David Rowbotham (1924 - )
‘In bleak Toowoomba gardens, swept of flowers, By cold west winds and withering with drought, The wattles’ grey-green leaves show burnishing Of buds a-burgeoning to radiant bloom; And in a few brief days the largesse of gold For every hand to gather, will be thrown Into the chilly lap of winter days. ‘Wattle Blossom’ Margaret Curran
David Rowbotham was born into a family of boot makers in Toowoomba on 27 August 1924. He attended Toowoomba Grammar School, worked as a clerk in the Toowoomba foundry, won a teacher's scholarship which took him to Brisbane, and then taught in western Queensland.
These silky-oaks he built his first defence
Against a wilderness, and deigned to stay;
Mastered his span of earth in a way and rode
The hills till the land gave up its secrets, harshly,
And the farm was won.
'Old Peter,' David Rowbotham.
He served as a wireless operator in the RAAF during the war and then spent some time working on the land. He studied at the University of Queensland where he won the Ford Memorial Medal for poetry and later at Sydney University where he picked up the Henry Lawson prize for poetry.
Dogs thrive, and boyhood's school needs painted rooms,
And small-town culture fashionably booms
When tenors or pianists challenge provincial ways
And step from Progress into stand-still days.
Oh, somebody keep this hometown not unchanging
But ever memorable, that when the heart is ranging
Beyond its citizenship and the old-pensioners,
The droll and the dear may make eminent the years.
'Hometown,' David Rowbotham.
After a trip to Europe in 1951 he returned to Toowoomba and a journalists position on the Toowoomba Chronicle. From 1955-64 he worked for Brisbane's Courier Mail and then accepted a senior tutor's position in English at the University of Queensland. Later he returned to the Courier Mail to become its inaugural arts and literary editor. He is an AM in the order of Australia and continues to live and write in Brisbane.
Your subtle veins of soft creeks lisp and beat
Under the exile's dream, and your ripe wheat,
As golden as a fable, quivers in blades
Of light in the white appraisal of the clouds.
'For the Darling Downs,' David Rowbotham.
Rowbotham's poetry appeared in newspapers from the mid 1940s and in the early 1950s Douglas Stewart published his work in the Red Page of the Bulletin. The poet's verse was also represented in Angus and Robertson's Australian Poetry (1953), George Mackaness' Poets of Australia and several Jindiworobak anthologies.
I shall never set soft magic
In my moment, like this wife.
From the farmland cup she gave me
I drank all time and life.
'The Farmer's Wife,' David Rowbotham.
His first collection appeared as Ploughman and Poet in 1954 and many subsequent collections followed including Inland (1958), All the Room (1964), Bungalow and Hurricane (1967), The Makers of the Ark (1970), The Pen of Feathers (1971), Selected Poems (1975), Maydays (1980), The Ebony Gates (1996) and Poems for America (2002). He also published a collection of sketches and short stories Town and City (1956) and a novel The Man in the Jungle (1964).
I'd like to have a Tabletop,
a Tabletop of words,
and be remembered for what I built,
for how I climbed and how
I was buried there to be found one day.
To be found by picknickers would do.
'When I Returned, Never having Left,' David Rowbotham.
Around his feet the chips of leather fall
and tumble like the crumbs he throws to wag-tails, sparrows
and pardalotes in spring, when 'week-end' means
a closed shop, an open heart, and the songs
of a valley miles away by a zig zag track
but a wing by a thought of love …
'The Bird Lover: In My father's shop in the 1930s,' David Rowbotham
Nicholas Birns, 'To Invest with Surprise: A Visit with David Rowbotham,' Antipodes 16.2 (2002): 177-81.
John Strugnell, David Rowbotham: Artists in Queensland, St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1969.
David Rowbotham's home page: http://www.qct.com.au/rowbotham/
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