Dear Les Murray…

Write a letter to either Judith Beveridge, Les Murray or David Malouf telling them what you have found of greatest interest in their writing today.

Dear Mr Les Murray,

Let me first begin by saying, I completely understand your poem “The Cool Green” as I, like most other members of today’s society, am somewhat guilty of letting money control my lifestyle. While I agree with your sentiments whole-heartedly, it truly is a difficult feat to do otherwise especially as a young person in the world today.

What I found incredibly interesting about your poem is the way that money’s very purpose has been entirely subverted. Your poem highlights the idea that instead of us using money, money is using us and controlling our every move. Your line “but money is never seen nude” speaks to me particularly. In my interpretation, this means that we never see money at face value and the true repercussions of being enslaved by it. While we often see it as something to take lightly and spend freely, “millions eat garbage without it.” This quite literal statement really encouraged me to think about how I spend my own money. While I am often caught up in being able to buy things that I want, there are so may people who do not have enough to meet their very basic needs.

Your final stanza really reinforces your opinion on money and the way that we have let it control society. The fact that you dare to state that money diverts our attention from the beauty and meaning in the world, in this case “poetry, ideology, religion”, allows us for reflection on what we do value and what we should value. The final line “it didn’t want our souls” is particularly powerful as it suggests that we, as consumers, willingly gave up our souls to money. This powerful statement is the perfect way to end your poem as it leaves me (and the rest of your audience) questioning their own lives and values.

I thank you for your wonderful insight in this poem,

Kind regards, Tamara.

some_people_are_so_poor____by_judhugues-d573tz2

judhugues.deviantart.com/art/Some-people-are-so-poor-314267006

 

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Materialism

Chose any one of the Patrick White texts mentioned above and say how you think it illustrates what White was saying in his essay “The Prodigal Son”.

In “The Prodigal Son”, White discusses the warped aspects of society that people tend to value and the “march of material ugliness” that is pursued. The character of Mrs Hogben in Down at the Dumps reflects this mindset through both the things that she values or rejects respectively. At her own sister’s funeral, Mrs Hogben is concerned about whether Ossie, Daise’s lover, will be there as he is a Roman Catholic and she disapproved of their relationship. Rather than reflecting on her sister’s life, before the funeral Mrs Hogben had “woken in the night, and lain there cold and stiff, as her mind’s eye focused on Ossie’s runny nose.” Due to wanting to uphold a certain reputation within society, she believed her family members actions would reflect upon her and cheapen her image.

Furthermore, her interaction with Meg and the contrast between their actions further highlights the materialism spoken about in White’s essay. Mrs Hogben is highly concerned about her daughters appearance, her pressed school uniform and polished shoes. This is once again due to the image she wants to be upheld and is a symbol for the materialism that she values so much. In contrast to this, Meg thinks about the memories and experiences she had with Daise over the course of her life hence, valuing a very different part of life.

Through the various characters in “Down at the Dumps” and the way they are compared and interact with each other, White’s statements about materialistic values in “The Prodigal Son” are reinforced. As a result, the short story becomes a social commentary of the way that we live our lives in a world based on material wealth rather than human experience.

Alive

Write a short creative or critical piece that is inspired by any of the works that we have looked at this week.

The free verse poem I have written for this weeks post is inspired by the emotions explored in John Shaw Neilson’s poem “The Orange Tree.” In this poem, the perspectives and meaning of the tree to a young girl and an older man are explored and shown in very different ways. The theme of differing perspectives is what influenced my poem as it describes an experience that has very different emotions attached to it for each individual.

Alive

Can’t move. Can’t breathe. Can’t think.
The sweat pours down my back
Joining with the sweat of others;
A shower of emotions emitted.
Every person glued into a makeshift community
Together and yet,
Some cry, some laugh, some scream.

