Dawe, (Donald) Bruce

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DAWE, (Donald) Bruce

Nationality: Australian. Born : Geelong, Victoria, 15 February 1930. Education: Northcote High School; Melbourne University; Queensland University, Brisbane, B.A. 1969, M.A. 1975, Ph.D. 1980; University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Litt.B. 1973. Military Service: Royal Australian Air Force, 1959–68. Family: Married Gloria Desley in 1964; two sons and two daughters. Career: Worked as a laborer, gardener, and postman. Senior lecturer, then associate professor, in literature, University College of Southern Queensland (formerly Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education), Darling Heights, Toowoomba, 1980–93. Awards: Myer prize, 1966, 1969; Ampol Arts award, 1967; Mary Gilmore medal, 1971; Grace Leven prize, 1978; Patrick White Literary award, 1980; Christopher Brennan award, 1984. A.O. (Order of Australia), 1992. D.Litt.: University of Southern Queensland, 1995; University of New South Wales, 1997. Address: 30 Cumming Street, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia.



No Fixed Address. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1962.

A Need of Similar Name. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1965.

An Eye for a Tooth. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1968.

Beyond the Subdivision. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1969.

Heat-Wave. Melbourne, Sweeney Reed, 1970.

Condolences of the Season. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1971.

Just a Dugong at Twilight: Mainly Light Verse. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1975.

Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems 1954–1978. Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1978; revised edition, 1983, 1988; as Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems 1954–1992. Longman Cheshire, 1993.

Selected Poems. London, Longman, 1984.

Towards Sunrise: Poems 1979–1986. Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1986.

This Side of Silence: Poems 1987–1990. Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1990.

Mortal Instruments: Poems 1990–1994. Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1995.

A Poet's People. South Melbourne, Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.

Short Stories

Over Here, Harv! and Other Stories. Melbourne, Penguin, 1983.


Five Modern Comic Writers. Toowoomba, Queensland, Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Studies, 1981.

Editor, Dimensions. Sydney, McGraw Hill, 1974.

Editor, Speaking in Parables. Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1987.


Manuscript Collection: Fryer Library, University of Queensland, St. Lucia.

Critical Studies: The Man down the Street, edited by Ian V. Hansen, Melbourne, V.A.T.E., 1972; Times and Seasons: An Introduction to Bruce Dawe by Basil Shaw, Melbourne, Cheshire, 1974; Adjacent Worlds: A Literary Life of Bruce Dawe by Ken Goodwin, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1988; Bruce Dawe: Essays and Opinions, edited by K.L. Goodwin, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1990; Bruce Dawe by Peter Kuch, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995.

Bruce Dawe comments:

The themes I deal with are the common ones of modern civilization—loneliness, old age, death, dictatorship, love. I like the dramatic monologue form and use it in free, blank, and rhymed verse forms, attempting at the same time to capture something of the evanescence of contemporary idiom, which is far richer and more allusive than the stereotyped stone-the-crows popular concept of Australian speech would have people believe.

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Bruce Dawe was certainly the most central and pivotal poet in Australia during the decade of the 1960s. His work first appeared in Melbourne in the late 1950s, and it broke through to a wide audience with No Fixed Address, his first collection. No Fixed Address displayed a freshness and gaiety quite unusual in Australian literature at the time and, more importantly, demonstrated a highly developed sense of local speech cadence and inflection. Dawe has always been concerned with the celebration of the maligned denizens of the great sprawl of outer suburbs that surround our cities. He views them with affection, sympathy, and wit and with an ear attuned to natural speech rhythms that is more precise and more immediately convincing than that of any other poet. This perceptiveness is coupled with a brilliant feeling for language and, particularly, for image.

Dawe broke through to a whole new generation of Australian readers, and his popularity has been gained without any loss of integrity or style. Indeed, because of the genuineness of his essential attitudes, such popularity is a natural aspect of his poetic justification. In later volumes Dawe became concerned with developing his initial vision and perceptions. He has been one of the few Australian poets to find a convincing method of dealing with contemporary political events and issues without loss of poetic validity. This is an area in which Australian poetry has always been backward and undeveloped. In 1971 a selected volume, Condolences of the Season, offered readers a summary of Dawe's work. His later poems tend to employ a more elegiac cadence, but though the subject matter is often eclectic and wide flung, it still seems that his contribution is primarily related to the admission into the corpus of Australian poetry of an area of suburban reality and liveliness that had only been approached in the most awkward and uncomfortable way by his predecessors.

Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems 1954–1978, which has been revised more than once, is perhaps the most successful book of verse by a contemporary Australian poet. It continues as the quintessential Dawe compendium. Later collections remain more as postscripts to the earlier work. There are adroit political poems written on major and minor crises and often with effective, but repetitive, reliance on Old Testament rhetoric. There are poems on social issues, particularly abortion, written in conventional quatrains. The best poems, though, still capture the laconic sage of the backyard larrikin turned head of the family, with an occasional day off. Mortal Instruments and A Poet's People confirm that in his later work Dawe has as sharp an eye as ever on the quiddities of people and of politics, though the tone and the cadence have become as familiar as a ribald old grandfather.

—Thomas W. Shapcott