Rain From Nowhere is no doubt the most important poem I have ever written.
I didn’t set out to write such a poem, there was no planned research – it just happened.
But it has been recited in NSW State Parliament by Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries, referenced prominently in a Time Magazine article on the Australian drought, featured in a front page article on rural depression in The Sydney Morning Herald and has been embraced by many charity groups such as The Black Dog Institute and Men’s Sheds.
I also recited it live on Kerri-Ann Kennerley’s show with Pat Drummond playing some wonderful guitar in the background.
Pat came up with the backing music in less than 20 minutes while recording the track at
Andy Busuttil’s Blue Mountain Studio.
Having often marveled at Pat’s musical ability during our time with The Naked Poets, I still couldn’t help asking him how he managed to do this so effortlessly.
There is a very spiritual side to Pat and he said “Muz, I probably don’t own the music just like you probably don’t own the words”.
Not that I hadn’t written the words and Pat hadn’t written the music, he just believed it all came together for a reason.
Given the approaches I’ve had from people at rural functions and the emails I have received in relation to the poem with expressions of heartfelt thanks I can’t help thinking he may be on to something.
The power of the pen.
I mean in my mind all I thought I’d done initially was write a pretty good poem.
The circumstances surrounding the inspiration for the poem were typically a bit left field.
A project hatched by Tony Stewart led to Zenon Kohler animating my poem A-Z – a weird yarn about me eating animals in alphabetical order to stop me from eating meat. I told you it was a bit weird. You can view the clip on Youtube.
Due to Zenon’s brilliance the piece made the finals of Tropfest 2007.
In the middle of the Tropfest week I got a call from Russell Workman, a Scottish mate living in Australia who I hadn’t heard from for about seven years.
He said “Muz, I need to know about the boosh”. I didn’t know what the “boosh” was but apparently it’s Scottish for bush.
Russell was doing some wonderful work for the Oasis side of the Salvation Army and they were looking at producing a documentary about mental health in rural Australia, particularly the issue of farmer suicide.
During the ensuing meetings I met another incredible person named Captain Paul Moulds and in those discussions I derived the term “rain from nowhere”.
Through my experience, my rural background and constant contact with mates and relatives in the bush it always seemed the best rain was rarely forecast. It came out of nowhere.
I’m pretty sure it was February 21, 2007, while living in Artarmon and after those initial discussions with Russell, I woke up early one morning with a few lines in my head, sat down at the computer and wrote the poem.
Like Turbulence it was finished inside three hours.
I knew it was special. There’s no arrogance or self-importance there, you just know when something feels right.
The first person I rang and recited the poem to was Shirley Friend, the beautiful matriarch of The Naked Poets.
I’ll never forget Shirley’s response.
After a few seconds of silence she said “Muz, it’s going to make your funny stuff a whole lot funnier”.
I thought that was an unusual response but it has since rung true after every recital.
Because of the emotion in the poem, audiences need an outlet and any poem or comment you say afterwards that is remotely humorous attracts big laughs.
The laughter is a release valve.
I sent the poem by email to Shane Stafford, a stock and station agent mate of mine in North Queensland.
He sent it to a mate of his in Winton who sent it on to another 10 or so people and within two weeks I was receiving hundreds of emails from around Australia and even overseas.
It had got a bit out of control. I hadn’t even recited it in public yet.
With regard to my own connection to the poem, well, I had not lost anyone close to me due to depression.
I had heard a story of a farmer taking his life after failing to get a bid for his cattle but never had it verified.
In my travels I had also been to parts of rural Australia and seen the heartache of people trying to survive another year of drought.
I saw the Darling River at Bourke and it wasn’t flowing.
All that has an effect on you.
I have seen the immediate impact of drought on rural communities that pretty much rely solely on agriculture for their economic future.
So there was passion and empathy and, as I said before, the words just flowed.
The closest thing to me are the lines:-
“Now his dad was not a writer, Mum did all the cards and mail
“But he knew the writing from the notebooks that he’d kept from cattle sales”
I only really knew my Dad’s handwriting from his signature on cheques and the cattle sale books.
There is also the reference to the Australian board game Squatter which I used to play a lot with my cousin Simon Cosh.
A few weeks after writing the poem I received a phone call from a gentleman from Melbourne and I assumed he was chasing a copy of the poem.
After a brief hello he said “Murray, my name is Bob Lloyd and I invented Squatter in 1962”.
That was special.
“As well as that there has been a poem that was written by a fellow in NSW, Murray Hartin. It’s an incredible poem. I don’t know if you’ve heard it but it’s called ‘Rain from Nowhere’ …
But you will hear this poem. It’s one that will go through the community. If I read it to you here you will weep I can tell you.
This extract is from an address by then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke, 23 October 2008
Bush poet offers hope with Rain From Nowhere
By Catherine Clifford, Friday, 09/03/2007
Australian storyteller, Murray Hartin, woke up one Wednesday morning three weeks ago and penned a poem in three hours flat. Why? He believed it was time to communicate for the fathers and sons in the Bush who have a bit of trouble talking to each other. Murray says he's been troubled for a while about young and old fellas deciding things are too tough to go on and he wanted to send a message of hope. His poem, Rain From Nowhere, takes a long hard look at communication between sons and fathers and reminds all of us that no matter how tough life gets, there is always love and there is always hope. And if you do happen to be feeling a bit low, or just want to talk to someone, you can. Don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Words to the poem can be accessed at http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2007/s1867794.htm