Almanac Poetry: A greeting from Bruce Dawe

Bruce Dawe (whose latest collection of poems is Border Security, which was reviewed in The Australian by Geoff Page on the weekend) sent me a lovely card last week.

In his 86 year old hand he wrote a short poem in it:


September Song

May more Septembers come to bring
More pennants to your team,
Until that too-long interval
Seems but a distant dream
– But then, as all true lovers know,
There’s nothing half as sweet,
When expectations are fulfilled,
There’s dancing in the street.


He signed it ‘Happy New Year to you and all Doggy fans! From Bruce Dawe and Family.’

I was totally chuffed that a man for whom I have the greatest respect – who spent some of his childhood living in Fitzroy, and saw the Harveys bat at Brunswick Street, and is an alumnus of Northcote High – would take the time to send such a lovely greeting card (with an accompanying letter).

Here’s why.

Bruce Dawe is a wonderful man whose respect for all people shines in everything he does. His poetry is a delight to read, speaks to me with depth and substance, and, when I was teaching, was fantastic to use in the classroom. ‘Homo Suburbiensis’ is one of my all-time faves:


Homo Suburbiensis
by Bruce Dawe


One constant in a world of variables
– A man alone in the evening in his patch of vegetables,
and all the things he takes down with him there

Where the easement runs along the back fence and the air
smells of tomato-vines, and the hoarse rasping tendrils
of pumpkin flourish clumsy whips and their foliage sprawls

Over the compost-box, poising rampant upon
the palings …
He stands there, lost in a green
confusion, smelling the smoke of somebody’s rubbish

Burning, hearing vaguely the clatter of a disk
in a sink that could be his, hearing a dog, a kid,
a far whisper of traffic, and offering up instead

Not much but as much as any man can offer
– time, pain, love, hate, age, war, death, laughter, fever.


When I was putting together The Doggies Almanac and thinking about what to write in the introduction, my mind turned to Bruce Dawe’s superb poem ‘The High Mark’. If ever a season was an example of the understandings expressed in ‘The High Mark’ it was 2016. Liam Picken’s mark was a symbol of it. Doggies fan Jim Pavlidis captured it brilliantly in his painting. I thought it would top things off to quote from Bruce Dawe’s poem. Then I thought, bugger it, why not include the entire poem.

So I found Bruce’s email address and wrote to him seeking permission to include it.

Bruce could not have been more helpful.

So, thanks to Bruce for the permission, thanks for the greeting, and thanks for these words:


The High Mark

By Bruce Dawe


begins with the nod of a head
or flicker-signal of fingers
and a run that gathers in
the green day and the
grey crowd that rolls on its
great humble tides
and the run is a thinking
to the ball’s end-over-end parabola
that has sinews tough
– tensioning for the upward
hands now
eagle claws,
god’s hooks, hungering
for the leather dove, the run
among mere mortal men
in time, in place, become
the leap into heaven,
into fame, into legend
– then the fall back to earth
(guernseyed Icarus)
to the whistle’s shrill tweet.


Read more about The Doggies Almanac


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Brilliant.

    I suspect there’s many Dawe fans in the Almanac community. I must say I was chuffed to learn that he attended Northcote High where our kids now go.

    I love a whole lot of his work and Drifters is right up there. Make a wish Tom, make a wish.


  2. Yep he’s a beaut. Found a signed Beyond the Subdivisions a few years back and it a keeper for the kids.

  3. Mr Dawe’s “Sometimes Gladness” anthology is a constant source of joy and inspiration. No other writer whispers my grandfather’s voice and the endless days of childhood. Things that I carry inside me and are as alive today as they were 50 years ago. Wonderful to read his words and hear his spirit.

  4. bernard whimpress says

    And there is always ‘Life Cycle’, one of my all-time favourites.

  5. Great stuff JTH. He’s an icon. I’m with you Rick in that “Drifters” is fantastic. “Suburban Lovers” is also wonderful and features one of my favourite lines-

    her thoughts lie
    kitten-curled in his.

  6. Superb.
    “god’s hooks”. How would that come into your thinking?

  7. That is just wonderful.

  8. Alex Darling says

    The High Mark is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Did not stop grinning the whole time. Thank you for your words Bruce and John.

  9. Stainless says

    Agreed – absolutely brilliant. RIP Bruce.

  10. Roger Lowrey says

    Love it.

  11. Marcus Holt says

    hungering for the leather dove

    (guernseyed Icarus)

    what great images

  12. Andrew Starkie says

    I taught Bruce’s poems a few times. Hope i did them justice. Life Cycle a fav, of course. Fitting he goes to the big suburban ground in the sky the season footy is cancelled.

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