Monday, May 10, 2010

Laureate of the larrikan

Long after the clock struck 12 while tripping the Sydney Harbour night fantastic last week, my friend Angelina and I hopscotched our way along the Writers Walk at Circular Quay.
It's a personal ritual whenever I walk the Walk, that I never walk on any of the writers. I make sure I step carefully around them, out of respect. You know?
Anyway, there we were, just past A.D. Hope and James A. Michener, and a stone's throw from Mark Twain when, in my haste to get to Banjo Paterson I almost missed C.J. Dennis altogether. 
One of my childhood heroes, his Book for Kids, with its distinctly blue-ish spine and musty, dog-eared pages, still gets an airing by me a few times a year. The poems and vivid pictures in it are nothing less than awesome. (The Triantiwontigongolope - for example - a triumph of the imagination!) Dennis wrote poems for grown ups as well - Songs of a Sentimental Bloke is probably his most popular collection - but it's the rollicking kids rhymes I like best.
C.J. Dennis' plaque on the Writers Walk spruiks a quote from the man they called the Laureate of the larrikan:
It 'appened one day, I 'ad jist come down,
After long years, to look at Sydney town.
'An 'struth! Was I knocked endways? Fair su'prised?
I never dreamed! That arch that touched the skies!
The Bridge!...
       - I Dips Me Lid (1936)
Now if only some clever soul could translate C.J.Dennis' ingenious tales into a 3D animated film, a DS game or an iPhone app, perhaps the next generation of kids would come to know and love his genius too.

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