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Writing in Context. Bruce Dawe : Sometimes Gladness Interactive Revision. You will need a pen and paper to participate in this interactive revision. Do you remember when and where Bruce Dawe was born? Write it down.

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writing in context

Writing in Context

Bruce Dawe: Sometimes Gladness

Interactive Revision


Bruce Dawe, born in Geelong in 1930, is widely recognised as one of Australia’s greatest living poets.


Meditations on identity are key elements of Dawe’s poetry as are the lives of everyday people – their times of sadness or gladness.

dawe s poems
Dawe’s Poems
  • How many titles of Dawe’s poems can you remember from your studies?
  • Write down as many as you can.

No – I’m not going to write them all down because there are too many of them.

  • You will need to know at least 5 really well so that you can draw ideas from them.
identity belonging
Identity & Belonging
  • The idea of identity & belonging is both complex and problematic.
  • What do the concepts of “identity” and “belonging” mean to you?
  • Can you write a definition for each in your own words?
  • Try now.
identity belonging1
Identity & Belonging

Were your definitions anything like these?


Dawe’s poems show us various ways in which people attain an enduring sense of both identity and of belonging.


In addition to the daily trials faced on the journey of life, many people live with personal problems that prevent them growing into the people they would really like to be.

personal problems
Personal Problems

What are some of these personal problems that can affect our sense of identity and belonging?

List some in dot point form.

personal problems1
Personal Problems

Did you have any of these?

*Lack of friends *Disability

*Family breakdown *Poor hygiene

*Poor health *Looking “different”

*Lack of money *No “personality”

social groupings
Social Groupings
  • The social groupings of which we are a part – families, clubs, workplaces and the like – are usually an important part of our sense of self.
  • Such groups provide a connection to others.
social groupings1
Social Groupings

How many different social groups do you “belong” to?

List some in dot points.

social groupings2
Social Groupings

Did you identify any of these?

*Sporting club *Religious group

*Hobby club *Social club

*Book club *Educational group

*Workplace group *Entertainment group

*Carers group *Friendship group

social groupings3
Social Groupings
  • But many of Dawe’s poems also highlight ways in which people are marginalised from the mainstream of society.
  • Can you name some of these ways? Write them down.
social groupings4
Social Groupings

Here are some:

  • Homeless people
  • Mentally ill people
  • People with disabilities
  • People who don’t speak English
  • People who have poor hygiene
social groupings5
Social Groupings

There are other people who choose to define themselves in opposition to traditional social groups.

Can you name some?

Write them down.

social groupings6
Social Groupings

Here are some examples of people who purposely choose to “opt out” of mainstream society:

*Some religious groups, such as the Amish

*“Cults” that have their own societal expectations, such as giving up all of your money to the cult leaders

*Missionaries who choose to live a life of poverty amongst the people they are trying to help


A number of poems in Sometimes Gladness are about people who lack a strong sense of belonging. These poems raise questions that explore the complexity of life for those who are positioned outside of mainstream society and told that they do not belong or fit.


Some of Dawe’s poems demonstrate that sometimes people will take drastic measures to escape from the institutions to which they belong, and actively opt out of the sense of belonging they can provide.


Our sense of identity and of personal security can be strengthened by our ties to those we love.

  • Some of Dawe’s poems confirm that we can develop our sense of who we are by acknowledging that we are only one small part of a vast universe.

The early poem, ‘Enter Without So Much as Knocking’ and the popular ‘Life-cycle’ illustrate that our senses of identity and belonging can be given to us from birth. Each of these poems tells the story of a birth and of the life that follows it.


Many of Dawe’s poems are concerned with the lives of those who do not belong to the mainstream of society, but rather who are defined by their status as those on the margins, or outsiders, in various ways.


‘The Flashing of Badges’, ‘The Boy’, ‘Drifters’, ‘Cravensville’, ‘Migrants’ and ‘Exiles’, are linked by their focus on the complexities of life on the margins.


At the centre of ‘The Family Man’, ‘Up the Wall’ and ‘Reverie of a Swimmer’ are individuals who choose not to belong.


These characters are unhappy in the environments where they live and sometimes express this unhappiness through dangerous or self-destructive behaviour.


These poems suggest that it is very easy for an individual’s sense of inner security and peace to be undermined.


A sense of identity and personal security can be strongly intertwined with our intimate ties with loved ones. We can be diminished by the absence of our loved ones, and sometimes we will take risks in order to be with them.


These complexities are evident in the poems, ‘Suburban Lovers’, ‘With You Not by Me’, ‘Cloth’ and ‘City Lovers’.

writing in context sample topics
Writing in Context: Sample topics
  • The following topics are similar to those that students will draw on for ideas arising from their reading of Sometimes Gladness.
  • Written responses may be expository, persuasive or imaginative.

1 ‘We cannot achieve a strong sense of identity unless we also have a strong sense of belonging to something other than ourselves.’

  • 2 ‘Life changes constantly – to survive we need to change with it.’

3 ‘Sometimes we need to compromise to fit into our different environments.’

  • 4 ‘Sometimes our sense of identity is stifled by the groups to which we belong.’
  • 5 ‘We need to examine ourselves closely in order to really understand who we are and who we can become.’