To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Morning Becomes Electric

The South Coast Writers Centre's Poetry Appreciation Group looked at the poetry of Bruce Dawe in our meeting this month. One of the poems that we read and discussed was his 'Morning Becomes Electric'.

The imagery within this poem is amazing and at first appears quite eclectic.

The poem includes metaphors of nature and the hustle of morning traffic, beginning:
Another day
roars up at you out of the east
in an expressway of birds gargling their first
antiseptic song, where clouds are
bumper-to-bumper all the way back to the horizon.
As well as the similes of traffic and nature there is an image of car fumes reminding the speaker of the smell of a friend being cremated. This image made many in our group feel slightly uncomfortable and led to a lengthy discussion about the appropriateness of the image within the context of this poem. The lines that I am referring to run as follows:
the odour of stalled vehicles
wickedly pleasant like an old burning friend,
still whispering to you from the incinerator.
The poem then ends with images of the home, of preparing breakfast and opening the door to door-to-door salesmen:
...its armies, its smoke, its door-to-door salesmen,
... giving you an argument of sorts
before you have even assembled your priorities,
properly unrolled your magic toast
or stepped into the wide eyes of your egg.
For me, this poem is exploring a few things: firstly, and most obviously, the repetitiveness and predictiveness of the everyday; as well as, change and adjustment.

The first of these I don't believe needs any further explanation, the lines from the poem above clearly illustrate the humdrum nature of the everyday that Dawe's has captured.

As for my assertion that the poem is exploring change and adjustment, I feel that Dawe is drawing out the changes that we experience within the everyday. I say 'we' because Dawe addresses "you" or us as readers throughout the poem. That change may be gradual, for example where there was once herds of cattle meandering between fields there may now be a busy road, where during peak hour, cars "bank-up". As the physical landscape changes so to do we, as living organisms. The adjustment or acceptance of the loss of a friend can also be gradual, as we are reminded of a passed friend in the "odour of stalled vehicles".

This poem is satirical, as are many of Dawe's poems, the comments on change and the lack of control that we have over the everyday that can be found within the poem include an element of shock value, as well as a questioning of if and why we would want to have such a tight control over the everyday. The traffic scene of the first two stanzas is crowded and we are all just hanging on, with the gulls, waiting for something newsworthy to occur. Even as we are pulled back into the house in the third stanza, we are still holding on for something more exciting than the 'everdayness' of the door-to-door salesmen. The magic realism of the last two lines, where we are 'unrolling' our toast and 'stepping into' our eggs, is a final illustration of the ridiculousness of the everyday.

To purchase this Bruce Dawe's collection Sometimes Gladness, which this poem can be found in, click here or here. Copies of Sometimes Gladness can also be found cheap at second hand stores.


  1. G'day Rhiannon,

    Good to see you mentioning Bruce Dawe on your blog. I once read that 'Sometimes Gladness' is the biggest selling Aussie poetry collection of all time. Dawe still sells collections well. I used to teach Year 11/12 kids his poems back in the late 90s, when I was at Oakhill College in Castle Hill.

    Hoping all is well,


    1. Hi Lorne,

      It was a treat reading Dawe's poetry with the poetry appreciation group that I am involved with!

      Sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your comment here. I am doing my dip ed this year, so I have little time... but I am really enjoying it! I am designing a poetry unit for year 9 English right now. I'll have to share some of my resources on here after it is marked.

      Hope you are well also.