The great victory of the poet Bush Bob

Bush poet Bob Pacey performs on Australia Day in Yeppoon.

By Matthew Pearce

One of CQ’s best-known bush poets, Bob Pacey has won the best gong in Ekka’s online bush poetry contest for the second year in a row.

Bob took first place for his reading of A View From Room 7 written by Will Moody and received a Highly Commended for his second entry, Australians, written by Bobby Miller.

“I chose A View From Room 7 because I realized very quickly that serious poems had a better chance of succeeding at the Ekka,” he said.

“I had submitted some funny ones before, but because of the Ekka and what it is, they tend to go with traditionally serious poems.”

A tale of a rancher’s last days, A View From Room 7 is guaranteed to strike some heartstrings.

“The poem was given to me a few years ago, I’ve used it a few times around campfires and I have a few tears in my eyes,” Bob said.

“It’s the traditional story of an old rancher stuck in a care home, he lived his life in the bush and now he’s stuck in town, dreaming of everything he’s done.

“The last line is the cruncher – ‘I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve lived, which is now coming to an end, been stuck in this place too long, let’s see what happens around the bend’.”

Ekka’s virtual bush poetry performance competition was so popular last year – when the live event was canceled due to Covid restrictions – that organizers decided to continue it alongside the live competition at Brisbane in August.

Bob said he was shocked to be first again in a field of around 80 entries, following his victory last year for his recital of Through Danny’s Eyes.

With participants only allowed to submit two entries for the online contest, he suggested organizers expand it to more categories next year, such as the live contest, to give more people the chance to win.

Having committed about 105 poems to memory since he “got seriously invested in bush poetry” in 1998, Bob said he plans to focus more on original compositions than the works of other people to the future.

“Because I’m retired, I move around a bit with festivals and you tend to find people who go to festivals are seasoned visitors, they already know most of the poems, so I try to find some more obscure poems that aren’t out there that many, or my own original works.

Bob said the “bush poetry season” had just ended, with him giving regular shows at NRMA Capricorn Yeppoon Holiday Park in Mulambin Beach and Discovery Coolwaters Holiday Village in Kinka Beach.

He has a few shows scheduled for the September school holidays and will perform on stage at Pinefest on October 8 before taking a break until Christmas.

“I’m as busy as I want to be – I don’t want to do too much because I’m retired,” he joked.

Next year, Bob hopes to travel south to festivals he’s “read but never been to” and hopes he’ll appear on stage at the 2023 Rockhampton Show.

The following year will also be important, with Beef Australia returning to Rockhampton in 2024.

Bob received a final honor at the Ekka, with his recital of The Real State of Origin, a poem about the origins of interstate competition, performed in Brisbane.

“I went to a mining camp the other week to do a show and one of them told me they saw me on the big screen at Ekka.

“The poem is the one that really makes people’s skin tingle.”

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