Tag Archives: Australian Literature

Weekend Coffee Share – 15th October, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

Crooked House

This week, I’m very thrilled to be greeting you from dry land. Indeed, the sun’s even stuck her head out, bathing the backyard in golden rays as we speak. Even though I know it’s only temporary, this break in the weather is a relief. We’ve had two weeks of very heavy rain and our house was beginning to feel like proverbial Noah’s Ark. That’s not so crazy as it sounds because my desk is parked out the back of the house in one of those indoor-outdoor rooms. So, being surrounded by glass, it’s easy to feel that I’m on a boat and the house is about to leave it’s moorings and drift out to sea. That’s not so crazy either. The beach is only at the end of the street. So, not a lot of imagination is required to transport it there. Humph. I appears that I’ve taken Margaret Wild’s children’s book: The Little Crooked House too much to heart. I used to read it over and over again to my kids, and in this story the crooked house keeps relocating itself. So, you see, I’m not the only one who thinks about crooked houses like ours going walkabout, or even sailing.

While I haven’t been on any great physical adventures during the last week, I have covered considerable ground inside my head. A few weeks ago, I picked up: Companion to Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories for a $1.00 at the garage sale at Pearl Beach I’ve previously told you about. Well, as luck or extreme book hoarding would have it, it turned out that I already had the companion book: Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories on the shelf at home. Not bad considering it was published in 1959. Anyway, I decided to really study these books both to further enrich my appreciation of our culture, but also to learn more about the art of writing the short story.

What’s actually happened is that I’ve become consumed by Henry Lawson’s own life story, and also how it reflects back on the experiences of my own family going back. It actually turned out that Henry Lawson grew up near Mudgee not far from where my Irish Famine orphan, Bridget Donovan lived with her husband George Merritt. They owned a store in nearby Avisford and were contemporaries of Henry Lawson’s parents and grandparents, who also provided some of the material and inspiration for his stories. So, knowing this connection has given me both a deeper appreciation of Henry Lawson’s stories, and has also added to Bridget’s backstory.

Reading Henry Lawon’s bio, I also found out that The Bulletin sent him out to Bourke in 1893 to collect stories and send them back. Here was another interesting coincidence.  You see, I’ve grown up with my mother telling me this story of how she had tickets to see Peter, Paul & Mary but was forced to go out to Bourke with her parents instead to see her Great Uncle Herb Bruhn who was a watchmaker out there and also had something to do with musical productions. I don’t know if the whole family went out there but I’ve heard stories of all four kids squashed into the back of the FJ Holden and this is what you would call legitimate suffering…especially in the Australian heat. Mum was studying music and piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and she performed while she was in Bourke at a fundraiser for the Miss Australia Quest. There’s so much to that trip that there has to be a couple of stories in it.

Anyway, I ended up looking Uncle Herb in the old newspapers online, and struck absolute gold. Turns out that Uncle Herb was anything but idle while out in Bourke. Indeed, he was involved with establishing the Bourke Music and Dramatic Society and they put on Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carmen  and Cleopatra. It seems that while Uncle Herb might’ve been living in a small town, that he was a man with grand visions. These old newspapers have yielded multiple poems he’s written, columns of advice about how to sing and improve your voice. He wasn’t from Bourke, and yet he became so passionate about the place. I found one article where he was talking about the risk of distant Dubbo bleeding Burke dry and needing to fight to preserve the town. I see so much of myself in him, and only wish I’d known all of this when I was younger. Perhaps, my life might’ve taken a different course. Or, do I still have time? Almost 50, is it too late to return to the stage? There wasn’t much to come back to, although I’ve done numerous poetry readings.

Gidgee Guest House Bourke

For Sale. This is what $480.00 buys you in Bourke. This is my dream home. 13 bedrooms. OMG. No more decluttering required.

By the way, Geoff did a Google search to check out real estate prices in Bourke and we’ve found our ideal home. It’s just such a pity it’s so far away and I can’t help wishing to transport it here brick rick. It used to be the Commonwealth Bank in Bourke and even has a safe but what I love about it is having 13 bedrooms and all that space. Golly. I could actually practice my violin without my bow banging into something.

