With the Youngsters: Group Sestinas & Group Villanelles

Edited by Alan Wearne

Grand Parades Poets, Melbourne 2017

Publisher: From near two decades, with well over 450 personnel employed in their making, these group efforts are maddeningly memorable examples of what collective brain power can do when it bends the rules, and let’s face it plenty of today’s poetry could do with a solid amount of rule bending. Name the muse and she was doubtless invoked.


‘Why didn’t we know this would be the future: the disciplined anarchy of poetry at its most democratic, everything James McAuley feared and Ern Malley worshipped.’

Timothy Kline

‘Expose them to a world of smut
Then they learn – kick butt!
These young they know
That, as they reap, they sew –
Grunge with wit shows
Such great promise
(it’s even better than Dylan Thomas)
But ah! This makes old Billy sick
Always the young –
They hold their dick –
They need to learn –
He goes down, then KICK!
Yep kick them slackers
You teach them well,
Mister Wearne.’
Billie Ah Lunn


With the Youngsters is not a book about how to go about teaching the writing of poetry at university level rather an anthology of what students and their teachers have, over the years, produced when faced with the task of writing something collectively in two of the most demanding fixed forms.

… a celebration of collective verse-making. It collects twenty-three sestinas and twenty-two villanelles made by writing students mainly at University of Wollongong as part of Wearne’s poetry classes…. It sounds a lot of fun, especially as the emphasis is on playing with and bending the rules: none of the resulting poems are at all solemn accomplishments.’

Martin Duwell ‘Alan Wearne: These things Are Real and as editor: With the YoungstersAustralian Poetry Review September 2017.

In response to being asked the question by an interviewer: “Is the book a game?”

‘I am an elitist, I am an entertainer’ I’ve often announced, so I suppose a solid part of my writing is indeed a game, though whether it’s the elitist or entertainer who plays…take your pick. If you wish to see the ‘game’ element I refer you to the latest volume from Grand Parade Poets, (GPP) With the Youngsters an anthology of Group Sestinas and Group Villanelles assembled by my students from over 18 years. These are indeed examples of out and out game.

Another game I suggested they perform was after my lecture on Ern Malley and his Australian descendants (the Free Grass crowd, Timothy Kline, Billy Ah Lun, Toby Nicholson etc.). The students were to invent a poet, write a brief bio and then some of the poet’s work.

The greatest game players in poetry were Fernando Pessoa and The Heteronyms. He and they were glorious one offs.


With the Youngsters

For whatever reason plenty of these poems may not require elaboration for non-Australians. The following though just might.

Chuck’s Sestina

Chunder: vomit
Chuck a sickie: to take a day off work with presumed illness


Taa: thank you

The James Stewart and Peter Garrett Sestina

Peter Garrett: (1953-) Australian rock musician turned federal politician turned rock musician yet again.

Melanie, Centrelink and Vegemite Toast

Centrelink: federal government social services centre
Vegemite: yeast-based spread
Bulli: Wollongong suburb 80km south of Sydney

SCUM versus Boris

Advance Australia Fair: National anthem.

The Bell

Yours and Owls: formerly a Wollongong music venue, now a music festival.


Once Were Warriors: New Zealand film of the 1990s.
Glebe: Inner suburb of Sydney.

Strap on Pterodactyls! Hang Ten! Yeah!

Through to the keeper: a cricket term whereby a ball goes past the batsman without it being hit.

Hi gloss

Pauline Hanson: (1954-) Extreme right wing politician.
Harold Holt: (1908-1967) Australian prime minister who disappeared whilst skin-diving in rough surf.
Keiraville: Wollongong suburb.
One Nation: Hanson’s political party.
Abbott: Tony Abbott (1959-) failed Australian Prime Minister.
Bob Katter: (1945-) populist Australian politician.

Mongrel Meringue/Pooch Pav

Pav/pavlova: an Australian desert based around meringue, cream and fruit, named after the Russian ballerina

Man of the Match

Warne: Shane Warne (1969): Scandal-ridden cricketer, a real character.
Mick Molloy: (1966-) A minor Australian entertainer.
Woy Woy: A town about an hour north of Sydney.
Woman’s Day: Long running women’s magazine.

Numb, drunk, proud, he sniffs a dash of speed…

Dransfield: Michael Dransfield (1948-1973) hippy poet who died young.
Forbes: John Forbes (1950-1998) best Australian poet born post war.
Neddy: Arthur “Neddy” Smith (1944-) Sydney gangster.
Chopper: Mark “Chopper” Reed (1954-2013) Melbourne criminal, author and personality.

The Aaaa-aaa Villanelle

Darling Harbour: entertainment precinct of Sydney.


Victoria Cross: highest award for war-time valour.

Clive’s sweater

Clive Palmer: (1954-) Former populist politician, very rich, very overweight.