When I was younger, I spent ten days on a cattle station in central Queensland. There I rode my first horse, went fishing for the first time, experienced what it really means to be in the middle of nowhere and went on my first (and only) cattle drive. Reading Lorraine Marwood’s children’s poetry collection A Ute Picnic sent me straight back to the time I spent in Queensland.

The imagery in Marwood’s collection is refreshingly subtle. She does just enough, nothing more, and nothing less, to guide the reader towards the image she is trying to evoke. I found her shortest poems to be her most effective, in particular her poem ‘Oval Teeth’, which conjures up a complete picture in only one sentence. These poems are so Australian. The weather, the landscape, the hardships of living on the land, wildlife and livestock are all paid a  tribute in these poems.

Marwood also dedicates a poem to the horrific Black Saturday bushfires which swept through Victoria in early 2009. The poem strikingly encapsulates the horrific loss of that day, as well as peoples’ livelihoods being in the hand of the blustering wind and the direction it chose to blow. I think this is my favourite poem in the collection. It contrasts with some of the other poems which celebrate Australia’s hot, dry summers, as it illustrates the perils of living in such a climate.

Marwood’s poems use language which makes the poetry accessible to children, yet don’t think that this takes away from the complexity and meaning in each poem. If anything, I think the straightforward language adds an extra layer to each poem’s meaning.

A Ute Picnic is a wonderful celebration of Australia and life on the land. Lorraine Marwood’s poems offer the reader short insights into this unique country and way of life.

Published by Walker Books Australia, 2010

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