David Campbell reads from his own work
Poets on Record
The Poems Acknowledgment is made to Angus & Robertson Ltd. for allowing use of poems from Selected Poems (1968 and 1973) by David Campbell, and to David Campbell for permission to use “Sanctuary: Pebbly Beach” which first appeared in Poet's Choice 1972 (Island Press).
The Recording Our gratitude is due to David Campbell and The Australian Broadcasting Commission in Canberra for generous assistance in the preparation of this recording.
The selected bibliography was prepared by the Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature in the University of Queensland.
All the poems on the first side of this disc were written while I was working a property of slopes and round hills just north of Canberra. On foggy mornings the young city disappeared under a white lake that stretched to the snow tops of Franklin and Ginniner, but that was before my lease was ear-marked for industrial development. It is a subtle, beautiful countryside, the white trees turning ruddy in the winter westerlies, and stripping to gold in summer; and the seeding grasses blowing from pink to blond to furnace-white — that is when there isn't a drought stirring the red dust into willy willies.
Working it, I came to know the place and its moods; and the people, rivers and peaks of the table-lands and high country whose centre is Monaro. As the more generalized images from the bush ballad and jackerooing dropped away, I found more and more that my poems were triggered by immediate experiences, the moon crusting dark furrows or the daylight moon in a lunar landscape of white trees. Even in love poems the same images presented themselves; and sometimes I had the feeling that I was living and riding around in a world of my own creation.
There was, of course, the chafe between hard physical work and finding time to write; but often, leaning on a shovel or delivering a lamb, I experienced the still moment of perception from which my lyrics sprang. This is perhaps why the image of a hovering hawk occurs so much in my verse of that time; and why the poems are mostly short.
When the red brick of the suburbs started moving out like a train, I moved to a property near Bungen-dore on what used to be the Grubberdedrack creek. (The name has been mislaid by cartographers as has Mount Ginniner's.) The land there did not excite me which maybe was a good thing because it left my imagination open to a wider range of experience; and it was not until I left Palerang that I used the setting in the series “Works and Days” from which “Delivering Lambs” comes. These poems differ from my earlier work in that they are about the yearly round on the land and their significance rests on this — an objectivity and insight I found it hard to come by.
In the period while building and moving to my present farm east of Queanbeyan, I not only had more time for writing but the sort of subject matter that came in was more varied than before which troubled some friends and others who professed a sudden regard for my earlier lyrics. “Hotel Marine” was written at this time from a dream that gave me even the title; and “The Branch of Dodona”, a commentary on the lives of Jason and Medea.
Since settling here among white sallies, I have drawn for poetry on the experiences of childhood and of growing older, and on other regions and other times; or rather the poems have come to me with first lines. “Sanctuary” is one of these. But so far I have squeezed only two small lyrics from my Molonglo farm.