Australian Literature Final Summative Entry

 

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What insights has your study of Australian Literature and Art given you into the importance of creativity as part of human experience?

While trying to work out how to tackle this question I was struck by one of my own; what does it mean to be creative? Is it making something useful such as a table or a chair? Is it producing a work of art or literature that sparks the imagination of others? Is it designing and building a house or a machine? Can one actually create wealth? Does that count as being creative?

On our Australian Literature journey we first met the original inhabitants of this country. From reading their stories and poetry I discovered a unique way of seeing the world and it was most definitely creative. It was the art of blending in with and being a part of one’s environment. The indigenous people of this land did not feel an urge to conquer the land and pillage its resources for personal gain. They inter-mingled with their surroundings; they loved and respected the earth.

The Aboriginal writings told horrendous tales about the invasion of Europeans and the ensuing land theft and genocide. The concept of creativity held by the two peoples was at war. The European idea of creativity was the creation of wealth and empire. They saw the land as a resource to be plundered and exploited. They basked in their cleverness for finding new ways to control and utilise the land. The natives also used the land, but their relationship was closer to that of a child and a parent. Their ingenuity was in finding ways to adapt themselves to the land instead of vice versa.  The newcomers had long since lost their understanding of the sacredness of the earth and were unwittingly heading down a path of their own destruction.

Before moving on to other writers our class made a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW in order to connect the written word with the visual art of Australia. It was fascinating to see the art itself changing with the times. Art created by British newcomers showed the conflict the new arrivals felt with the harsh and alien Australian continent. As years passed and the artistic torch was passed on to people who were born and raised here I got a real sense of belonging and love for the country from some artists. The creations of the artists were reflecting not just the changing craft, but the changing attitudes of their times.

As we turned our attention back to the writers it was intriguing to discover that the same metamorphosis was happening with our language. The earlier writers used rather rigid English and seem to impose their British heritage onto the Australian culture. As the new generations emerged we got to see some real imaginative and resourceful use of the English language. The language was changing and developing to suit the new landscape and lifestyle of this strange southern land.

Sadly we ran out of time and only got a glimpse at the emerging talent of new Australians arriving from all around the world. I am sure the next chapter in Australian literature will be heavily influenced by the amazing melting pot of cultures and result in some truly original and dynamic creations. We all have so much to learn from and teach to one another.

Creativity in the form of art and literature is an attempt to share an idea or emotion with our fellow humans. We all need to feel connected and by sharing our creative efforts we are allowing others to see into a part of ourselves. Our writing or art can be an intimate part of our personality offered to others in order for us to share the human experience. This may hopefully alleviate the separateness that leads to loneliness and help create stronger bonds between us.

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Week 11: Thoughts sparked by Les Murray’s “The Cool Green”

A long, long time ago some very clever people came up with a way for people to trade goods and services. Previously it may have been simple enough for one farmer to use milk as trade for vegetables from another. It was more troublesome for the farmer to pay the people who built his house in grain. It was also ridiculous to carry your meat with you everywhere you went in order to exchange it for whatever you wanted or needed. Thus, currency was created. It was an easier way for people to trade. Its guise changed throughout the ages, but it eventually settled on money; the trusted servant of traders everywhere.

Money was meant as a means, not an end. Somewhere along the line we became confused and began believing that the accumulation of wealth was our sole purpose in life. We began to idolise people for their ability to take more money than they need. We celebrated those that fritter away money on ostentatious rubbish while others did not even have enough to eat. One person sits on a golden toilet bowl while another dies painfully from a treatable disease because they cannot afford treatment.

Many sacrifice their integrity in order to acquire this seductive stuff. They lie; cheat, steal and even kill just to get their hands on more of this thing. And it is just a thing, in fact is less than a thing, it is an abstract concept. It is a mere tool used for the exchange of goods and services. Yet somehow it has magically metamorphosized into the thing we find most precious. As Les Murray laments, many have surrendered their principles and very souls just to have more of a thing that was meant to serve us. The servant has become the master.

