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Bruce Dawe:       homo suburbensis


This is a snapshot of an ordinary little bloke caught dreaming? worshipping? in his little patch of garden in his back yard surrounded by his prodigious vegetables who attempt to speak to compensate for his reticence. He appears “lost” in his thoughts. 

The poem is dedicated to Craig McGregor, a long time journalist who celebrated the typical little Aussie Battler – the dinky-di, the Ocker, the ordinary bloke or quintessential Australian character.   Usually down to earth, unpretentious, natural and unaffected, the portraits paid tribute to a form of stoicism and acceptance of life without breast-beating or complaint.  Politicians often appeal to them to indicate how they are in touch with the common man.


Mixture of soft and harsh sounds;

soft — easement

harsh - hoarse rasping tendrils, - rampant, whips

onomatopoeic; clatter, whisper of traffic...


 time, pain, love, hate, age, war, death, laughter, fever.


 Dreams - reflections, nostalgic remenisciences, lost - detached disconnected

 images appealing to:

Sight          (visual) - isolated man - his vegetables

Smell          (olfactory)  - tomato vines, — smoke of somebody’s rubbish.

Sound         (auditory) - hoarse rasping tendrils, clatter of dish, dog, a far whisper of traffic

 Contrast:   expression of garden                           - taciturnity of man

Smoke not of sacrifice                         - somebody’s rubbish.

green confusion - fertility & hope         - despair.

Structure: A quasi Sonnet - 14 lines;

7 line Octave describing his physical situation and a

7 line sextet detailing his spiritual condition.


Title: Latin scientific terminology of extinct evolving species progressing from homo sapiens, to homo erectus, to homo suburbensis - yet constant in a world of variables.  Lends a gravitas  or an uncertain significance to his stature.  It could be seen as mocking.

Connotations: “down . .there” - basic, primal or elemental?

Constant is a positive comment, he is alone with his thoughts, static and unchanging, with the connotation of reliability, while the world outside continues changing.   Constancy was considered a virtue by Medieval poets. 

“hoarse rasping tendrils” expressive

“poising rampant” clashing ideas? rather aggressive, - significant in heraldry, where heraldic animals pose rampant on shields. Suggests the way the vines are curled back on themselves - strong, proud, and potentially dangerous.

lost in a green confusion”  regenerative power of nature. offering” biblical resonances including a parallel to the Garden of Eden.


Double Meaning:


- Australian technical term for right of way over others

- relaxation  property.

-  relief from pain or burden.

          “all the things he takes down with him:

While literally this could be his spade, hoe, implements…  it is more likely his day to day problems, his fears, aspirations…..

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