27 July, 2017

'Childmemory' by Michael Dugan

 'David's Willow Tree' by Susan Clark

The following poem, 'Childmemory', by Michael Dugan is filled with beautiful memories and imagery. Its environmental theme is poignant and powerful. At the time of writing, this poem is not available anywhere else on the web and is almost impossible to find in published books. However, I was able to discover that it was published in 'Poetry Australia 32: Preface to the Seventies' (1970, p. 35). I am sharing the poem because it is too wonderful to be forgotten forever. I encourage teachers to use this poem in their classrooms to explore the concepts of past, present and preservation. All credit goes to the brilliant Michael Dugan who composed this work. The year in which Dugan wrote this poem is unknown.

Down past Macartney’s farm
beyond a wilderness of waist high thistles,
willow trees caressed the creek.
We would come to the willows
along a secret path of our own making,
to leap into their feathered greenness
and, clutching handfuls of whiplike branches,
would swing, eyes closed, above the stream,
rejoicing in motion,
with the bitter taste of willow leaves in our mouths.
Later we tied a rope to the highest branch,
and riding its arc like a pendulum,
would pause at the point of timelessness; to drop,
breaking the pool’s glass surface
into ever widening sculptured circles.
One summer night I crept silent to the willows
and swung for hours, feeling the cool sweet air on my face,
watching stars reflecting in the pool,
like trolls’ eyes staring from the black water.

Returning fifteen years later,
factories pour waste into the creek,
no one remembers willow trees.

Michael Gray Dugan (1947-2006) was an Australian poet, children's writer and editor. Born in the outskirts of Melbourne, Dugan recalled writing stories and poems as a child of eight or nine. In 1968, he first published 'Crosscurrents' magazine from the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury. He also worked as poetry editor of 'Overland' magazine and served as vice-president of the Victorian Fellowship of Australian Writers. In the 1980s, he was a consultant and an editor for the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs. Along with his works in children's literature, Dugan had an extensive background in Australian history. He wrote numerous historical textbooks published by Macmillan Education Australia. There are over 200 book titles in Dugan's name, including factual books, fictional stories and poetry anthologies. Other publishers he wrote for include Oxford, Jacaranda, Penguin, and Hodder & Stoughton. For a more detailed overview of Dugan's contribution to Australian literature for children, please contact me at: greengiftsandcards@gmail.com


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I used this with my Year 7 class many years ago and have not been able to locate it since.

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