My heart beats, my head hurts
I stumble but can’t fall,
It’s too tight, my body aches,
My head spins and my muscles defy me
The air my lungs can find is not enough but
I scream my throat raw for no one to hear
and the tears fall- the jewels of my very soul.

And yet
Every second is beautiful,
Every second I capture in my mind,
Every second I feel
Alive.

 

image

The classic image portraying different perspectives- a rabbit or a duck? http://www.today.com/pets/rabbit-or-duck-124-year-old-drawing-has-both-if-t73606

Humanity

In reference to Mary Gilmore’s, The Measure, what is the meaning and force of the repeated phrase “And see(s), not friend and foe, but man and man”?

The waste of life and emptiness that war leaves is the foundational theme of Gilmore’s poem, The Measure. Underlying this theme, is the pointlessness of war that is highlighted through the line “And see, not friend and foe, but man and man.” The repetition of this phrase highlights its importance and forces the reader to think about their own humanity in relation to the humanity of others.

The perspective of the sun and stars is representative of a higher power or an indication that there is more to the world than our struggles and in this case, war. The sun and stars are seen as sublime and look down upon all of the earth, wherever you are in the world. In a similar way that every person looks up and sees the same sun and the same stars, the sun and stars look down and have the same perspective but reversed- “man and man”. This highlights the fact that each person is the same, skin, bones and organs when it comes down to it. Whether a man killed through war is on your side or against, when they are shot, they bleed and another life is left vacant on the earth.

Rather than focussing on the “glory” that the dead bring to their country, family and themselves, Gilmore focusses on what is left behind; the emptiness, broken families and sorrow. With this intertwined with the reminder that friend and foe are both the same man, the true meaning of war is highlighted. That meaning is in fact, nothing.

The poem greatly reminded me of the Christmas Truce of 1914 in which British and German soldiers on the Western Front stopped fighting on Christmas, even leaving their trenches and sharing food, souvenirs and stories. Despite a language barrier, they sang together, ate together and played sports. In this moment, they too were not “friend and foe, but man and man.” This event really encaptures the feelings that Gilmore portrays and is a real world example of her statement which reinforces the meaning and force behind her words.

the christmas truce

An artist impression of the Christmas Truce (www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/12/24/101-years-ago-today-christmas-truce-halted-world-war/)

 

 

Serenity and Commotion

Looking at these two poems describing a natural scene (“A Mid-Summer Noon…” & “Bell-Birds”, say what you think each poet values and how they differ in their appreciation and their expression.

The value of serenity and the value of commotion is explored through A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest and Bell-Birds respectively. While Harpur enjoys the peaceful aspects of the Australian landscape among the business, Kendall finds joy in the sounds of the bush, specifically the birds, due to the connection between them and his childhood.

Harpur uses contrast between stanzas to highlight the beauty he finds in silence and

stillpoolaboverockbar-grotto-26-2-09

This photograph captures the beauty that can be found through the stillness of a landscape. (peonyden.blogspot.com.au/2009/03/npa-walk-to-grotto-belmore-falls-road.html)

peacefulness. The comparison between the hornet “droning” and almost out of place and the landscape in which “quiet, vast and slumbrous, reigns”, demonstrates the appreciation of serenity that Harpur has in the Australian forest. The layout of the poem in which the first and last stanza are the shortest, the second and third are medium length and the middle is the longest shows the extent of movement or peace within the poetry. Stanza one and five discuss the pure peace that Harpur values and the way it makes him feel as he reflects, “musing thus of quietness.” The small amounts of movement in stanzas two and four are a build up and decline from the short burst of noise and intensity shown in stanza three by the hornet. The fact that it is the longest stanza and uses enjambment, which forces the reader to speed up, demonstrates the disruptive nature of the hornet to the peace that Harpur finds so comforting. Through expressing the various aspects of nature through the shape of the poem, Harpur is able to show the value in silence and serenity.

