No Time to Waste. "Poems for America" by David Rowbotham. [review]
David Rowbotham is a Queensland poet whose first book was published nearly fifty years ago. His career has a shape that is often found in the arts: a quiet figure whose work is politely rather than rhapsodically received, and whose reputation grows almost by a process of attrition until, eventually, he is one of the few of his contemporaries left standing. It often comes about that a consistent, undemonstrative style, adhered to religiously, itself becomes an important statement, to be rediscovered by a new generation of contemporaries. But this is not quite what has happened in Rowbotham's case, because his books have changed continuously. He began writing as a young man, returned from the war, discovering for the first time the place in which he had grown up: "Ploughman and Poet" (1954) may be "Bulletin" in style, but it is a complex book, and the central oppositions between city and Darling Downs, between manual labour and poetry, remain compelling. Rowbotham's poems have always been more complex than his reputation suggests. It would be a tragedy if readers allowed themselves to be repelled rather than challenged by the difficulties of the poems in this important book.