There are so many wonderful quotes on this subject but this one from Bob Marley is one of my favourites; “Don’t gain the world & lose your soul, Wisdom is worth more than silver and gold”

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I also couldn’t resist posting a link to this classic.

Week 10: Patrick White and Aussie Sporting Pride

Two points stand out in Patrick White’s rant about the Australian psyche from the Prodigal Son. “The Great Australian Emptiness, in which the mind is the least of possessions…” and “muscles prevail…” Growing up during the 80s and 90s in this “sporting nation” I can whole heartedly relate to these sentiments. Being an uncoordinated runt of a kid who enjoyed mental gymnastics rather than athletic competition I can also recall feeling very alienated and being almost ashamed of my traits. An old school friend recently introduced me to his girlfriend as such; “This is my mate Nige from school. He was smart, but he acted dumb and hung around with us”. So now here I am in my early 40s, stuck in a mind numbingly dull dead-end job, performing monotonous manual labour, accumulating aching joints and muscles and wondering how long my body will hold out. Fortunately, I have dusted off my old brain and am now nearing the end of my Bachelor of Arts.

Patrick White’s words reminded me of the first time I saw stand up comedian Steve Hughes and laughed so hard at his revelations on the Aussie obsession with sporting prowess. In one section Steve explained how when being asked why he didn’t want to play rugby league as a kid he replied “because it fucken hurts!” My thoughts exactly! But growing up in Sydney you could never say that. You had to be tough; you had to be interested in this game and be prepared to suffer personal injury in order to demonstrate your blokeyness.

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Returning to Australia after several years living in Europe, Steve was asked if he missed his homeland. His “no” reply was met with great curiosity, to which he replied “because I don’t like sport that much”. I’m sure I laughed twice as hard as my athletic mates. “Only in Australia can the sport be on both the front and back pages of the newspaper” he said. This act was inspirational for me; this bloke was saying stuff I had always mused over but never been able to put into words.

I don’t hate sport, but it holds very little of my attention. I am much more interested in film, books, philosophy, and theatre and of course stand up comedy. My sporty mates are mine by default of geography. We grew up together and have much in common. However, my geekiness and their competitive sportiness is definitely a divergence. They do not wish to discuss Akira Kurosawa or Plato and I do not wish to hold on to a ball and run full throttle at one of them so that they may smash their shoulder into my midsection and violently slam me into the turf.

Australia does seem to have a preference for sporting conquest over intellectual achievement. I have not lived anywhere else so I can only go on what I hear from other people who have, and imagine that these tales of far off places where the cerebral is celebrated actually exist. Of course, we have pockets of it here in Australia, but the bookish and artistic types are certainly kept in the shadow of the great sporting heroes. I don’t think we mind so much though, we prefer peace and quiet in order to nurture our creativity.

Oz Lit Peer Review 6

You said a lot in very few words and that’s hard to do! I believe you are saying that the title meaning stems from how it would be used in a sentence, such as “to measure up”, as in measure up to equality and compassion. Your message is not quite clear and I would have loved if you elaborated on it a bit more. I could not figure out what “The Measure” was, so well done for coming up with a theory.

https://julenaoliva.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/blog-review-5-1890s-in-australia/#respond

 

Week 8: Judith Wright’s “The Surfer”

I had no intention of digging up another of my old clunkers, but Judith Wright’s poem took me right back to the moment I was trying to capture when I wrote my piece. I think it was the line “Turn home, the sun goes down; swimmer, turn home.” It reminded me of the rapturous joy that could overtake me when I was immersed in the thrill of being part of the ocean, not just in it. I would lose all track of time and the sun could very well set without me noticing. I never got past the beginner level of surfing, but riding waves, either on a body board or just body surfing, was an amazing experience on those occasions when I lost myself in it.

I have two vivid memories of sharing this experience with others. One was my cousin and I surfing at Cronulla beach. We were barely teenagers and had just mastered standing up and riding the wave all the way in. A sand bar meant that we could simply walk back out and catch another wave. It was almost pitch black before we finally wretched ourselves out of the water. I think the fear of sharks overtook the fun. I spent so many days at that beach, yet that one stands out as something special for some reason.

