Champion poet to pen bicentenary ode

Champion bush poet Gregory North will write a poem for the Blue Mountains Bicentenary Crossing 2013-2015. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Champion bush poet Gregory North will write a poem for the Blue Mountains Bicentenary Crossing 2013-2015. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill

Linden bush poet Gregory North has been commissioned to pen a commemorate ode to mark the first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains.

The poem will be recorded and performed during events throughout the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013 to 2015.

Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “The crossing of the Blue Mountains is such an iconic piece of local and national history that it deserves its own piece of poetry to commemorate the bicentenary.

“There is no better talent than the Blue Mountains’ very own champion bush poet Gregory North, who has already encapsulated many times through poetry the essence of what it is to be Australian, this magnificent World Heritage landscape and the wonderful characters who have formed the community in which we now all live.

“Being a local, Gregory is ideally placed to create such a piece with the sensitivity, warmth and wit that such an occasion calls for.’’

The Bicentenary Crossings Celebrations will involve a three-year program of events to commemorate and celebrate the first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains by colonial explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth in 1813.

Led by Blue Mountains City Council, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism, and Businesses Supporting Bicentenary the mammoth project will involve Penrith, Hawkesbury, Bathurst and Lithgow councils and their local tourism organisations, Central NSW Tourism and numerous community groups.

Among the highlights will be Australia’s largest ever flyover with more than 200 aircraft and an authentic 21-day Blue Mountains Blue Wave re-enactment of the crossing event in May.

North said trawling through the annuls of history had provided rich pickings for countless priceless anecdotes to inspire and weave into his poem.

Champion bush poet Gregory North will write a poem for the Blue Mountains Bicentenary Crossing 2013-2015. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Champion bush poet Gregory North will write a poem for the Blue Mountains Bicentenary Crossing 2013-2015. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

He cited the amusing tale of a Mr Patterson who tried to cross the Blue Mountains in a boat; botanist Sir Joseph Banks’ quote about explorer George Caley: “If Caley had been born a gentleman he would have been killed long ago in a duel’’; and first mountains crossing explorer Lieutenant William Dawes who counted the number of steps and converted them to distance.

North was a relatively late poetic beginner.

He started out as a mechanical draftsman, worked in the printing industry and was a guide at Jenolan Caves. He was a coach driver, drove trucks and taxis and worked for a computer recycling company.

But he didn’t know any poetry.

Then in 2003, he visited the Parakeet Poets group in Katoomba and heard the likes of local poets Milton Taylor, Terry Regan and Brian Bell perform.

He was hooked.

“It was appealing because it was such an Aussie thing to do and it was in front of people entertaining them,’’ North said.

“I enjoy entertaining people and hearing people laugh, and being the centre of attention helps too – showing off a bit.

“When I write a poem I don’t wonder how people are going to think of it intellectually, I wonder how it’s going to go in front of an audience. Will people enjoy the recitation of this poem? Will they laugh in this part or that?

“Of course it can be serious at times, and I have written serious poems but most of mine are humorous ones.’’

Although he also spins a yarn, North only writes and performs one form of verse – bush poetry which, by the way, is not always about the bush.

The genre is verse with rhyme and rhythm about Australia or Australians or the Australian way of life.

Champion bush poet Gregory North. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Champion bush poet Gregory North. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

One of the fortunate few who has managed to eke a living by performing poetry, North has won several awards and competitions since his first performance in 2003, most prestigiously the male Bush Poetry Champion of Australia in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and the Gippsland Wattle Bush Poetry Award. He has competed four times in the National Poetry Slam and is a regular at many bush poetry events.

Renowned for his quirky humour and bent for accents, he literally “lives’’ each character whether it’s the little boy at the footy match, the complaining granny or the suburban dude in his fully sick ute.

North has made several recordings including the Gregory North should Stick It DVD featuring his incredible adventures with sticky tape and his famous renditions of Banjo Paterson’s The Man From Snowy River in 15 accents. He also presented the Blue Mountains Community Radio program Bush Verse, Comedy & Worse for seven years until April 2011.

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