 

In contrast to this, Kendall’s Bell-Birds shows the value found in the opposite- the noises of the landscape and the joy found through that. Through the lines of the first stanza, “sweeter than singing,/ The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing” introduces the positive feelings he has about the sounds of the Australian landscape by comparing them to music, even going to the extent of saying that they are more beautiful, possibly due to the fact that they are natural. Through the personification of different months and seasons throughout the poem, Kendall associates the noises with life and gaiety as well as a sense of respect due to the link nature as a living force. In the final stanza, Kendall reflects upon the emotions the sounds of the landscape give him stating that “Often I sit, looking back to a childhood/ Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood.” Through the fond memories he associates with the noises, Kendall is able to fully appreciate the beauty found in the commotion of the wildlife especially in comparison to the “city and alleys” in the world he now lives in.

To understand the sounds of the bell-birds, follow the link and listen; maybe you will find a love for the sounds of the Australian landscape similar to Kendall! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_72WGRT0mJw

While the appreciation and expressions of the Australian landscape are vastly different in Harpur and Kendall’s poems, I personally find the true value of the landscape when looking at both poems together. The complete beauty of the landscape is found within the mixture of serenity and commotion, silence and sounds. The fact that the landscapes of Australia can have both of these things almost simultaneously is where the true beauty lies.

Antipodean Head II

Describe the impact on you of ONE of the paintings viewed on our tour- talk about how it has opened up your understanding of the key issues in the period we are studying!

The trip to the Art Galley was more enlightening and intriguing than I imagined. As we walked through the different rooms with our friendly lecturer-turned-tourguide, the painting Antipodean Head II by Albert Tucker caught my attention. This usually would not be the type of painting I would usually be drawn to just because it is not the style I would see and straight away admire. Instead, I had to really think and analyse before I could completely appreciate it; actions that made the painting somewhat more valuable in my untrained eyes.

antipodean head II

Albert Tucker- Antipodean Head II (www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/ collection/works/OA36.1960/)

The painting you see on the left is the aforementioned unconventional masterpiece that peaked my interest. At first glance, I saw only what appeared to be a piece of bark; distinctly Australian due to the strange markings that are associated with Australian flora. Might I add that although you cannot see it in the digital image, the textures used by Tucker truly made this look like a part of the natural environment due to the layering of materials. As I continued to look (trying to make sense of it by tilting my head, trying to look at it upside-down and twisting into a number of strange positions resembling those of an amateur acrobat), I realised that the answer was (quite literally) staring me in the face. I finally saw the face of a man within the markings.

Finally the true meaning of the painting became clear to me. This was a reflection on the identity of Aboriginal peoples through the connection with their land and environment. The man being created out of the bark of Australian flora is not only a symbol, but a true representation of what it means to be an Indigenous person in Australia. This relates to the ideas mentioned in my previous posts about connection and the impact that dispossession has had on the identity of individuals and communities. Being painted in the 1960’s, this particular work would be under the influence of the Stolen Generations showing that it was not only original settlement that destroyed identity, but it was still continuing then and, in many ways, it still is today. This really deepened my understanding of the importance of the spiritual connection to the environment Aboriginal people had and continue to have. Seeing this as a visual representation made me feel this in a vastly different way to which I have interpreted it through reading; strangely, this was a much more personal and touching experience. Whatever the reason for this, it is clear that Albert Tucker’s painting gives a deep insight into the spirituality and identity of Aboriginal Australians.The emotion demonstrated has shaped my understanding to a great extent acheiving the ability to convey and the meaning behind the man hidden in the bark.

 

Co-dependency

What is the one most important idea or experience that you have discovered in the writings of indigenous authors (other than Kim Scott) or in the writings of authors about the indigenous experience?

Co-dependency of everything on earth is a concept I had not thought about in great detail before realising the significance it has while reading indigenous writing. This aspect of life was highlighted through the fact that while each person, animal, plant etc, has its own space and meaning, they are only what they are because of their environment and the way they are related to it.

