Greg North – Man of Many Hats
CD review by Tony Smith
TN673-D – $25 Published in TN152 November 2022
Greg North was Australian Bush Poetry Champion in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
It is easy to understand why.
In this DVD, running 133 minutes, North explains that ‘Bush poetry’s not just all cattle and stew/ or rounding up brumbies or sheep/ It’s poems that rhyme about Aussies like you/ it’s fun and you won’t fall asleep’.
He also confesses ‘This is bush poetry.
‘Ev’rything rhymes/ you don’t have to think very hard’.
Special guests, Pat Drummond ‘The Sao Song’ and ‘If I Die Before Keith Richards’, and Frank Daniel, ‘Why Doherty Died’ (by Thomas E. Spencer), add variety to the performance.
While at folk festivals, some of the hardiest people and earliest risers flock to ‘Poets’ Breakfasts’.
Many Australians are ambivalent about the style of bush poetry.
Whether it is essentially the national idiom or an historical throwback to a less mature time dominated by the Ocker is fiercely debated.
During the Covid lockdowns of recent years, more parodies must have been written using Banjo Paterson’s ‘The Man from Snowy River’ than any other poem or song.
North himself has a segment called ‘The Man from Snowy River (In 14 Accents)’.
Yarns in prose, or recitations include ‘Killer’, ‘What’s In A Name’ and ‘The History of the Blue Mountains’.
His ‘Gundungurra Man’ is a serious tribute to the Indigenous peoples of the Mountains.
Images from Brad Bridger’s video production add poignancy to this segment.
A very responsive and appreciative audience of mature years in Medlow Bath laughed themselves hoarse at North’s wit.
There is no doubt that the Man of Many Hats displays a keen sense of humour in this performance which might be described as a stand up comedy routine.
North has clear diction, a great control of language – demonstrated clearly in ‘What’s In A Name? – and is very good at timing his punch lines.
Greg North has done his best to make us fond of bush poetry.
His demeanour is always pleasant and his mischievous grin is infectious, but he occasionally risks causing offence as he does his various accents.
He flirts with racial stereotypes for example in ‘Call Centre’ and he dresses as an elderly woman in his complaint about ‘Young People’.
Nor will his attempts to camp it up in a pink feather boa win many admirers.
I suppose that the traditions of bush poetry are iconoclastic and irreverent, so it is a matter of judgment where the line is drawn between ‘laughing with’ and ‘laughing at’.
Greg North is a creative writer, modernising the subjects of ‘bush’ poetry to include topics such as ‘The Tradesman’, ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Our Touch Football Day’.
Given that he works clearly within the parameters laid down by the genre, his recitations are among the best available.