John Malone, Big Blue Mouth (johnlmalone at yahoo dot com dot au 2009)
Stephen Whiteside, The Paterson Parodies (self published 2009)
You know how US presidents retain the title of president until it’s prised from their cold stiff hands? Well, it’s not like that for magazine editors, but some of the perks of office do survive long after one loses the right to use the editorial ‘we’. One of these perks is free books. Mind you, in my days of wielding editorial power any free books were for the magazine, not for me personally, so maybe this is a perk of the afterlife. Both these little books arrived in my mail from poets who graced the pages of The School Magazine in my day.
By no means all the poems in Big Blue Mouth were previously published in the magazine, but the collection benefits from monochrome versions of the illustrations that accompanied some of them there – by Kerry Millard, Andrew Joyner, Noela Young and Tohby Riddle on the cover (every one of those links leads to delightful things) [Correction: The cover is not by Tohby but was put together by John Malone and the printer]. They’re mostly short poems from a young boy’s point of view, many featuring a grandfather who must surely resemble the poet himself. If you’ve found this page by googling John’s name, hoping to find a collection of his poems for yourself or a young fan, or if you’re a regular here and ditto, you can buy a copy direct from him – his email address is johnlmalone at yahoo dot com dot au (notice that his second initial is in that address). Stocks, I’m told, are limited.
As far as I know, none of the poems in Stephen Whiteside’s book have been previously published, though he has recited them at folk festivals and to other audiences – as you read them you feel a building pressure to give them voice: they’re meant for performance. This is bush verse, not specifically for children, but I imagine that anyone of whatever age who enjoys the ballads of Banjo Paterson will enjoy them. In ‘Clancy of the Undertow’, Clancy is a surfie; the eponymous Son of Mulga Bill has trouble riding a horse, and is at ease on a bicycle; the likewise eponymous Man from Ironbark wreaks revenge in kind on the dapper barber. ‘The True Story of the Man from Snowy River’ isn’t really a parody – it’s a piece of serious revisionism, but it scans as impeccably as the rest. You can buy this book from the BookPOD bookstore. You can find out how to get hold of a copy at http://www.abpa.org.au/bush_poetry_forum/viewtopic.php?t=591.
I do have one complaint about both books. It’s that the economics of publishing are such that the only way for them to see the light of day was through self-publication: single-author Australian collections of children’s poetry are rare as hen’s teeth. Because they are self-published, these boooks are unlikely to reach a four-figure audience. And that’s a shame.
If they were published by a small press would they be any more likely to gather a four figure audience? At least as self-published collections the authors keep complete creative control and most of the money! (If they do well, a mainstream publisher can always pick them up and put them on the list.) Well done, I say.
Paul: You’re right, probably not: n fact, these books will be doing well to crack sales in three figures. And I agree, well done to do it rather than bemoan the fact that no publisher will. But it’s still a shame that the great publishing, promotion and distribution machine that takes up, say, renowned symbologisticial author Dan Brown, doesn’t spend a couple of cents here.
The idea of Son of Mulga Bill reminded me of a young woman I saw asking all about a typewriter in an ‘antiques’ stall the other day: ‘how do you put the paper in? how do you write capital letters?’ – the man who ran the stall happily explaining it all: ‘and when you get to the end of a line, you have to push this lever and push the carriage all the way back to the start’ – with the thought bubbles almost visible above her head – ‘imagine having to do ALL THAT to get back to the start of the line’ and ‘how cool, it has a shift key, and a tab key just like a computer has’ – building her understanding of a typewriter by analogy from computers, just like we did in the opposite direction.
Jane: That’s very funny. You should turn out a bush ballad on the incident.
Single-author Australian collections of children’s poetry are rare as hen’s teeth, but I’m glad to note that multi-author volumes are less rare. Allen & Unwin’s anthology, Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids includes seven poems by Stephen Whiteside. Sadly, none by John Malone.