A Guide To Doggerel For Billionaires


If there is one thing that the Australian people love, it is a secretive multi-billionaire.

And if that secretive multi-billionaire writes poetry, that’s just gravy — a recipe for the utter adoration of the Australian public. So it’s no wonder that the people of this wide metallic land have taken ultra-wealthy dead-father-owner Gina Rinehart to their larrikinish bosoms, blessed as she is by those twin virtues of unfathomably whopping dollops of cash and a sensitive literary temperament. She’s like Rupert Murdoch crossed with Peter Carey — the ultimate patriot.

I was unaware that Gina Rinehart’s talent for being born into a family that owned mines was combined with a talent for heart-rendingly beautiful verse until recently, when I read this story about a boulder that has been installed in Perth (West Australians are not ones for pussyfooting about with arty farty sculpture — when they want a monument, they just slap up a boulder) which bears upon it the now-seminal poem "Our Future", written by Ms Rinehart herself.

"Our Future" is a poem about our future, and how it depends on letting miners get on with things without being bothered by governments or taxes or magic wands, and how we can’t let our future be stymied by people who hate immigrants and want people in the third world to have no steel.

Now, this is a very important message, and the start of a very important movement in the world of poetry. Finally we who care about the future of poetry can sweep aside the hidebound attitudes of those fusty old men sitting in their leather armchairs smoking cognac and masturbating over Kenneth Slessor.

The Romantics, the classicists, the modernists and postmodernists have all had their time: it is time for lovers of poetry everywhere to embrace Ms Rinehart’s new poetic paradigm: Magnate Verse. A mode of poetry for a new millennium, that celebrates wealth and resource exploitation, and dismisses woolly headed notions of social justice or romantic love in favour of a strong, muscularly unambiguous message: GIVE US ALL YOUR MONEY NOW YOU LAZY BITCHES OR … sorry, I didn’t mean to lapse into blank verse myself. My point is, Gina’s style of poetry is the future, if the poem industry is to regain its former glory.

But yes, there is a problem, and no doubt you have already identified it: Gina’s poetry is terrible. It’s really, really terrible. It’s like the poetry you were forced to study in school, except it’s much much worse. It’s like the poetic equivalent of botulism.

In writing this poem, Gina Rinehart has performed an act akin to giving birth to Satan. It’s so bad that if you read it out loud to children, they will cry, and possibly burst into flame. Over 60 per cent of people who have read Gina Rinehart’s poem developed advanced tumours within a week.

So what can we do, faced with a vital artistic message yearning for freedom while its sole current practitioner possesses less artistic talent than a headless lobster? Luckily, just like when Matthew Newton was looking for a way back into our hearts, I am here to help.

I happen to be an accomplished and critically acclaimed poet myself. As a former finalist in Poetry Idol, and a man whose work was described by none other than Oodgeroo Noonuccal as "What?" I feel that I am well qualified to take on a sort of mentor role to Gina and help her add the polish that will make her poetry soar.

First of all, she has to stop rhyming. Rhyming is terribly old-fashioned and frowned upon by all today’s respected poets and others who wear op-shop clothes. When you write a poem that rhymes, you might as well be stapling a big sign to your face saying, "I AM A MOUTH-BREATHING HILLBILLY". You will never be invited to elite poetry readings in smelly little bars in front of four people with that sort of guff. Not rhyming shows that you are on a higher plan of literary function. For example, instead of writing:

"The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife
And billions now are pleading to enjoy a better life"

Gina could have written:

"The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife
Like the silent cry of my heart, the day I woke with your scent on my skin and the bitter memory lying, comatose, in the body-groove you left in my sheets
Like the dying gasp of the lonely mule of heaven"

That sort of thing would have garnered much greater plaudits, and possibly an Australia Council grant. Not that Gina technically needs an Australia Council grant; but you’re nobody in poetry until you have one, and I know that Gina craves the sort of professional cachet it would bestow.

Next, she’s got to be a bit less blunt. I mean, yes, we all love the free market, we’re all in favour of special economic zones, and we all sympathise with the billions whose hope lies with resources deep within the earth — it keeps me up long into the night. But if you want to be a real Pam Ayres-level wordsmith, you can’t just blurt it out like an emu regurgitating a lizard. You need to use subtlety, metaphor, and symbolism to make your message resonate. So instead of writing:

"Develop North Australia, embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores
To benefit from the export of our minerals and ores"

She could have written:

"Build high those towers of Mammon, O great flamingo of death
As Osiris creeps closer, the rumble of his bowels shaking this paper earth
The seas call out for love, for mercy, and plead without cessation
Bring us close, keep us safe in the galley of this diamond sloop"

And so you see how a simplistic plea for governments to stop being mean to heiresses becomes a darkly magical piece of incomprehensible poetic art. We are so busy wondering at the majesty of the verse’s construction, we don’t even realise our views are imperceptibly shifting in the mining industry’s favour. By the time we’ve realised, it’s too late: poetry has won the day and Wayne Swan is doomed.

But look, I’m not trying to write the poem for Gina. These are just examples of how she could improve things. There are loads of other techniques: oblique references to Wuthering Heights; gratuitous bits about genitals; when reading aloud, saying the word "fuck" slightly louder than the rest of the sentence; but they all have to be bent to the service of Gina’s vision, and the Gina’s unique style.

I don’t want to crush Gina’s style, I want to enhance it, and I think if she gives me the chance, I can. I can turn her doggerel into the inspirational call to arms that it should be. So consider this an offer, a request, and a job application: Gina, let me help you. Let me help you free us from the yoke of socialism and transform our economy through the awesome power of poetry.

Let me turn your "Hey dickheads, giz some money for these here rocks" into an elegant "The musk of hypocrisy floated in the air like the fog on the dawn streets of Chicago/the last time I saw my Esmerelda turn her back/on the sanctuary of love". Let’s get this message across, and let’s get it across right.

With a bit of conscientiousness and determination, we can turn iron ore and iambic pentameter into the unstoppable two-headed juggernaut it was always meant to be. Dip your quills, miners of Australia — let’s make history.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.