On the home front, on Saturday our daughter performed in the Dance Team production with her dance school. The production started out with Flick a 45 minute drama written by Daniel Russell. The plot revolved around the teenager losing her 7 year old little sister while her parents are at work. Instead of ringing her parents or the Police, she (gulp) contacts her friends. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my seat thinking the sister’s been abducted and they have 48 hours to find her. You need to hurry up and press the panic button. So, the play gains much of it’s terror and suspense through what doesn’t happen and how that grates against the audience’s knowledge of what should be happening. Little sister eventually turns up and she’s been sitting on the roof of the house watching the moon as though it’s the most natural thing to do and isn’t dangerous. I found this drama more terrifying and scary than a Stephen King horror film. The drama was followed by two choreographed dances choreographed and directed by Karina Russell. I’m new to this contemporary dance business, but to my musical mind, it was like an orchestral piece where the dancers were moving like an integral whole with some spotlights flashed here and there but they truly were team performances. I would really like to see the whole concert again so I could enjoy each performance as a whole instead of focusing so much on trying to find my daughter and watch her dance. I always watch anything she’s in with my eyes zoomed in on her and I know other parents are the same and we tend to miss the big picture. Tribe, which was choreographed and Directed by Karina Russell, was set in Ireland around 9 AD during the Viking era. Tribe “sees the repercussions of a group of young Celt women left to fend for themselves and their land while the men of their tribe are at sea.” Meanwhile Red Thread was inspired by the Ancient Chinese Proverb: “an invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.” These were incredible performances which I would like to see again and again to really appreciate the very depths of what was being expressed. It was very moving and clever and the sort of choreography you’d expect to see at the Sydney Dance Company. Well, it seemed that way to me.

In terms of blogging this week, my research into Henry Lawson inspired this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers: Not the Boss’s Wife.  Then, we visited Stanley, Tasmania – Thursday Doors.

By the way, since I missed last weekend’s Coffee Share, I thought I’d also let you know that our daughter has just got her very first pair of pointe shoes. It was so exciting, as it’s one of those right of passage experiences and time to crack the metaphorical champagne. You can read more about it or just check out the photos: HERE

So, what have you been up to? I should’ve asked you that at the start and offered you a cuppa and a cupcake, but as I’ve said before, I’m a lousy host.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

N-Oodganoo Noonuccal: Indigenous Australian Poet.

All One Race – Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Black tribe, yellow tribe, red, white or brown,
From where the sun jumps up to where it goes down,
Herrs and pukka-sahibs, demoiselles and squaws,
All one family, so why make wars?
They’re not interested in brumby runs,
We don’t hanker after Midnight Suns;
I’m for all humankind, not colour gibes;
I’m international, and never mind tribes.

Black, white or brown race, yellow race or red,
From the torrid equator to the ice-fields spread,
Monsieurs and senors, lubras and fraus,
All one family, so why family rows?
We’re not interested in their igloos,
They’re not mad about kangaroos;
I’m international, never mind place;
I’m for humanity, all one race.

Dear Ms Noonuccal,

It’s a real honour to write to you and touch base at long last.

I am currently writing a series of Letters to Dead Poets and although I risk offending your cultural sensitivities, I am wanting to be inclusive. I am hoping that we could share a metaphorical walk and chat together. Talk about what it would take for all Australians to belong.

Oodgeroo-Noonuccal plaque

We need diversity and to celebrate and respect a kaleidoscope of difference and yet still come together as one. Not as one amorphous bunch of clones but as human beings with a dazzling array of colours, shapes, textures all glued together through respect, understanding and acceptance. While this might sound like a utopian dream, we have to have a go. Do our best. If every single one of us makes a small personal change, then collectively this must amount to something monumental. I know when I was growing up we never thought the Berlin wall would come down, and yet it’s gone. We weren’t all just a bunch of dreamers, after all!

Yet, more and more walls need to come down.

More bridges must be built.

Yet, we sit in our brick bunkers with our technology and remotes basking in our own private worlds.

While there’s apathy, there’s also animosity, resentment and an “us” and “them”. The racism you fought so hard against through your political activism and poems:

Racism – Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Stalking the corridors of life,
Black, frustrated minds
Scream for release
From Christian racist moulds.
Moulds that enslave
Black independence.

Take care! White racists!
Black can be racists too.
A violent struggle could erupt
And racists meet their death.

Colour, the gift of nature
To mankind,
Is now the contentions bone,
And black-white hatred sustains itself
on the rotting, putrid flesh
That once was man.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Before we go any further, I’d like to apologise for not reading your poetry until recently when my son brought it home from school. At least, I’m fairly sure I never studied your poetry at school or university, despite studying Australian Literature. This means that I’d never read a single poem by an Aboriginal poet until I was 46 years old. That despite growing up memorizing verses of Banjo Paterson’s Man From Snowy River and Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country by heart, I never knew your poems. I’d never read or learnt about your vision for Australia. I don’t need to spell out what that means. That a nation needs to know its own and not just experience one dish but to feast from the full smorgasbord.