The poem Tree by Kevin Gilbert (1990) exemplifies this through the approach to life that all aspects if environment live through each other. The lines “I am you and/ you are nothing/ but through me the tree” shows this though personification as the tree being part of the reader as well as the reader being part of the tree creates a powerful connection between the two aspects of environment. In many ways, we are much more dependant on a tree than it is on us as a tree provides oxygen, food and shelter- three basic necessities for human life. In return, we may try to protect the tree from harsh conditions, water it when necessary and prevent it from being destroyed by pests. This idea makes it more clear to me than it ever has been why Aboriginal spirituality is so centered on the environment, the respect that they hold is truly admirable as, after all, what would we be if it were not for the tree?

The lines “for all creation/ earth and God and man/ is nothing/ until they fuse/ and become a total sum of something” further demonstrate the perspective of looking at the world that I discovered in my reading this week. The line helps to create a sense of unity, respect and co-dependency between all aspects of environment. It made me come to the realisation that a tree is not just a tree and a person is not just a person. While this sounds incredibly strange, in the context of this poem and idea of co-dependency it makes some sense. While each is an individual being, together, along with the rest of the environment, they are a part of something bigger, “a total sum of something.” This in a way makes each more valuable due to the effect it has on the other. In the end, is creation itself not more beautiful than a single person?

In this way, the co-dependency of nature and the beauty of this concept I have discovered this week has really opened my eyes to the different perceptions of the world. The beauty that the world has to offer is made stronger through the need for each aspect of nature to create a much more meaningful environment.

“Beauty”

Describe in a short paragraph the single most important insight or understanding that has come to you from your study of literature this week. If you can, say also, why your personal history has led you to this insight or understanding. Enjoy the challenge!

The different perceptions of what “beauty” is and the personal meaning that a landscape can have for an individual is a concept that became a significant part of my study of literature this week. The reason the word “beauty” is in quotation marks is the simple fact that there is no true meaning- it is completely subjective and dependant on ones own ideas, experiences, and the meaning they place upon a person, object or landscape.

The concept of perceptions of beauty is portrayed in Judith Wright’s Rockface (The Shadow of Fire: Ghazals, 1985) when she states, “I’ve no wish to chisel things into new shapes,/The remnant of a mountain has its own meaning.” This declaration demonstrates the significance of a landscape in itself rather than what can be taken from it, what its utilitarian purpose is. The word “chisel” is seemingly out of place in the poem, which focuses on nature and spirituality. Through this, it becomes clear that to “chisel” in this case, would be to interupt or destroy the beauty of the landscape in the same way that the word itself does not match the rest of the poem. The final line of the poem is also a reflection of the stories lost when European settlers destroyed much of the natural landscape, a large amount of culture being destroyed also. This idea is further explored through Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance. The phrase that really resonated with me from the novel was when Bobby states, “We learned your words and songs and stories, and never knew you didn’t want to hear ours.” In a similar way that the the alteration of the mountain from Judith Wright’s poetry destroys the beauty, the goal of replacing Aboriginal culture with European culture that the settlers had, left Aboriginal peoples with disconnection and at a loss for meaning.

 

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Australian flora as seen from my bedroom window. Featuring my younger sister. Photographed by me.

The perceptions of beauty in relation to the Australian landscape, somewhat surprised me as I have always held an appreciation for Australian flora and fauna due to the fact that my father grew up in the Blue Mountains and as I grew up, he took pleasure in taking my family bushwalking and pointing out the different features of the landscape. In fact, our front yard is the home to various Australian flora which greets me as I come home everyday. In the same way, I was incredibly surprised when out of the whole lecture, I was the one person who had heard of a scribbly-gum before! This just goes to show that, while on an incredibly smaller scale to that of Rockface and That Deadman Dance, the beauty of the Australian landscape is seen (or not seen) by each individual in a dramatically different perspective which leads to the creation of meaning based upon experience and opinions.