Kevin Gilbert’s The New True Anthem
In the critical response poem “The New True Anthem”, 1988, Kevin Gilbert challenges the Australian public about our patriotism or lack thereof. With this poem Kevin Gilbert acknowledges the fact that there is not just one single opinion of what has happened to the beautiful land that was once home to many native Aboriginal tribes all over the country. Australia’s sense of pride and admiration that is declared by Dorothea Mackellar in “My Country” is challenged and questioned by Kevin Gilbert.
The issues explored in the bitter poem are a lack of patriotism for Australia and shame. A sense of apathy and lack of patriotism is illuminated for the audience by Gilbert in this poem as he criticises the Australian Public and Mackellar. The title itself, “The New True Anthem”, begins the poem with a bitter and hostile tone. Using the word ‘true’ Gilbert states his opinion from the very beginning with no feeling of remorse. Gilbert uses this poem to patronise the Australian public and highlights how they have ruined a once great country.
Mackellar’s poem paints Australia and Australians in an extremely positive light, Gilbert on the other hand writes what he believes to be the ‘true’ meaning of what people have done to the country. The use of the diction ‘love’ subverts Mackellar’s intentions in ‘My Country” and throws it back in our faces. As the poem goes on Gilbert persuades readers away from Mackellar’s point of view and towards his own understanding and opinion of a sense of pride and patriotism. Shame and embarrassment is a feeling that is plastered all over this poem by Gilbert to emphasise his feelings and emotions when it comes to Australia.
Throughout the poem Gilbert struggles to fathom how Australians have been able to ‘pollute all the rivers’, and ‘graffiti’ our home, Australia. The accumulative listing of crimes and appalling behaviour throughout the anthem highlights just how terrible things have gotten. ‘Racial murder’ refers to the stolen generation and how the Aboriginals were treated when Australia was first colonised. ‘A tyranny now rules your soul’ alludes to the fact that Australia is ruled by England and how our mother country came, claimed and conquered as they didn’t want to work alongside the Aboriginals, instead were against their ‘barbaric ways’.
Gilbert states that all of ‘the beaches and the mountains are covered with your shame’. The use of ‘your’ in this line purposely makes this a personal attack on the Australian public and blatantly focuses on the fact that is it our fault that what was once a beautiful country has now be ruined. As he works to evoke a remorseful feeling from readers Gilbert adds a negative connotation to the poem by basically naming and shaming anything that we have done to our home, Australia Throughout “The New True Anthem” Gilbert is judgemental and critical, however raises very true and important issues about Australia.
With the effective use of poetic techniques and features Gilbert is able to create a thought provoking poem declaring important and concerning issues such as our apathy and lack thereof patriotism for our country and the shame that covers all ‘the beaches and the mountains’. Gilbert is strictly opposed to ‘what Dorothea has said’ and uses this poem to confront Australians about the error of their ways.