Aboriginal Painting 14.6.2010 low res

My son’s poignant Aboriginal Spirit Man Painting Age 8.

It is my hope that by sharing a few of your poems here and just a fraction of your vision, that others will also be spurred on to get to know you better. Find out what you were fighting for and even pick up the baton and carry it forward.

Unfortunately, with writing over 26 letters to dead poets in a month, time restraints prevents me from thoroughly researching each poet and allowing myself to immerse myself in their poetry in the same way I studied the poems of John Keats when I was at school. I am meeting so many incredible poets for the very first time along this journey and while I would usually undertake lengthy, meticulous research before putting pen to paper let alone posting it online, I feel like I’m flying blind. Indeed, flying blind and straight into the flames. I hope I’m not screwing up, making mistakes and getting it wrong. There are people who have studied each of you individually in such depth and detail and in so many ways I’m just skipping over the surface trying to dig in as deep as I can but inevitably having to move onto the next one too soon. At least, I’m honest about it and don’t pretend to know you well.

However, perhaps that’s all I’m meant to do. Light the spark that ultimately gets the fire going.

Municipal Gum

Gumtree in the city street,
Hard bitumen around your feet,
Rather you should be
In the cool world of leafy forest halls
And wild bird calls
Here you seems to me
Like that poor cart-horse
Castrated, broken, a thing wronged,
Strapped and buckled, its hell prolonged,
Whose hung head and listless mien express
Its hopelessness.
Municipal gum, it is dolorous
To see you thus
Set in your black grass of bitumen-
O fellow citizen,
What have they done to us?

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Getting back to my original question, what do you think it would take for all Australians to feel they belong and how do we expand that to build bridges around the world?

I’m not really expecting you to answer that but perhaps you could nibble around the edges. I hope it’s nothing but a rhetorical question!

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

Further Reading:

https://www.qut.edu.au/about/oodgeroo/oodgeroo-noonuccal

This post is part of a series of Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Banjo Paterson…Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge.

G’day Banjo,

Of course, I couldn’t possibly write my series of Letters to Dead Poets without including you.  Walzing Matilda has long been Australia’s unofficial national anthem and The Man From Snowy River is an iconic Australian poem illustrating values of mateship and community which have made this nation strong.

Banjo_Patterson

Back when  was 10 years old in primary school, we all strived to remember the lines of: The Man From Snowy River, which has since been made into a film. I remember going over and over those lines almost hearing the sound of pounding hoofs in the metre:

There was movement at the station,

for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away

And had joined the wild bush horses –

he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far

Had mustered at the homestead overnight,

For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,

And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,

The old man with his hair as white as snow;

But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up –

He would go wherever horse and man could go.

And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,

No better horseman ever held the reins,

For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand –

He learned to ride while droving on the plains.

That was as far as all my memorising ended up…the end of verse 2.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, I suppose I should get on to the reason for my letter. Why am I bothering to contact you from the 21st Century, when you’ve been resting in peace for so long?

Well, I have one simple question:

What does it mean to be a man?

After all, for so many years the Man from Snowy River was consciously or unconsciously held up as the ideal Aussie bloke…especially after the movie was released. With his rugged, bushman’s physique, he was Australia’s answer to the American cowboy.While this image wasn’t exactly accurate with most of our population living in urban areas, it was consciously or unconsciously reinforced by strength of the Australian Lighthorse units during World War I.

Somewhere a long the way, the legend was born.

Man-From-Snowy-River-aus-dvd

Since you created this iconic Aussie bloke, that’s why I asked you what it means to  be a man. Not for me but for my son. I know things have changed quite significantly but surely some of the fundamentals are still the same? I’m hoping for some man-to-man advice please. Well, make that man-to-man-via-his-Mum advice.

As I mentioned in my first letter to AA Milne, our son recently turned 12 and started high school. While this is hard enough, he is also about to enter the swirling vortex of pubescence. While I could well have asked Milne the same question, I forgot.

So, what are your thoughts? What does it mean to be a man beyond time and place? Is there something at the core? Or, are there so many themes and variations, that there are no underlying truths? No “Essence of Man” which I could simply put in a bottle and sell?

