Early 20th Century Poetry. Judith Wright

Recently I went on a weekend stay not far from Armidale. It was a long car trip in the ’65 Falcon, and as we hit the New England Highway, I thought of Judith Wrights poem “Niggers Leap, New England” and how close we would be to the location illustrated in the text. The following day we went to the lookout, the deep chasm was cool and windy in the dry heat.

Our view from the lookout


Judith Wright was once called “the conscience of the nation”. I believe her work was intrinsic to the formation of a modern Australian voice through her passionate engagement in the world of poetry, activism and reconciliation. Below you will find a digital kit that explores the life and work of Judith Wright

Biographies on Judith Wrights life and writing. Drawn from Wrights’ Autobiography.

Writing and Values
One in series of lectures from the wheeler Centre on Australian literature, Chris Wallace-Crabbe discusses the poetry of Judith Wright, her career, character, and consciousness.
Judith Wright found a modern Australian language.

A rare interview with Judith Wright. The discussion draws on Wright’s passion towards major themes that emerge in her work. Interestingly these are often issues we still grapple with in Australia today, such as environmental devastation and the loss of Indigenous culture and belonging.

Katie Noonan and the Brodsky Quartet reimagines the words of Judith’s Wrights poems through song and music. Judith wright once notably commented that she didn’t want her poetry taught in schools as she objected to “being turned into an instrument of torture for school children,” she went on to say that “everybody ought to be introduced to poetry… but I don’t think they should be penalised for not liking it.” This project which sets Judith Wrights poems to music invites everyone to access her writing, even those who aren’t partial to poetry.

Judith Wright, pictured in the Brisbane Times



Peer Blog Review 3

This week I have added to Victorias discussion of values present in the works of Charles Harpur and Henry Kendall


“Hi Victoria,
This is a well informed analytical response to the values depicted in Charles Harpur’s “A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest” and Henry Kendall’s “Bell-Birds”. However, I’d like to know how you perceive the poems. Did you agree with the way the poems described the natural landscape? Do you the differences between texts affects has a significant effect on the Australian literary canon?”

Creative Writing

This week, I have been particularly influenced by iconic Australiana. I love the use of colloquial language in Australian literature and the description of landscapes and experiences that are purely unique to the Australian identity. This piece of creative writing titled “Thunderbolts Way” was inspired by a journey up the infamous road.

                                                      Thunderbolts Way

A bubbling rust grew on the side of the old Ford Falcon. Her idle finger picked at the paint on the passenger door. Every window was rolled down, but no blast of dry air could cool them. In the early morning, they had been in Freshwater, dunking themselves in the surf one last time before the journey west with sand still stuck to their bare-feet. But the sea-breeze was long behind them as they sped on into the still inland air. The sand now looked odd when they stopped at a servo for ice-blocks. They drove on through dappled afternoon sun, whizzing past parched land and historic hotels, the motor hummed and shook methodically. The car rounded another bend, but there, bursting onto the horizon, the ranges loomed before them. As they reached the base of the mountain, the Falcon slowed and the temperature began to rise. “Fuck, it’s hot!” blurted the driver nervously.
“Don’t push her, alright?” the girl said flatly, “We’re gonna make it this time, just don’t drive her too hard.”
The drivers knuckles whitened on the steering wheel as the incline began. This road had defeated him once before. Trees thickened and blocked out the sun darkening the road ahead, the old car started to shudder and hiss. A logging truck overtook them and yelled back “GOODLUCK TO YA!”
From here the road only got steeper and narrow. The driver could feel his heart in his throat as the falcon began to stutter, the engine grabbing at all the power it had left. It was a long way down if you went off the edge, and some did. “There it is, there’s the spot! This is the furthest we’ve ever made it up this mountain!” the girl puffed. But there was still a way to go. The ford falcon was giving it all it had, but it wasn’t enough, the engine rattled and wailed furiously “SHE’S GONNA BURST!” the driver roared as he sent her up the near vertical incline. He grabbed the gear stick in his fist, clunked it down into 1st.  The car crunched. Lurched. Then silence. The ford falcon started rolling backwards. The girl held tightly onto the seatbelt stiffened with sweat. The driver stomped the accelerator to the floor and with a thunderous rumble the gear kicked in and the car jumped back to life, thrusting itself up to the top of the mountain. As the road flattened out upon the summit, the temperature dropped.  A cool air filled the car and Dire Straits came on the radio. They turned up the volume.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 6.25.25 pm
Travelling in my partners ’65 Ford Falcon


