An Uncollected Poem by Kenneth Slessor
In his early years as a journalist Kenneth Slessor often played the role of court poet for his employers, producing light verse to order for the Sydney Sun and, later in the 1920s and into the '30s, Smith's Weekly. He seems to have taken a certain pride in the Smith's Weekly poems, garnering forty-one of them in the volume Darlinghurst Nights in 1933. Darlinghurst Nights was reprinted by Angus & Robertson in 1981, and proved sufficiently popular as a period piece to inspire a new collection of the Smith's poems under the title Backless Betty from Bondi in 1983, edited by Julian Croft. Nearly all of Slessor's light verse was originally written for mass consumption in newspapers and, despite the recycling of some pieces in Darlinghurst Nights, was clearly regarded by the poet as ephemeral. Though he later testified to the 'discipline and suppleness' that writing in such flashy, often elaborate, traditional forms helped him achieve ('Poetry in Australia: Kenneth Slessor', interview with John Thompson, Considerations 4), only one newspaper poem ever made it into a collection of his serious verse, and that was 'Wild Grapes', with its sonorous opening stanza.
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