I wonder…

Yet, as much as I’m getting into this whole writing letters to dead poets idea, I do have my concerns. Thinking about how much things have changed, your advice could well be out of date. Your Man from Snowy River would be stonkered by how much things have changed. He wouldn’t even know what a computer was, let alone how to send an email or connect up with people all around the world via the Internet. He might know how to ride a horse but what good is that, trying to get through the main streets of Sydney now? He’d end up underneath a bus. That is, if a bicycle courier didn’t get him first.

Yet, at the same time, there must be qualities, characteristics, actions which transcend time and are part of the human condition and that’s what I’m searching for.

While I was thinking about all of this, I suddenly realised how little I know about you. You are such a household name throughout Australia and yet I barely know anything about you at all. You’re a bit like that person who’s always been living just down the road that you keep seeing yet, you don’t really know. You just think you do. So, I really should have done my research before we engaged in such lengthy conversation. I know nothing about you the man. You’re a name without a face lost in the misty passages of time.

Isn’t that the same with most writers, poets, artists? We admire their work without knowing the first thing about them. Without finding out whether they’re an inspiration after all?

Perhaps, we need to pick our role models more carefully.

Anyway, the sun has now well and truly set on what was an exceptionally warm Autumn day and I need to return to the land of the living.

I don’t know if there is any way you could possibly reach me at all but I’d love to hear from you!

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

 Notes

Banjo Paterson was born 17 February 1864 at “Narrambla”, near Orange,
New South Wales, Australia and died of a heart attack on 5 February 1941 (aged 76)
Sydney, Australia.

He is best known for his quintessential poems: The Man From Snowy River, Waltzing Matilda and Clancy off the Overflow which you can read Here.

 

Letters to Dead Poets for the A-Z Challenge So Far:

Inspired By A Living Poet: Flying With A Living Poet.

Letter from A Dead Poet: Don’t Sit By My Grave and Weep!

A- Letter to AA Milne

Theme Reveal: Blogging A-Z April Challenge

Once,

April was so far away

like a distant star in remote galaxy.

But time has flown

faster than an eagle

and now the theme reveal

was yesterday!

While I’m still beavering away on other projects, April has snuck up behind me like a thief in a dark alley and grabbed me by the throat.

“What is your theme?” It asks in its menacing, threatening tone.

“But it’s not April yet,” I reply.

“What is your theme?”It repeats, more forcefully. There is no way out.

Feeling like a kid bluffing their way through a half-concocted assignment, I’m trying to request an extension but time waits for no one…especially dithering writers who are trying to rise above their station with seemingly clever theme ideas which don’t quite come off.

I mean, let’s be honest here. Who really has a bone fide, stimulating and equally riveting subject for each and every letter of the alphabet? You can’t all tell me that you have something riveting planned for x and z and that you don’t have at least one “forced” or dreary consolation “prize” just so you can conform to the rules and deliver!

Inspired by the iconic movie Dead Poet’s Society and Rilke’s Letters to Young Poet, my theme is:

Letters to Dead Poets.

Although to be fair, I couldn’t leave out two brilliant Australian poet’s and philosophers who are very much alive…Michael Leunig and Nan Whitcomb. Moreover, just to be difficult, I also added in an artist who I believe very much had the soul of a poet…Vincent Van Gogh. So, you could say that I’m cheating or that my theme should really read:

Letters to Dead Poets With Exceptions.

I have also chosen a bit of flexibility when it comes to fitting these characters into the alphabet.

You see, strictly adhering to the rules has never been my thing. My criterion for these poets, rather, is that they have had a significant impact on my life at some point, helping to make me the person I am today. That they have spoken to me. Not just in a cerebral sense but deep inside, like a watchmaker breathing life into those secret inner parts and making me tick or at least keep ticking often during some very challenging times when it was tempting to give up. These poets were my personal friends, mentors, motivators and life savers. As such, they were too good to be kept to myself. They had to be shared.

At this point, the project is still rather fluid. I don’t want to fence it in. Rather, I want to see where it takes us because it really could take us somewhere very exciting. After all, when you immerse yourself in the words and ideas of some of the greatest poets and thinkers of all time, you have to emerge changed in some way. It’s a must.

So, I ask you to join me on this unchartered, experimental journey back through the poets who helped make a poet…just like grain upon grain of sand being deposited on a river bed, their words and ideas have accumulated, been inhaled through my eyes and planted somewhere deep in my soul, sprouting leaves and roots which have grown up into my own voice.

I still don’t know how it’s all going to work out but please come a along for the journey!

xx Rowena