Australian Poems

Australian poetry encompasses a diverse literary tradition that reflects the vast landscapes, multiculturalism, and unique experiences of the continent.

From the works of iconic poets like Banjo Paterson, Judith Wright, and Les Murray, Australian poetry has explored themes such as the Australian bush, Indigenous culture, colonial history, and identity.

Australian poets often focus on the rugged beauty of the land, the struggle to belong somewhere, and urban/rural life. The poetry of Australia showcases a mix of influences, from Indigenous oral traditions to European literary traditions.

Bell Birds

by Henry Kendall

‘Bell Birds’ by Henry Kendall describes the beauty of a local wooded landscape and the passion and inspiration a speaker gains from its depths. 

As an Australian poet, Kendall's contributions to the literary landscape have made him a significant figure in Australian poetry. His evocative descriptions of the Australian environment and his celebration of its unique flora and fauna have solidified his place in the canon of Australian literary heritage. This poem should be regarded as one of the best poems by an Australian poet.

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,

And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;

It lives in the mountain, where moss and the sedges

Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges;

No More Boomerang

by Oodgeroo Noonuccal

‘No More Boomerang,’ a poem by the Aboriginal Australian political activist and poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (also known as Kath Walker) features how the aboriginal culture is in crisis for the growing materialism and colonial hegemony.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal's poetry holds a significant place within Australian poetry and this poem in particular is highly important. Her poem bring to the forefront the unique perspectives and experiences of Indigenous Australians, challenging the predominantly Eurocentric canon of Australian literature. Noonuccal's poem confronts the complexities of Australian identity, culture, and history, fostering a greater understanding of the diverse voices that shape the Australian literary landscape.

No more boomerang

No more spear;

Now alll civilized-

Colour bar and beer.

 

Beach Burial

by Kenneth Slessor

‘Beach Burial’ by Kenneth Slessor is a deeply emotional poem about the cost of war. It uses hard-to-forget images of bodies washing up on a beach to highlight this fact.

This is a renowned poem written by Australian poet Kenneth Slessor. It was first published in 1944 and serves as a poignant commentary on the horrors of war and the anonymous sacrifices made by soldiers. Kenneth Slessor is a relatively well-known Australian poet known for his socially engaged and image-rich poetry. 'Beach Burial' is a great example of his work.

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs

The convoys of dead sailors come;

At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,

But morning rolls them in the foam.

At My Grandmother’s

by David Malouf

‘At My Grandmother’s’ by David Malouf explores the haunting presence of the past and the interplay between memory, time, and mortality.

David Malouf's 'At My Grandmother's' stands as a remarkable poem within the canon of Australian literature. Malouf's significance as an influential Australian poet cannot be understated, and this poem exemplifies his mastery of vivid imagery, introspective reflections, and the exploration of universal themes. The poem's evocative language, rich metaphors, and haunting atmosphere captivate readers, while its poignant examination of memory, time, and mortality resonates deeply. 'At My Grandmother's' showcases Malouf's unique voice and establishes him as a leading figure in Australian poetry.

An afternoon, late summer, in a room

Shuttered against the bright, envenomed leaves;

An under-water world, where time, like water

Was held in the wide arms of a gilded clock,

Australia 1970

by Judith Wright

‘Australia 1970’ by Judith Wright speaks on the changing landscape of Australia in the 1970s. It promotes a version of Australia that is fierce, wild, and dangerous just like the animals that have always lived within its boundaries.

Die, wild country, like the eaglehawk,

dangerous till the last breath's gone,

clawing and striking. Die

cursing your captor through a raging eye.

Explore more Australian poems

Miscegenation

by Roberta Sykes

‘Miscegenation’ by Roberta Skyes is a poem about identity and recognition. It focuses on a little girl who is yearning to find and know her father.

Reservist

by Boey Kim Cheng

‘Reservist’ describes the repetitive nature of war and the preparations that go into arming reserve soldiers and preparing them for battle.

Time again for the annual joust, the regular fanfare,

a call to arms, the imperative letters stern

as clarion notes, the king's command, upon

Sleep

by Kenneth Slessor

Kenneth Slessor’s ‘Sleep’ describes how an infant is born in the womb of a woman. This poem describes the journey of life from inanition to entity.

Suburban Sonnet

by Gwen Harwood

‘Suburban Sonnet’ by Gwen Harwood is a powerful poem about a woman’s struggles with motherhood. It explores the mundane elements of her life and her lost dreams.

The Hour is Come

by Louisa Lawson

‘The Hour is Come’ offers a heroic view of womanhood and celebrates those who are willing to fight for their rights and beliefs.

The Old Year

by Henry Kendall

‘The Old Year’ by Henry Kendall is an optimistic piece that deals with how time passes and the intangible impact it leaves on the present.

The Pride of Lions

by Joanna Preston

‘The Pride of Lions’ by Joanna Preston describes what happens after a speaker’s husband is transformed into a lion. It presents a message about what relationships require in order to be successful.

The Road

by Nancy Fotheringham Cato

‘The Road’ is simultaneously a thrilling car journey at night and a deeply personal mediation on time, humanity and the natural world.

The Three Fates

by Rosemary Dobson

‘The Three Fates’ by Rosemary Dobson describes the life of a man who is forced to live through the same events, in reverse, for eternity. 

The Tiger in the Menagerie

by Emma Jones

‘The Tiger in the Menagerie’, by the poet Emma Jones is a poem about the introduction of violence and wildness into a civilized society and what that would physically look like.

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