Peer Blog Review 2

This week I commented on Jake’s understanding of the key issues present in Sidney Nolans painting “First Class Marksman” (1946)


“Hi Jake,
A great and iconic painting by Sidney Nolan! I agree there is a beauty in Nolans abstract technique and the image feels distinctly Australian. Perhaps you could connect this Art to a work of Australian literature you may have studied that has similarly influenced you. Also, you discuss society “During Ned Kelly times,” I think this post could really benefit from adding in dates- referring to the 19th century, or references to other texts.
Good work so far.”

Mid 19-Century Poetry

Australian literature in the mid 19th century often possessed a particularly British quality. Colloquial Australian language had not yet become a popularised form of expression in poetry.  This elevated language is present in the works of Charles Harpur’s “A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest” (1851) and Henry Kendall’s “Bell-Birds” (1869). Despite their similarities, these poets bring life to the landscape in distinct contrast to one another.

Both Harpur and Kendall manipulate rhythm to express their unique experiences of Australian nature. However, we can observe a contrast between the two poets. Harpur creates tension through stillness, then contrasts this with the intensity and energy of the beetle he concentrates the 3rd stanza on. Kendall, however, creates energy through song-like rhyming, which is notably different to the soberly paced language of Harpur’s poetry.

The contrast between the rhythm and energy of these two poems feels pivotal in understanding the poet’s experiences, as each poem affirms its own value. Kendall escapes into the fantasy of the landscape as he plays with dewy movement and glamorous imagery. Harpur, on the other hand, personifies the landscape, and though flirting with a little fantasy he values a more primal connection to the natural world.

While Harpur and Kendall share similarities in language, they differentiate in their appreciation and value of the Australian landscape. It is my opinion, however, that while both poems were written by Australian poets about Australian landscapes, neither one evokes a distinctly Australian image. The use of elevated British language in mid 19th-century Australian poetry appears to have an impact on expression. Which leaves us to question; how do we define Australian storytelling?

“A view of the artist’s house and garden, in Mills Plains, Van Diemen’s Land.” John Glover. (1835)

John Glovers depiction of an Australian landscape that has been rendered with a quintessential British romanticism.

Literature and Art

It is my belief that literature and art are often deeply entwined within one another. With this view in mind, this week we visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Through our tour of the gallery, we discussed how art and literature commonly reflect key issues of the period.

One painting that stood out to me was Arthur Stratton’s “Fire’s On’ Lapstone Tunnel (1891). This artwork was created during a period of transformation. At the desperate end of a prosperous gold rush, colonial society had found an appreciation for the individual character of the Australian landscape. Australia was forging a national identity. Through the work of artists such as Arthur Stratton, and poets such as Henry Lawson, we can clearly see that art and literature had begun to echo these issues.

Impressionism was an unfamiliar style at this time and Stratton’s manipulation of the method reflects the changing identity of early Australia. This painting stood out to me because I believe the informally structured forms, rapid brushstrokes and broad areas of colour and tone had created an emotively realistic and honest depiction of the Australian landscape.

There is an artful complexity behind this artwork. Almost literally split into two, it exposes a contrast between human destruction and raw nature. Depicting dramatic events of a death in the tunnel it speaks of the poignancy of human impact; as man destroys the earth, the earth could destroy man. The Art Gallery NSW describes on the artworks profile ‘The human drama of the painting, however, is overshadowed by the heroism of the landscape itself’ The image of the tunnel and the impact of labourers on the landscape reveals a primal power environment- from womb to tomb. This is the character of Australias’ Bushland and its way of life.

