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Gary Wright’s Boat

Gary Wright's Boat

In Year 10 English 2023, students studied the features of a particular poet’s voice – aspects of construction that give their poetry a distinct personality. They then attempted to reproduce that poet’s voice in a poem of their own construction.

Felix was particularly successful in replicating Banjo Paterson’s highly recognisable rhythm, tone, diction, and structure in his homage to the famous ballad, “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle”.

T’was Gary Wright, from Albury, who thought that he could row;
“A barrel of the finest beer!” he boasted he could tow;
“Anything that sinks or floats, a hundred pounds or more!”
He claimed that he could pull upstream with just his mighty oar.

When he was but a youthful lad he won a race, in fact
He won with nought but his strong oar in his kid-sized kayak;
Or so he thought, when he would boast about his feats of strength
He didn’t know the current backed him all the river’s length!

And halfway down the children’s race his kayak flipped him over;
But youngsters think they can’t be harmed, and he lost no composure:
Just by sheer luck he flipped back up, and not a hair was hurt!
The crowd went wild and cheered his name to see his tumble turn.
They all said rowing surely was his natural career;
But his ego only grew when these words reached his ear!

He thought he was a natural, a man that’s born to row;
(For young blokes up in Albury are usually quite slow)
He didn’t see the stroke of luck he had that former day;
Only his own rowing skill: he had been led astray!

And so one night when he was up way past the time for bed
He gloated to the public house (the drink got to his head)
“A thousand men in one long boat, there’s nothing they could do!
For back at home in Albury they called me ‘King Canoe’!”
And so, a slightly tipsy man, he made a brainless bet:
He’d brave the dreaded rapids, and he wouldn’t break a sweat!

He took his kayak and his oar (though both were far too small)
And to the shock of onlookers, he had no fear at all!
He got into the tiny boat (albeit slightly slow)
And everyone soon stopped and stared as he began to row!

The current quickly took him, and he realised his mistake;
But he was halfway ‘cross the stream, he realised far too late!
He shot toward the churning foam, a bullet from a gun;
And people watching from the edge had soon began to run
He hit the rapids like a gumnut tossed into a stream;

You couldn’t hear the water’s roar above his high-pitched scream
The mighty rapids tossed about his teeny-tiny boat,
It spun him round and round and round, he barely stayed afloat!

And no-one saw the large, smooth rock that slightly shaped the flow:
The water flew up in an arc, and back down would it go;
The puny kayak struck the rock, and upwards did it soar,
Until it landed with a crash upon the river’s shore.

T’was Gary Wright, from Albury, that came to in a daze;
He let out an almighty groan, his head did slowly raise,
The crowd looked on in silence born of seeing him alive;
for not a single one of them had thought he would survive!
They saw it as a stunning feat of rowing skill and might:
And cries went up all through the town: “Three cheers for Gary Wright!”

Gary Wright's Boat
Author’s commentary

In this recreation of Banjo Patterson’s “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle”, I kept the same storyline and character – a boastful man actually attempting the amazing feasts he claimed he was an expert at, and failing miserably, much to the amusement of onlookers and readers. I attempted to keep the same rhyming style (iambic heptameter – I think), beat and stanza length/structure. I wasn’t able to recreate the iconic “Aussie campfire story” words and feel to as much of the extent as Patterson, nor his extensive use of semicolons, but I have used them more than I do usually.

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