In 1928 the Sydney publishers Angus and Robertson received an enquiry letter and sample poem from a Mr F. C. Meyers of Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. To say they were not impressed is something of an under-statement.
Now you might imagine that Mr Meyer would have given up and never written another line after receiving this awful response. But no, we literary folk of the Blue Mountains are resilient, and have confidence in our own worth. Undaunted, he simply published the book of poems himself the following year.
It was not until December 29 1935 that a review appeared in the Sydney newspaper The Sun. Perhaps Mr Meyer sent it to the editor in a bid to increase flagging sales. Whether he understood that the piece was written decidedly tongue-in-cheek I have no idea. It was published under the heading, “Native Woodnotes”.
PEARLS BEFORE SWINE?
Mr F. C. Meyer, a Katoomba poet, holds that the Muse, like charity, should stay at home, and publishes a book of “Pearls of the Blue Mountains”, in which sometimes in correct rhyme and metre, he discovers the beauties of the local guide books. His poem beginning;
Leura and Katoomba bathers,
Possess two pools for men and women.
deserves to be widely known by visitors seeking such information on a hot summer day; and the;
Maidenhair fern far and nigh, whistling, singing, shouting and crying to the stream of Fairy Dell, is apt to be missed on a cursory visit to this resort. Nor is there any suggestion of ‘Lasciate ogno speranza’ (Abandon all hope ye who enter) to this singer to the portals of Jenolan. It is reassuring to visitors to learn that,
Excursions to the Lucas Cave,
Are beautiful and rather safe.
Dear, me, not a lot of rhyme on show. The review did end on a positive note…… of a kind. ‘Above all, there is not a word in the whole book to which the most pure-minded can take exception.’
Not content with enshrining the Blue Mountains in literary posterity, Frederick went on to publish volumes of verse on Tasmania and New Zealand. The New Zealand volume contained a poem titled Maori Maiden, which included the lines,
I think I understand thee well,
Rub my nose now for a spell.
Well, it rhymed!
The New Zealand poems came to notice in 2001, when poor Frederick’s work was included in a bad poetry competition. He didn’t win, so there must have been some dire verse on offer.
I will never complain about a rejection letter again. As for reviews, well all I ask is that they are factually correct. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Her is the story of an American academic’s review of my book, The Water Doctor’s Daughters.
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