Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poetry and daily life: Reading Judith Wright

Poetry should be an important part of our daily lives. A poem can assist us to live good lives. It enables contemplation, reverence for the cycles of daily life and a more refined moral outlook.

Judith Wright's poetry always has that effect on me. Wright is a profoundly social, political and mystical poet. Her poetry derives its power from its directness and profound humanity, and is best read "out in the world". Which is where I read her poetry today- between breaks whilst goal umpiring my teenage son's football match. Other blog pieces on Judith Wright can be found here.
by Judith Wright

Living is dailiness, a simple bread
that's worth the eating. But I have known a wine,
a drunkeness that can't be spoken or sung
without betraying it. Far past Yours or Mine,
even past Ours, it has nothing at all to say;
it slants a sudden laser through common day.

It seems to have nothing to do with things at all,
requires another element or dimension.
Not contemplation brings it: it merely happens,
past expectation and beyond intention;
takes over the depth of flesh, the inward eye,
is there, then vanishes. Does not live or die,
because it occurs beyond the here and now,
positives, negatives, what we hope and are.
Not even being in love, or making love,
brings it. It plunges a sword from a dark star.

Maybe there was once a word for it. Call it grace.
I have seen it, once or twice though a human face.

To Mary Gilmore
by Judith Wright

Having arranged for the mail and stopped the papers,
tied loaves of bread Orlando-like to the tree,
love- messages for birds; suitcase in hand
I pause and regard the irony of me.

Supposed to be fifty-six, hair certainly grey,
stepping out much like sixteen on another journey
through a very late spring, the conference papers packed
as a half excuse for a double tonged holiday;

as though I believed- well, then, as though I believed.
Remember Mary Gilmore, her little son
turned sixty four and bald; And Mary playing
her poet's game as though she'd never be done.

This is my place. It isn't far to my grave,
the waiting stone. But still there's life to do
and a taste of spring in the air. Should I sit and grieve,
Mary or keep the ink running, like you?

Years have their truth, and each as true as another.
Salute, Mary. Not long now till we know
the blackened deathly world you once foresaw;
but now-let's live. I pick up my case and go.

Request to a Year
By Judith Wright

If the year is meditating a suitable gift,
I should like it to be the attitude
of my great-great-grandmother,
legendary devotee of the arts,

who having eight children
and little opportunity for painting pictures,
sat one day on a high rock
beside a river in Switzerland

and from a difficult distance viewed
her second son, balanced on a small ice-floe,
drift down the current toward a waterfall
that struck rock bottom eighty feet below,

while her second daughter, impeded,
no doubt, by the petticoats of the day,
stretched out a last-hope alpenstock
(which luckily later caught him on his way).

Nothing, it was evident, could be done;
And with the artist’s isolating eye
My great-great-grandmother hastily sketched the scene.
The sketch survives to prove the story by.

Year, if you have no Mother’s day present planned,
Reach back and bring me the firmness of her hand.

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