The Reason For The Rhyme ~ Yarns And Reveries
Foreword by Kathryn Coughran
I am privileged to have known Don Norrie for the best part of a quarter of a century, and honoured to introduce you to him and his poetry.
Don was a very social person. He was a great story-teller, who loved making people laugh with his tales of bush life and other amusing encounters. He knew how to work a crowd and would readily turn a joke on himself.
Early in 2008, I witnessed the birth of the poet, Don Norrie, when he emerged from a short hospital stay with a handful of what he called ‘little ditties’. He said boredom led him to write them; but I think there was always a bard lurking within, who burst forth when he was laid up and free from the distractions of farm life.
Even in those first poems, Don’s voice was taking shape. His sense of humour shone in Joe Blake, a tale of a practical joke between cousins which starred a stick impersonating a snake, and in Surprise when he relayed the comical side of a hospital mishap. The bush boy revealed himself when he wrote of our unique birds and animals in pieces like Echidna, Willie Wagtail, The Wilful Wombat, and Magpie which tells of a bird stealing a dog’s food.
During the following seven years, those initial offerings grew into a collection of the thirty-six poems presented here. Many of these were inspired by Don’s personal experience – for instance, his fishing poems came from the period when he enjoyed many fishing expeditions with a mate from The Blue Mountains, Worn Out tells of a gun given by a country gentleman to Don’s father to restore, and we can all guess who the Bush Mechanic might have been. The Chimney sits on Toole’s land at Burraga and the Japanese maple that was cut down in Green Thumbs was in Springwood.
Other poems simply evolved as a result of Don’s love of the bush and his keen observation of, and interaction with, people.
Anyone ambling through these pages, will find themselves immersed in the spirit of the bush. Country folk will identify with the stories told through Don’s poems and laugh in recognition, and city-dwellers who have never lived in the bush or perhaps not even visited it will find them hilarious, even if a little bewildering at times. This is the character of Australia, set by the pioneers who forged the harsh terrain, survived the challenges against all odds, and handed down the resulting traditions to generations of bush-folk.
This is also our nation’s face to the world; an amazing feat, given that most Australians don’t live in the bush but hug the coastal fringes.
Don has captured this essence of us and, at the same time, revealed himself to be a humble and decent man, with deep sensitivity for the battler and a strong sense of justice which made him prone to going in to bat for the underdog. He was a driving force behind the partition to keep the church in the community of Black Springs operational. The Little Tin Church shows his depth of feeling for the preservation of the history of this unique building.
Don Norrie was a man of principles. He didn’t allow anything to get the better of him. He was a faithful and loyal friend, who did anything he could to help anyone he knew – many would testify to this.
Don was a loving husband, and although he either exaggerated or made-up situations to embellish his poems which may leave some thinking he was both hen-pecked and chauvinistic, nothing could be further from the truth. His poem, My Love, puts this in perspective for anyone who may have doubts.
Though his writing life was far too short, Don’s work has gained places in competitions across his local region. His most prized award was First Place in the Novice Section of the 2014 Mudgee Valley Writers’ Competition. A gold plaque which recognises this achievement is proudly displayed in the Norrie household.
The Don I knew would want to share his tales with you and be the one to make you laugh; so meander through these pages and relax into the words, the stories, and the richness of poet Don Norrie.