Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Poetry and politics of Judith Wright

(image courtesy of Greg Smith, Australian E Journal of

Judith Wright's poetry has featured many times on this blog. She is, in my humble opinion, Australia's finest poet.

Her poetry actively engages with Australian social and environmental issues. In addition to her poetry and other writings, Wright was an uncompromising social activist and environmentalist. She was one of the first Australian poets to publicly acknowledge and explore the lived experiences and treatment of Aboriginal people.

Her 1971 poem Australia 1970 decries the environmental destruction perpetrated by mining, land clearing, farming and industrial development. Her voice rages at the consequences of reckless plundering of Australia's natural environment. Sadly, little has changed 40 years later.

Australia 1970
by Judith Wright

Die, wild country, like the eaglehawk,
dangerous till the last breath's gone,
drawing and striking. Die
cursing your captor through a raging eye.

Die like the tigersnake
that hisses such pure hatred from its pain
as fills the killers dreams
with fear like suicide's invading stain.

Suffer,wild country, like the ironwood
that gaps the dozer-blade.
I see your living soil ebb with the tree
to naked poverty.

Die like the soldier-ant
mindless and faithful to your million years.
Though we corrupt you with our torturing mind.
stay obstinate; stay blind.

For we are the conquerors and self poisoners
more than scorpion or snake
and dying of the venoms that we make
even while you die of us.

I praise the scouring drought, the flying dust,
the drying creek, the furious animal,
and they oppose us still;
that we are ruined by the thing we kill.

copyright Judith Wright

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