In the poem "Kid Stuff" by Bruce Dawe, what is the message and meaning of the poem?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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“Kid Stuff” by Bruce Dawe, an Australian poet, portrays a segment of the author’s life when he adored his older brother, George. It's a tribute to childhood and brotherly love. 

The author is the first person narrator.  His tone is upbeat portraying his brother as a real person whom he greatly admired.  The vocabulary of the poem includes several places in Australia.  The poem portrays a younger brother’s love for his elder brother in a typical, masculine way.

In an interview, Dawe recalls the first time that he fell in love with the daughter of his brother’s girlfriend. The assumption can be made that the brother was several years older. 

He describes his brother as a “tinker” with cars and motorcycles.  George held several jobs which were related to motorcycles including stunt-rider and mail carrier.  The poet would accompany his brother sometimes to see his girlfriend. The reader can almost feel the wind blowing through his own hair as he sits behind the brother on a wintry night’s ride

Not only is the brother intrigued with his girlfriend, but the poet likes the daughter as well.  He vividly describes the mother:

There was a woman to your quest (Marcelled hair,
Long glamorous legs in silk, a charmer) I was
Crazy about her daughter, I was eleven…

Sometimes his descriptions are harsh. He talks about his brother’s rotten teeth and then his false teeth. However, the reader never loses sight of the poet’s admiration for his brother.  Of course, did the reader really need to know that the brother did not wear underwear or socks in this period of his life! 

To the young boy, the brother lived an exciting life:

  • He sold apples door-to-door;
  • cut timber and became as muscular as a prize fighter;
  • played the harmonica;
  • used horse-manure for nicotine;
  • quit school at twelve;
  • read famous books on his own;
  • he held his brother up as a standard to live by;
  • tried to outrun him when the brother thought he ought to be punished.

Dawe ends his tribute to his brother with a pleasant memory.  When they visited their older sister on her pig farm, the author would beg his brother to come outside and play cricket with him. He could smell the pigs and the pine trees which curtailed the stench. To him, it was like being in the countryside in France.

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