Jack Sorenson was
one of only a few (known) bush poets who filled the gap when bush poetry was
very much in the doldrums and considered a very minor form of the literary
arts. This was the rather long period between the mid 1920s and the mid
Jack was born in Kalgoorlie in 1907, a second generation
Australian of mixed Danish, Irish and English ancestry. He grew up in the Swan Valley,
near Perth; his first job being for his father who had taken up a fruit
orchard in the district . It was there, while at work that Jack made
his early attempts at poetry, heard only
by the lemon and apricot trees. His father did not encourage his
poetic endeavours, however his mother saw his potential and encouraged him
As a young man, Jack
found an ally in Mr R.S. Sampson, local member of the WA Parliament who was
influential in having some of Jack's early poems published in local papers.
A strong, burly lad,
although rather shy, Jack became interested in boxing, and took up the sport
under the name of "Johnny Brown". He was quite successful, becoming
the WA welter weight champion.
Jack spent most of
his younger adult life in Western Australia, moving from place to place chasing
gainful employment. At various times he worked with cattle in the
Kimberly's, as a shearer, as a labourer in the Goldfields and for a time in
the southwest forest country.
Returning to Perth,
Jack took up employment with his mentor, Mr Sampson, becoming the country
representative for the United Press group of papers, much of his time being
base in the WA Goldfields. - he was therefore now in a position to
promote his own poetry.
Throughout much of his life he drew on these experiences to write poetry and
songs mainly about life in rural Western Australia, often with an
With the outbreak of
war, Jack developed a sense of doom which included his own involvement in it
and so it was that in July 1942, Jack joined the Australian Army. Most
of his recruit training was at the Melville training camp. Following his
recruit training he was attached to the 11th Btn which, at that time, was
involved in the defence of northern Australia.
The death of his
friend and mentor, Mr Sampson, greatly affected Jack's mental health to the
point where he was no longer able to carry out his military duties.
He was discharged in March 1944 following which he returned to work for
United Press, although he now had no need to for he had been left a
substantial legacy by Mr Sampson.
Not long after his
discharge, his mother also died, further deepening his melancholia. In
order to return to happier times, Jack returned to the Kimberleys but the
inner peace he was seeking was not there, so in 1949, at age 42, returning
to Perth he decided to fulfil a lifetime dream of going to the Queensland
outback. He sailed from Fremantle, but was never to reach his goal,
for it was on the ship in Sydney, just a week or so short of his destination
that Jack decided that his life was no longer worth living.
At some stage throughout his life,
he had most of his poems
published in various newspapers and in time published a few books. His
poetry is now considered by many to be among the best of his era, in particular for his
consistent rhythm which, at the time, was not considered "worthy" of
consideration. Such poets as he were largely derided by most the
literati of his time. His poetic interests however did bring him into contact with
literary people of his time, a few of whom became close friends, notably among
them Mary Durack who, shortly after his death, collected and published his
poems. A number of his poems were set to music and to this day various
folk music bands continue to include them in their repertoire.
I am told that Jack
is buried at Midland (WA) and his headstone is inscribed
Jack Sorensen 1906-1947..Weaver of Dreams, Farewell. -
these dates are somewhat in conflict with those given in his biography on "Austlit"
(the birth and death dates given above) - Jack's military records give his
birth date as Aug 21, 1907, NSW Death index is 14710/1949)
like to thank John McMicking for providing me with copies of many of Jack's
poems - B.L.