Bush Poetry Writing Tips From Ellis Campbell

Ellis Campbell
Ellis Campbell

Ellis Campbell is extremely well known in bush poetry circles. His work is highly regarded and performed by many bush poets. This is effectively the ultimate tribute to any poet. Ellis has compiled the tips published here on writing bush poetry and are published here on the Bushverse pages with Ellis’ kind permission.

This is the spirit of bush poetry in action where a successful writer gives something back by sharing their knowledge.Ellis Campbell walked five kilometres each way to attend the little bush primary school of Tallawang, situated between Gulgong and Dunedoo, NSW, where one teacher tried to teach ten or twelve children in six different classes. Tallawang School closed when Ellis was 13 because an average daily attendance of nine pupils could not be maintained.

Ellis was the eldest of six in a very poor family and stayed in the bush to help his father cut railway sleepers while his mother shifted to Gulgong to get the younger members of the family a bit more education. He took up shearing at age 17 and followed this work for 33 years, working in shearing sheds in four states of Australia. In the off-season he did timber cutting, fencing, farm work, broke in horses and trapped rabbits.

Ellis always had an ambition to write but considered his lack of education too much handicap. He did write bits of funny poems to amuse the other shearers around the sheds but threw these away again. In 1981, when he was 54 years of age, he finally began writing seriously and entering literary competitions around Australia. He has now won 488 awards in literary competitions in all states of Australia, including 110 first prizes and 81 second.

His poem Wanda Jill is one of only five Australian poems (including Banjo Paterson’s Clancy Of The Overflow & Will Ogilvie’s The Pearl Of Them All) to be included in Cowboy Poetry – The Reunion published in Salt Lake City, USA, in 2004.

He was admitted to Degree of Writing Fellow by NSW Branch of Fellowship of Australian Writers in 1995 and was the first Australian poet to be offered Honorary Life Membership of Metverse Muse, worldwide poetry journal published in India, in 2000.

Some other highlights have been. Winning the written poetry (Silver Brumby) competition at Corryong, Vic. three years from four contested. Winning The Bronze Spur competition at Camooweal Qld, three years from six contested. Winning Henry Lawson Soc at Gulgong in 1985 from a field of 302 entries. Winning $1,000 first prize in the O’Mara’s High Country Original performance poetry competition at Stanthorpe, Qld, in 2002. He contested this competition four times for one first, two second & a third. Winning The Blackened Billy competition at Tamworth once, four times second, once third and twelve highly commended over fifteen years. Winning Robert Burns—Bush Poet? section in Sutton Forest competition with The Memory Burns—also $1,000 “poem of the festival” with the same poem (featured in this newsletter)

Ellis has performed his poetry live on Australia All Over three times and his poem Beach House Honeymoon is track 7 on the ABC CD Macca’s Sunday Best. His poems have been included in 88 anthologies, including USA, India and Guernsey, Channel Islands.

Ellis has self-published five books of verse and has sold right out of the first three. He currently has The Gloss Of Bush, 53 major award-winning poems and Shadows Of Yesteryear, 42 major award-winning poems. These sell at $12 each (including postage) and are available from Ellis Campbell, 1 Lawson St, Dubbo, NSW 2830