Saturday, January 1, 2011

From sources past our knowing

 Change is my true condition,
to take and give and promise,
to fight and fail and alter.
I aim towards Forever,
but that is no one's country,
till in perhaps one moment,
dying, I'll recognise it
those peaks not ice but sunlit
from sources past my knowing,
as beauty of completion
the end of being human.
Judith Wright
Some Words
Thanks to those who read yesterday's piece on Judith Wright. 

I am an unabashed fan and admirer of Judith Wright, who I describe as an Australian prophet. Her poetry and ideas (and books and articles written about her) have featured many times on this blog (here).

Today I have been reading Gerard Hall's wonderful piece written in 2000 and Fiona Capp's beautifully written memoir My Blood's Country about Judith Wright's work and life.

Hall also describes Judith Wright as an Australian prophet and concludes with this fine summary, said better than I can:

".....the truth of her life is that she was both artist and activist; the values celebrated in her poetry are the same values she fought for in the political arena. She was always the "ethical prophet," calling Australia and Australians to renounce "pride, greed and ignorance" in favour of a spiritual vision since, as she put it, "without a vision a nation perishes."
Although strong in her denunciation of economic rationalist principles that were undermining the social fabric of Australian life in the eighties and nineties, she remained committed to a world of other possibilities--to see "what the human eye was meant to see /. . . knowing the human ends in the divine" (Vision). Integral to this vision is a profound respect for the sacred dimensions of ordinary life and ordinary Australians: "Living is a dailiness, a simple bread / that's worth the eating" (Grace). The ethical and gracious sense of human dignity is integral to her worldview.
Artist and activist, poet and prophet, Judith Wright's images have become part of the fabric of our nation. She is the political poet dancing between the mystical experience and the demands of justice. She leads us to shed our too-European eyes to see and not despoil the strange beauty of the Australian landscape. Equally, she leads us to name the fear and guilt that go hand-in-hand with a colonizing people. She invites us to the experience of justice and reconciliation in which the splendour and the terror of our nation's history and all its peoples are acknowledged, celebrated, redeemed. The mystical and the political are intertwined in Wright's poetry and life. Deaf in her final years, she continues to challenge Australians to hear the spirit of their land and its first peoples if they are to traverse the path to a more just and humane future. "For earth is spirit."

1 comment:

Breenus said...

Judith Wright's appeal was so broad. In teaching poetry to mid secondary school students in the early 60s her poem "The Surfer" was an absolute favorite with these young men and helped them relate to poetry more generally.
Michael D. Breen