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Category Archives: OzLit

Friday Australian poem #17: Bruce Dawe, “Homecoming”

Years ago I had a student just beginning Year 12 at a Jewish school north of Sydney; Bruce Dawe’s poetry was our first mission. Over the Christmas holidays (well, that’s what I’d call them 😉 ) he went to Queensland, found Bruce Dawe in the phone book and rang him up. “Hey, I have to study your poems!” Result? An invitation to come over for a cup of tea, and some good points to make in class…

An Air Force veteran himself, and veteran too of all manner of jobs, this very down-to-earth Australian poet found his voice and his anger during the Vietnam War. “Homecoming” is just one of many he wrote at that time, but is justly the best known.
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Posted by on November 30, 2007 in Aussie interest, OzLit, poets and poetry

 

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Friday Australian poem #16: Banjo Paterson “Fur and Feathers”

Having been serious on this blog — even deep and meaningful — in a few posts this week I offer this in a spirit of fun, and can almost guarantee you won’t have read it before! I found it in the whitewolf collection, and if you click the author name below you can see what he says about A B Paterson, one of the two best-known 1890s bush balladeers — though both of them lasted into the 20th century, Paterson rather longer than Henry Lawson…

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Posted by on November 23, 2007 in Aussie interest, Diversions, OzLit, poets and poetry

 

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Friday Australian poem #15: Les Murray, "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow"

This is a poem that has grown with me as I have read and reread it over the past thirty years and more.

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There’s a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can’t stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There’s a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.

Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.

from
The Weatherboard Cathedral, 1969

To explain it? No, just read… But think about the following story from today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

MORE than two years after attempting to kill himself, the former NSW Opposition leader, John Brogden, revealed yesterday he still finds it “harrowing” to return to his former workplace and has given up alcohol because “it’s easier, it’s simpler”. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2007 in Aussie interest, Cultural and other, OzLit

 

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Welcome to our nightmare

 Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital (Australia May 2007; USA Canada October 2007):   orpheus_covers

I’ve always been intensely interested in examining ordinary human beings, people without political agendas, who are suddenly caught up in the fist of history and crisis. If someone happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, what happens to their lives from that point onwards? How do they negotiate life, history, politics thereafter?

I suppose I can trace the birth of this intense interest to something that happened to me when we were living in a village in South India in 1977. I was with my two young children in an exceedingly ramshackle taxi heading from the village to the city market in Trivandrum. It was a time of political upheaval in India. Riots broke out, and suddenly our taxi was surrounded by a mob waving the banners of the Communist Party of South India. The taxi could not move forward. Our taxi driver was very frightened and was trembling violently. The rioters were drumming on the taxi roof and windows. The children and I were in the back seat and I felt that weird and absolute calm which is actually shock. I had an arm around each child and can still vividly remember the two dominant thoughts in my head: 1) I must make the children feel safe with me and 2) No one will ever know what happened to us. In fact, the tense situation only lasted a few minutes and then the crowd let the taxi move slowly forward. Since then, I’ve been aware of how suddenly and how randomly political events of which one is only dimly aware can disrupt a life.

This has to be in my top three best reads of 2007! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2007 in Aussie interest, Cultural and other, Current affairs, Faith and philosophy, Multiculturalism and diversity, OzLit, Reading, Religion

 

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Friday Australian poem # 14: "The Australaise" by C J Dennis

Expanded since draft posting… And as for the wrong number: oops! 😉

After watching The Sounds of Aus on ABC last night my choice this week was clear. 🙂

Hosted by John Clarke, this entertaining story about the way we sound is told through an array of illuminating interviews with linguists, historians, social and political commentators, comedians, actors, and plenty of opinionated people with genuinely hilarious anecdotes. Those featured include Rachel Griffiths, Bruce Beresford, Bert Newton, Max Gillies, Denise Scott, Mary-Anne Fahey, Santo Cilauro, Simon Palomares and Akmal Saleh.

Is our accent really the legendary broad “Strine” of Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin? Why is it so hard for others to do? Are there regional variations? Is it a bastardised version of the Queen’s English? Is it under threat from global forces? And if it is, is it worth saving?

By examining the Australian accent and discovering its story, The Sounds of Aus reveals much about the Australian psyche and our national identity. Indeed, over the last two centuries, many of the conflicts about our identity have been played out through the accent, with our vision of, and our relationship with, the world reflected in the way we speak.
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Posted by on November 9, 2007 in Aussie interest, Diversions, immigration, Multiculturalism and diversity, OzLit, poets and poetry

 

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I just subscribed to The Monthly online…

…and so should you!

Here’s why.

“For years, everyone had believed that John Howard had promised to leave the prime ministership when asked to do so by his party. In September, the most authoritative voice of the party – a majority of the Liberals in his Cabinet – had asked him to retire. Howard stubbornly refused. Not only had he broken a promise made on a hundred occasions. It was suddenly clear that the promise had been formulated in so cunning a manner that its second half effectively negated its first. This was what one of those who spoke to the recent biographers of the prime minister meant by Howard’s ‘lawyer’s tongue’.”

In the Monthly Comment, Robert Manne presents a balance sheet for the Howard years and provides his final pre-election word on why Australia needs a change of government – on why an ex-mandarin must become the nation’s top banana. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Friday Australian poem #12: David Campbell “Men in Green”

This poem is literally the same age as I am, having been first published in The Bulletin in 1943. David Campbell, like my father, was in the RAAF. Both men were in Papua/New Guinea in that year, though my father was comparatively safe on the ground in Port Moresby.

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