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The Australian Popular Songbook by Alan Wearne - Wollongong launch
The Australian Popular Songbook

review by Sian Gammie

If you hate poetry read this book. But isn’t it full of poems? Yes. And isn’t a lot of poetry really boring, ambiguous and full of bizarre adjectives written on paper stuck together by the poet’s own bodily fluids? Yes.
Alan Wearne’s latest collection, “The Australian Popular Songbook” has none of these qualities. It is funny, clever and interesting (unlike my word-choice). I love this book. It is fantastic and brilliant. It makes poetry fun instead of one big emo wank session.
Wearne has been described as “the master of the Australian vernacular,” and this collection really proves him to be deserving of this title. He writes the Australian voice more accurately than most people speak it.
I am particularly taken by “My Old Man’s a Groovy Old Man,” the story of a father dating someone half his age. I’m sure The Valentines would be amused to read the line, “Ok ‘lurv’. I kinda admire it, but I’d rather go dead/ than think my best friend could be giving my father…head?”
He’s the master of poetic forms such as the ballad and (my favourite) the villanelle, among others. His ability to come up with unthinkable rhymes makes tired poetic forms really enjoyable (and dare I say, inspiring?). Some of the best can be found in “Saturday Girl,” “Bourke Street On Saturday Night,” “A World Of Our Own,” and “Knox City: A Ballad.”
The poems boast hilarious characters whose Aussie names are often amongst their most amusing features and great Australian references. If you want to laugh at yourself have a scan through “Seventeen Illawarra Couplets,” or if you’re into rhythm pick up “Ciao Baby.”
Much of the subject matter really makes you want to know what Alan Wearne got up to as a young poet in Melbourne.
I’m going to start wearing a shirt saying “AW 4 PM.” Partly because I’d like it if the PM wore slippers and partly because the man’s a real clever son of a bitch.
He can't fly, but I'm telling you, he can write the pants off a kangaroo.
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