Book: Sylvan Jottings ‘Labour of Love’ for Author Dr Gary Bacon

Colourful vocabulary of forest science

Tue 27 Feb 24


A new book written by noted Queensland forester Dr Gary Bacon AM has been a “labour of love” … for his grandchildren and for the trees he has inhabited most of his life.

Sylvan Jottings is a tribute to the author’s passion and appreciation of forests, wizardly words among a colourful vocabulary of science, and the contribution trees make to life.

Gary’s favourite species are in full bloom here – among them hoop, bunya and Norfolk pines, the Kooyong bottle tree, spotted eucalypt gums and the dinosaur-era Wollemi pine.

Featured are chapters devoted to tree barks, tree chemistry, tree systems and tree longevity.

Sylvan Jottings was given an ‘airing’ at the Grand Central Hotel in Brisbane this month during a lunch organised by the Moggies Timber Club, an offshoot of Brisbane Hoo-Hoo Club 218, now in recession.

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Tim Evans and John Muller ponder a page of Sylvan Jottings. (Photo Credit: Jim Bowden)

The book passed through many hands, and many pages were turned and praised, a justifiable tribute to the fascinating sculptured prose, wonderful graphics and the overall content of what is much more than just ‘trotting through jottings’ … more a landmark, nay tree-mark, endeavour.

With a small print run available to his family only, the book has been a personal project for Dr Bacon, a gift for his grandchildren Jana, Cameron and Ella, illuminating the wonders of forests and the wood from them.

In the book’s preamble, Gary Bacon writes:

An abiding interest in verse began in my senior years at Christian Brothers College, Gympie. The headmaster, an English teacher, introduced the standard syllabus to us country boys in the manner of a helpful tutor. There was no rote learning in his tutorials. His fluid dissection and analysis of the set canon via short stories, novels, plays and poetry opened the doors to a lifetime yearning for literature that made one think of the writer’s art and capacity to transplant the reader.

Gary Bacon, AM, author of Sylvan Jottings.

This allure was most pronounced in the appreciation of forestry. I was particularly smitten by the wordsmithing of Gerard Manly Hopkins and later Les Murray. But it was the sheer inexhaustible Gaussian range of subject matter and construct that could be the focus of a poet’s creation that most appealed.

I trust this compilation might bring elements of chance encounters, albeit within a sylvan theme.

(Sylvan: adj. 1. of characteristics of or consisting of woods or forests. 2. living or located in the woods).

Dr Gary Bacon is a retired professional forester and former CEO of Queensland Forestry with undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in forest science. He has written extensively in science journals, but Sylvan Jottings is his first compilation of three poems.

John Huth, a former senior forest technician with the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, provided assistance in producing the book.

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Warren Hyne, Peter Kanowski and Gary Bacon opening the Queensland room at ANU’s Forestry School – from the archives. (Photo Credit: Wood Central)
Here are two random examples of Dr Bacon’s work in Sylvan Jottings:

Norfolk Island Pine

Silhouetted against an empty blue heaven

Verdant conicals sited in random arrays

Branches spaced in tapered welcome

Leaf pulses arranged as opening books


Unique to a remote austral island

Canopies open to exit a pacific gale

Carried atop sturdy aged algal trunks

Roots firmly anchored in nutritious basalts


First gazed by adventurous seafarers

Polynesians camped for three centuries

Cook later spied the masts spars and flax

Colonising Brits then built for permanence

*** ***

Glimpsed Eucalypts

They sit stark naked on the canvas

Blobs of heavy acrylic deposits

Worked in swirls of muted glaucous colour


Not a branch of form in sight

Not a leaf of character in sight

Just a notion of an earthed connector stem

Only their position on the hilled landscape


Observed in toto from afar

Reveals the amalgamated silhouettes of a sparse stand

While the desiccated earth signatures the recognised outback


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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