Monday, November 26, 2012

South of My Days: Veronica Brady and Judith Wright

".....for Wright the truth of existence does not consist in reflection on commitment to it, but is to be found in the commitment itself: for her humanity and nature also are not and never have been something general, but are individual and singular. They demand personal response and commitment. That, I believe, is why her life has been so deeply involved with the pain of the world and of people but also why few have written so powerfully as she has done about the intensities and splendours of love, child-bearing and relationships with others and the living world around us.
Veronica Brady from an article on writing the life of Judith Wright

"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."
Gerard Hall on Judith Wright
Regular readers will know of my profound love and respect for the poetry of Australian poet Judith Wright who I believe is Australia's finest poet. Previous blog pieces on Judith Wright are here.

 I am currently re-reading for the "umpteenth" time South of My Days  Veronica Brady's masterly biography of Judith Wright. Brady does a wonderful job of telling the story of Judith Wright, considered by many to be Australia's finest poet.

I am always deeply moved by this book. One reason is Judith Wright's profound and beautiful poetry which is quoted extensively in the book. Partly it is also the inspirational life of Judith Wright- her social and environmental activism, her integrity, the dignity and humility with which she lived her life, her commitment to the ideals of justice and her uniquely Australian world view.

But my enjoyment of this book is also attributable to Veronica Brady, who in telling the life story of Judith Wright's displays deep understanding, reverence and respect for the life and work of her subject.

It is particularly intriguing to re-read this book after reading Fiona Capp's book My Blood's Country, a memoir of her friendship with Judith Wright and a journey through the landscapes which inspired  Judith Wright. In Fiona Capp's book (and in an earlier article) she wrote for the first time about the long relationship that Judith Wright had with Nugget Coombs

In her biography Veronica Brady choose not to reveal the exact nature of the relationship between Judith Wright and Nugett Coombs, clearly out of respect for Judith Wright's privacy and her wish to keep the relationship private. In her article Judith Wright's Biography: A Delicate Balance between Trespass and Honor Veronica Brady gives some insight into the challenges of telling the life story of such a public figure as Judith Wright.

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