

In 'The Job at Box Hill', the poet recalls digging trenches for front garden taps in housing commission homes:

That was as good a job as I ever got sacked from / but I couldn’t be bitter / and I shaped the sides of the trenches / just as carefully on the last day / as on the first / There are some things / a job does for you / and some things you do for a job.

Who else could so evocatively describe the pleasure and satisfaction taken in doing simple things well?'

'So sad to hear of the passing of Bruce Dawe, an amazing writer and poet. Sometimes Gladness is still my favourite collection and one I'll re-read from today. Vale Bruce.'
Cam Salton
Pearson Schools Portfolio Director and former VCE English teacher