Animal poems, like animals themselves, come in many different shapes and sizes. In Australia, many poems have been written about horses, especially during the nineteenth century when horses were an essential part of life, as the main way of moving about the country before the coming of the railway. There are also many dog poems, since dogs were an equally essential part of the pioneering life. Unlike horses, they remain a prominent part of today’s urban and suburban life and so one finds many contemporary poets writing about them too. Along with dogs, cats have also remained popular as pets, even though their original function as controllers of vermin may no longer be necessary: cat poems are therefore also plentiful.
Australian poets have naturally often concentrated on subjects seen as unique to Australia and so one finds many Australian animal poems that deal with uniquely Australian animals such as the kangaroo and emu. ‘The Kangaroo’ was one of two poems included in Barron Field’s First Fruits of Australian Poetry (1819), the first book of poetry to be published in Australia. In his poem Field refers to the kangaroo as the ‘spirit of Australia’. Banjo Paterson’s later collection, The Animals Noah Forgot (1933), includes many funny poems about Australian animals, including the platypus, the bandicoot and the white cockatoo.
Animal poems continue to be written by twenty-first century Australian poets, especially those with a strong interest in the environment. Among the nature poems in Anthony Lawrence’s recent collection, Bark (2008), one finds dog poems and bird poems. Animal poems are also plentiful in Judith Beveridge’s work, as the titles of her two prize-winning collections, The Domesticity of Giraffes (1987) and Wolf Notes (2003) indicate. Along with poems about Australian animals such as the lyre bird, Beveridge writes monkey poems and tiger poems.See more Animal poems