Farmyard poems a rural treat

22:40, Jan 22 2014
Southland Times photo
Kaihiku farmer Ross Agnew with his new book Farmyard Blues.

The South Otago farmer known for his protest song Fart Tax Blues has now published a collection of his work in a new book titled Farmyard Blues.

Kaihiku's Ross Agnew called it a collection of ballads, stories and bush poetry.

''I describe it as rural humour ... I don't get a lot of that modern poetry writing.'' 

In fact, one of his pieces is called Modern Poetry and starts, ''I sometimes read the poetry written in these modern times/ by new age sensitive poets, whose poetry never rhymes/they use big impressive words that never make much sense/to try and confuse us normal folk, with a fair bit of pretence.''

Mr Agnew's rural humour was evident throughout the collection and in the book's foreword The Farming Show's Jamie Mackay called him a ''bush poet, earthy artisan and good Kiwi bloke''.

Mr Agnew, who said the tractor was a great place for thinking, reckoned it could be 20 or so years since he first started writing pieces for the book. 


His talent with the pen emerged in 1988 when decided to enter a poem in a writing competition run by the Clutha Leader.

Mr Agnew was awarded second place and his work, along with some of the other entries, was published in a booklet called The Ode of the Clutha. 

His next step was to join the Clutha Country Music Club where he could sing some of his songs himself and experiment with new ideas.  

The works were often sparked by a phrase or one-liner he had overheard, and he nearly always wrote the lyrics before composing the tune, he said.

''Some are based on true events ... some are completely made up, it's up to the reader to decide.''

His song Fart Tax Blues became a hit in 2003, when it was played on The Farming Show, and later picked by television shows including Holmes.

It was a protest song about the government's proposed fart tax and it struck a a chord with farmers, Mr Agnew said.

''It was topical, farmers were up in arms about being blamed for global warming.''

He followed that up with Carbon Trading Blues, released in 2008.

Publishing the book was a family affair with Mr Agnew's wife Pauline doing a lot of the spell checking and proof reading, and his son Todd providing most of the artwork.

It was printed by Uniprint in Dunedin and the first run of 350 books had already sold out, a second batch had been ordered.

The print run was timed well to coincide with Christmas, Mr Agnew said.

''Christmas was a very good time ... although it was weird to think of people sitting around unwrapping and reading it,'' he said.

The book was getting good feedback so far, including from a sheep drafter Mr Agnew rang recently, the drafter's first words were ''guess what I got for Christmas?''.


Clutha Leader