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Poetry in Queensland
In this month's issue of 'All About Books' the question of the position of poetry in Queensland is raised by a dis cussion concerning the Queensland poet,
William Baylebndge, of whom it is claimed by a correspondent that, although he '' has for years, been a lead ing figure in Australian literature, has been practically ignored in Queensland, ?where, as it happens, he was born.' The -writer of the letter, a Mr T. E. Forsayth, ?writes from Elizabeth Bay, N.S.W., in reply to a previous communication from a Queenslander, a Mr H. J. J. Sparks, who had referred to this States at ' a home of genuine poetry.1 In reply to this contention the man from New South Wales remarks, ' During a fairly long residence in that State (meaning Queensland) I have followed the local reviews of Queensland literary work, and have kept in touch with whatever literary opinion I could find in the Northern capital. The reviewers there seemed strangely unaware of Bayle bridge's productions; and no Queensland literary society, to the best of my fenow ledge, has ever made his work a sub ject of inquiry or discussion.'
The Southern critic, as so often hap pens in these controversial matters, is just about as much right as he is wrong. William Baylebridge waB given publicity by the old ' Daily Mail ' as long ago as 1021, and I think that his published work has since received not able attention from the 'Courier,' as well as the ' Mail,' and, more recently, by the merged 'Courier-Mail,' which runs quite an adequate literary page on Saturdays, and misses nothing cf note in the literary world, Australian or otherwise. 'Love Redeemed,' Bayle bridge's notable sonnet sequence, which I had the pleasure of reviewing in this
column a little more than twelve months ago, certainly did not appear without recognition in this State. The author acknowledged my appreciation with genuine pleasure, and, if my memory serves me, the 'Courier-Mail' also praised this notable work. But critical appreciation and public appre ciation are two different things. I am in a position to know that, despite my enthusiastic review, and frequent re ferences to the, poet and his work, the local booksellers, Messrs Munro and Co., M'ho obtained copies on my advice, were unable to sell even one copy. The critics appreciate the work, but the pub lic does not buy it. However, perhaps Rockhampton was not peculiar in this regard. Poetry, ex cept a certain amount of the work of a., established favourite like ' Banjo ' Paterson, is never a very good seller. And, excellent as Paterson's work is, by the way, of its own kind, it is no offence to ' Banjo '? to remark that his work and that of William Baylebridge can scarcely be mentioned in the same breath. Baylebridge is a poet in the fullest and the purest sense of the term; his sonnet sequence, as the late Mr H. A. Kellow was one of the 15 ret to recognise, can only be considered in a comparison which nlaces them in the
same, sphere as the Bonnets of Petrarch, of Spenser, of Sidney, and of Shakes peare. Baylebridge, by his poetical quality, is a man born out of his time; he is a giant among pigmies, and he cannot hope to achieve his due recogni tion today, because it i6 sacrilege, at least in literary circles, to compare a living. poet— and an Australian at that — to the greatest names in England's literary scroll. % ? ? « ? It requires the bombast of a Shaw to raise the query — 'Shaw or Shakes peare, which is the greater T ' — and to get away with the Shavian answer that of course, Shaw is the greater, ' because he stands on Shakespeare's shoulders.' But. our Mr Baylebridge is not of the Shavian type. Modest and retiring, he seems satisfied with the most meagre measure of appreciation. Fortunately, for him. and nerhans for Queensland as
well, he does not have to live by the profit of his pen; but it is unfair that his work should achieve so little appre ciation. Put in a few words the reason is that it is not popular — any more than Shakespeare's or Sidney's or Spen ser's eonnets are popular today. In those times, Baylebridge would have found his place; but today, even those who honour dead celcbreties have little time for living lions. Mr Bayiehridge must await the recognition that is bound to come to him from overseas, and we must hope that some of it, at least, ar rives while be is here and able to ap preciate it. ? ? ? ? 'All About Books,' also chronicles the good reception of M. Barnard, Elder shaw's latest book, ' The Glasshouse,' to which I referred last week, and of which I have not so far received a copy. Among the best-sellers for the month, it mentions the 'Life and Letters of John G-'sworthy,' which I have already recommended, and 'Senor Burky,' a rather imaginative account of ndven tures in South America and elsewhere. Of recent novels, ' Beany-Eye,' by David Garnett, and 'Fierce and Gentle,' by H. A. Mahood, are regarded as books of literary merit, while ' Silas Crockett,' by Mary Ellen Chase. 'Re- turn to Goolami,' by Eleanor Dark, and 'Woman Alive,' by Susan Ertz, lead the list of popular good novels. In lighter and more popular novels tre in cluded 'The A.B.C. Murders,' by Agatha Christie: 'And Berry Came Too,' by
Dornford Yates, 'These Were Thy Mer chants.' by Roy Bridges, and ' Ned of the Caribbees,' by Eden Philpott*. U is a long time since I read a new Phil potts. It is a Ion z time since I read a uew Philpotts book, and I shall look forward to seeing the last-mentioned *ith considerable pleasure. In detective stories I notice a pleasing tendency recently to raise the general standard. It is now generally recognised that a good thriller requires to con t; in something better than a good, mystery.
There must be adequately drawn charac ters, or proper attention to setting and background, or a leavening of humour, or some element that shall remove the stark elements of horror from the prominence which they enjoyed in the earliest thrillers. 'The . trick of mak ing crime into an idyll,' Mys one writer in ?' Alt About' Books,' 1s «t least as old a* 'The Beggar's Opera,* thit famous eighteenth century ballad opera which 'made Gay Rich and Rich ,G»y.' Never theless, in reference to ? thB modern vogue for crime stories, I find it quite a
pleasing convention. I am not one of those who, even if I do not like a mystery, and allow myself one thriller a week for recreational purposes, wants to bathe once a week in ' buckets of blood.' I would rather have my crimes worked out, like cross-word puzzles, if you like, in the lorm of an intellectual exercise, and therefore I look forward to reading 'Tortilla Flat,' reported to be the latest example of the successful exploitation of crime in an attractive setting. I shall report my opinion when I have read it.