Stephen Whiteside is a bush poet, author and performer. In the early 1990s he began writing rhyming verse for children and was published in the New South Wales Schools Magazine. The ABC published some of the poems on audio-cassette of Australian stories and poems for children. His poems have received awards from the Grenfell Henry Lawson competition, the Nimbin Poetry Competition and the Bronze Swagman Competition. Whiteside is a GP in Melbourne.
I was born and raised in Melbourne. I have l lived here all my life. (Sounds like the first two lines of a poem, doesn’t it?)
When I was a little boy, my father read me the poetry of Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson. I loved their galloping rhythm, and their exciting stories of the Australian bush. Paterson was very much the extravert, painting his scenes in bright colours. Lawson was more quiet and reflective.
Although we lived in the city, my father took me with him on his fly-fishing expeditions to the Howqua River, and I came to know and love the bush.
One of my strongest memories is of driving back home down the Hume Highway to Melbourne at night-time together. I would lie with my head in his lap. (Not very safe, I know!) The branches of the gum trees would reach across the road from either side, casting flickering shadows across us both for hour after hour.
With Paterson and Lawson very much in my mind, I started writing rhyming verse myself. I felt I had a certain aptitude for it, and people enjoyed my poems.
Sometime in the early 1980s, as a young adult, I stumbled upon the genius of C. J. Dennis. He has been my principal guiding light ever since. I love the almost musical quality of his work, the word plays, the clever rhyming structures, the warmth of his writing, and the vivid characters he creates. Also, there seems to be no field of writing he is not prepared to have a go at, be it satire (The Glugs of Gosh) or writing for children (Book for Kids).
I started writing for children myself in 1990. It had always been in the back of my mind to do so, but it wasn’t until I was in my mid thirties that I had the confidence – and maturity, perhaps – to “give it a go”.
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