Arthur Stratton’s ‘Fire’s On’ Lapstone Tunnel (1891)


“The Blue Mountains” by Henry Lawson (1888) was written during the same era where this burgeoning love of country was beginning to be explored through visual expression. “The Blue Mountains” constructs powerfully vivid storytelling through a personification of the land  “And round about their rugged feet  Deep ferny dells are hidden.” Lawson uses beautiful language with highly descriptive imagery to evoke the wonder of the landscape, recognising its connectedness to the Australian identity. The poem ends on a sombre, moody and almost cautionary observation “The rising moon’s great placid face  Looks gravely o’er the ledges” demonstrating a sense of respect for the power of the land.

At the dawn of Australian nationalism Arthur Stratton and Henry Lawson mirror the changing issues of the era through art and literature. Demonstrating an emotive connection to the Australian landscape and a response to the formation of a national identity.

Continue reading “Literature and Art”

A Creative Interpretation

After my blog post last week which presented a connection to Australian artist Arthur Boyd, I was inspired to produce this short piece of creative writing. The narrative follows a memory of walking my dog in Bundanon; an Australian landscape surrounding Arthur Boyds studio.

Shoalhaven river.

The sleepy river murmurs low as it sweeps out to the sea in a vanishing flatness, and dotted down its lush and sunburnt banks ran a grand galvanized-iron town. Distinctly smelling of lawnmowers and steaming hose-water on hot bitumen. The dog and I spent the sticky afternoon lapping at the hose with an outstretched tongue, hot sun on thick black denim soaking through dirty rolled up jeans. Stirred by the ebb of the water we took off upon it shoulder. A river carved by tide and ranges, tromping knee deep in crackling grass towards the cool bank we could call our own. Around crooked bends and stretching ways, the dog picked up scattered sticks along the brim in his wet foaming mouth. The further we travelled the more feverish he became. Nostrils flaring, inhaling and exhaling as he picked up he scent of the water. He bounded ahead, urging me to come quick, shaking down grass and shrubs, no fear of brown snakes.
I crawled down through a split boulder and landed on shady sand. The dog was already on the shore. Still. Panting. Parting clouds threw sunshine onto grey and gold water like heavy-handed brush strokes. We stood in the ghostly silence. The call of an Eastern whip bird broke the undisturbed air. The dog looked at me for a command. “Cooee!” I bellowed. Tongue out, he thundered down the beach, leaped from the bank and crashed down into the cool tea tree stained water. His splash rippled across the river and made waves on the other side. Gleefully the dog sloshed back up to my side to shake his sopping fur.

This was our spot.


My loyal Kelpie, HB.

Peer Blog Review 1

This week, I have added to Tamara’s discussion of beauty and its purpose and existence in Australian literature.


“A very well written and engaging perspective. I agree, beauty is subjective, but I disagree that the word holds “no true meaning” The word ‘beauty’ portrays a very positive and affirming concept. I believe it has a very absolute meaning. Leading on from your interpretation, across the spectrum of Australian literature the manipulation of beauty/beauty lost is so enduring in subject matter, I think you may have touched on a very grand notion: Does all literature connect, in some way to the concept of beauty?
Interesting stuff.”

Insights on Australian Literature

The landscape of Australian literature nurtures a close relation between literature and art. Narratives become deeply rooted within the culture and context of our Australian history, but also connects us to memory. As an artist I believe that visual messages are part of our repertoire of memories, authors visualise these memories using language techniques as paint. The ethos of our national literature, and in particular our indigenous literature, is often compelled to paint a visual image of land, and the relationship of the narrative within the context of the environment. An environment we encounter in memory, connecting with our understanding of this earth and history. Which leads to an interesting question; Can an author create a successful Australian story without a link to the environment?

“And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.”
Banjo Patterson, ‘Clancy of the overflow’ (1889

Arthur Boyd | Twilight.
Arthur Boyd | Twilight, Pulpit Rock, c.1982.

Reading that particular stanza of Clancy of the overflow, I feel as if I’m being placed in one of Arthur Boyd’s paintings of the Shoalhaven. Having visited his Bundanon studio along the banks of the Shoalhaven River, I remember it as an incredibly tranquil and calm moment, immersed in an awe inspiring and rugged terrain. A beauty and lightness evoked by language texture in Banjo’s perceptions of an Australian landscape.