John BRACK<br/>
<em>The bar</em> 1954 <!-- (recto) --><br />

oil on canvas<br />
97.0 x 130.3 cm irreg.<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased with the assistance of Peter Clemenger AM and Joan Clemenger, Elena Keown Bequest, Spotlight Foundation, NGV Foundation, Ross Adler AC and Fiona Adler, Bruce Parncutt and Robin Campbell, Marc Besen AO and Eva Besen AO, the Bowness Family, Lindsay Fox AO and Paula Fox, Dorothy Gibson, Rino Grollo and Diana Ruzzene Grollo, Ian Hicks AM, the NGV Women’s Association and donors to the John Brack Appeal, 2009<br />
2009.53<br />
© Helen Brack

Young writers find inspiration at the NGV

The bar 1954

How can we make the art of writing relevant and exciting for students?

Educators have been solving this problem through imaginative programs focusing on art at the National Gallery of Victoria. Two recent highlights, described below, demonstrate the power of art to ‘switch’ students onto the joy of writing.

In this annual program, students in Years 10 and 11 write poetry at the NGV under the expert guidance of professional poet Bonny Cassidy, Melbourne University Graduate School of Education lecturer, Helen Kent and NGV Educators.

The Bar, 1954 by John Brack fired the students’ imaginations this year, stimulating a range of intriguing and perceptive responses such as the poem below.

The Bailey Barracks

Tall and bright the flowers stand:

defiant of the smoke clouds,

drowning in an ocean of liquor.

As I borrow smoke from the lungs of my companions

My drunk mind figures,

Maybe the flowers deserve better.


The bar is an island

surrounded by endless suits;


Brown—no, Johnson—talks sales.

“Another brew, sweetheart.”


She stands tall and bright

her eyes watering 

as she provides salvation from a tap;

a mother, a shepherd, her gaunt face weathers.

And as I borrow smoke from the lungs of my companions,

my drunk mind figures,

maybe she deserves better.


Freddie, Year 10