Poet ‘revived’

POETIC STORY: Colin Mockett and Shirley Power tell the story of CJ Dennis. Picture: Reg Ryan

Australian poetry great CJ Dennis will come back to life at Drysdale next month in the guise of Geelong theatre stalwart Colin Mockett.

Mockett and wife Shirley Power will retell story of Dennis in The Star that Burned Too Bright at the Potato Shed from 10.30am on Tuesday.

At the turn of the 20th Century Dennis was one of the best-known Australian poets, collaborating with fellow literary legends Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.

His verse books The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke and The Moods of Ginger Mick sold thousands of copies and quickly became part of the Australian vernacular.

The former outsold by ten times the entire output of the next two best-sellers, Lawson and Paterson, combined, Mockett said.

“CJ Dennis was by far the best-selling Australian poet of all time.

“Despite this huge popularity, (he) suffered the unusual experience of seeing his works become out-dated and old-fashioned within his own lifetime – and then resurrected in almost surreal forms, in films, musicals and even as a ballet.”

His fortunes seesawed from being penniless to earning untold wealth and fame, only for him to declare bankruptcy within a decade.

“What a life. CJ Dennis, in his 61 years, experienced the extremes of Australian society,” Mockett said.

Last year organisers of South Australia’s C J Dennis Festival commissioned Mockett and Power to write the musical biography and perform it at the poet’s town of birth, Auburn.

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