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Henry Lawson: A poet’s work is never done

Student activities

Task no. 1

Class discussion

Discuss the following: 

  • When is a poem, a short story, a novel or an artwork finished?
  • How does a composer decide that something is completely finished and ready for publication?  

Henry Lawson was not one to allow the publication of his work to stop him from continuing to improve his writing. The image below, which shows a page from his notebook, reveals that for some writers, it is difficult to truly finish their work. These pages show printed stories from newspapers that have been cut out by Henry Lawson and glued into the notebook. He has then annotated them with additions and corrections. This image shows that even the title of a story can be considered not quite right after publication.

Explore the other pages of Henry Lawson’s notebook in the library catalogue.

Discuss as a class: 

  • what do these pages tell us about Henry Lawson and his writing?  
  • what sorts of things is Henry Lawson editing?  
Series 02 Volume 156-157: Henry Lawson - While the Billy Boils, 1892-1896, 1892-1896
View collection item detail

Task no. 2

Become an editor

Choose a poem you have studied in class or go to the school library and read the first page from a novel of your own choosing. Photocopy or take a photograph of this poem or page on your device. Then edit the poem or page, considering word choice, use of imagery (similes, metaphors, symbolism) and other descriptive language. Your goal is to improve the writing. You might even change the structure or the order of the work.  

Choose 3 of the changes that you have made and justify why you have made those changes to the published work– explain why your changes have improved the work.