Rod Williams, Bush Poetry

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Soldiers Point Show
Robin Sykes and myself at Soldiers Point Bowling Club

I'd known Roderick Williams for a number of years but never seen him perform.
I wanted to, because often when we met he would quote to me some lines of poetry, his own or someone else's, to illustrate a point. These quotations were always as striking for their delivery as much as for their content. They were tantalising glimpses of Rod the performing artist, the entertainer, the professional actor and I knew if I had a chance I wanted to see him perform in front of an audience.

And so when I heard that Rod was putting on a show at the Soldiers Point Bowling Club with his friend and fellow poet Robin Sykes over the June long weekend, my wife and I made the trip to see them perform.

We turned up unannounced and I think Rod was pleasantly surprised that we made the journey. Due to circumstances we didn't get a chance to say much more than "Hello," before the show and "Goodbye," afterwards.
Then, a few weeks later, he contacted me to ask if I fancied writing some kind of a review for him to put on his website, giving me complete freedom to write whatever I wanted.

So here it is.

I feel I must make it clear that this is not a review of the show I saw, which featured Robin Sykes and Roderick Williams. It is an account of the impression made on me by the performance of Roderick Williams.

Robin is an accomplished poet and performer in her own right, fully deserving of her many awards. She entertained and delighted the audience at Soldiers Point.
Her and Rod's performances complimented each other to provide a show that the audience would have been quite happy to see go on longer had the bowling club's scheduling permitted.
But having been asked by Rod to write something for him, I hope Robin takes no offence if I don't refer to her considerable contribution to the show.

Rod was an inspired performer.
He drew his inspiration from places, people and events he has experienced in his own life - the life of an itinerant shearer and bushman. And when he performed he relived these experiences from his own life and recreated them right there in front of us so that we experienced them too.

When reciting poetry he beguiled us with a strong, clear, expressively evocative voice that took us on a journey through Australia's outback and the Great Dividing Range. His love for these places was there for all to hear, as were the insights they have given him.

Between the poetry he treated us to tales of people he has known and incidents that have befallen him that he again brought to life for us and him.

Listening to the poems and yarns was a strong experience that left me feeling that I had felt something of what it must have been like to sweat in the shearing sheds on a hot and dusty Queensland station; camp out under the stars in a swag luxuriating in the company of the living landscape; wonder at the mysterious min-min lights or the sight of a myriad wild flowers blooming where usually there is only dry dust; revel in the mateship and camaraderie of companions indulging in various escapades.

This is the value of performers such as Roderick Williams.
Many of us live in cities or urban areas. And yet we have a national self image that draws strongly on a life spent in the outback. A life that some would argue doesn't exist any more except in the poems and stories of people like Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson.

But here was Rod who has lived that life and which he recreated for us. A way of life that is part of our folklore and history and which he placed so vividly in front of us through his powerful performance.

He put us in touch with part of our heritage again. And he did it in an extremely entertaining manner. There was lots of smiling and laughing by both us and him. He treated us like friends of his gathered around a camp fire.

All of Rod's poetry I heard as love poems.
The underlying passion in his performance was driven by his love of a way of life, the land and his mates (which includes his canine companions) and his desire to share this with us. To this end he successfully utilised his considerable vocal and performing talents with skill and to great effect.

Given the audience's reaction after the show I was obviously not the only person present to feel I had witnessed somebody and something very special.

I'll leave the last words to my wife, who had never heard or read any of Rod's poetry before. Shortly after leaving the bowling club she said to me, "If he's ever performing in the area again, get him to let you know. We'll go and see him again."

Will Cole