The other one was what inspired my poem. My summer holidays as a youngster were usually spent in a caravan park at The Entrance on the central coast. The poem is about the summer of 1989 (yes classmates I’m that old). Re-reading it I first noticed how clunky it was, but I also had the stark realization that this was the last summer of my life that did not revolve around alcohol. It’s fascinating how our focus changes through the years. Anyway, this enigmatic elation I am trying to grasp was shared by almost two dozen kids and teenagers. It was almost a kind of mass hypnosis. We were there every day after and I never felt it again; intriguing.

SUNSET AT TWO SHORES

 

The sun is going down already.

Can’t stop yet, too much fun.

Seems like every kid in the caravan park is out here.

An army of boogie boarders and surfers.

All desperately clinging to the feeling.

Friends, fun, freedom.

 

The surf isn’t even that good.

But something makes this great.

We’re all in this together,

And yet we all catch our own waves.

We all experience it differently.

But the smiles are unmistakeable.

 

No one on the shore now,

Except for the invading beach fishermen.

Slowly and reluctantly,

Kids head into the sand.

Night time now.

Getting hungry.

 

We’ll be back tomorrow.

We’ll keep coming back.

Looking for whatever it was.

But somehow we’ll never find it.

That special ingredient.

I still don’t know what it was.

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Oz Lit Peer Review 5

I want more! I often try to keep my blogs brief because I’m not sure I can keep the readers interest. You may have the same belief and I will tell you from a readers perspective that I would like to know more about what you thought of this poem. I can see that it grabbed your interest and I would love to know what parts hit you hardest. I would also love to know if you figured out what “the measure” is because I could not.

 

https://georgianabousaid.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/mary-gilmore/

 

Week 7: Thoughts about “Faces in the Street”

Henry Lawson’s poem exposes the mind numbing, spirit crushing monotony the working class toils under every day. Though technology may have improved since his time, the mundane and meaningless chores the average worker must perform in order to survive is still rife; creating a soul destroying existence for most people. One could easily watch the morbidly depressed expressions on the faces of people on their morning commute to work today and Henry Lawson’s poem would fit just as well.

His use of repetition helps to illustrate the endless miserable merry-go-round of boring tasks. I see drained and heartbroken people spending day after day performing duties that mean nothing to them simply so they can afford to live. People working in order to feed, house and clothe themselves just so that they can continue working. It sounds like an extremely cunning form of slavery in which the slaves are not even aware of their predicament.

These thoughts reminded me a poem I wrote a long time ago whilst feeling exhausted and overworked. The poem shows its age when it mentions DVD players and I am sure I would have also been talking about the older style televisions too. However the sentiment hasn’t changed and the fact that so many of us spend such a massive portion of our lives employed in such hollow activities just so that we can live seems a tragic mistake.

SLAVES

 

We are all slaves.

Slaves to other people’s greed.

More, they want,

More,

Always more,

Never enough.

 

The stuff comes in,

We ship it out.

But still they want more

More TVs,

More DVD players,

More fridges.

 

The bosses want more.

More customers,

More sales,

More money.

It’s better for us all they say.

Don’t you want the overtime?

 

When they have it all,

They want newer stuff

The latest DVD player,

A bigger fridge,

A better TV.

Something else.

 

So we ship it out.

We get the overtime.

We get the money.

So we can buy stuff.

TVs, DVD players, fridges

Don’t you want a new car?

 

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Week 6: Compare two poems regarding a natural Australian scene

This week I decided to try something a little different. Instead of writing a straightforward comparison of the two poems, I thought I would attempt writing a companion poem in my own words for each example. I hope it makes some kind of sense.

 

Musings on A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest by Charles Harpur

 

Lazy is my first feeling.

This landscape seems hot.

Rest for all so appealing.

A prize to find a cool spot.

 

A tiny bug captures my attention.

Fascination slowly takes hold.

The world at large held in suspension.

While this enchanting bug I behold.

 

Such peace requires no plunder.

Just to laze and admire the astounding

Nature and all of her wonder.

Her beauty and power abounding.

 

 

 

Musings on Bell-Birds by Henry Kendall

 

The beginning of this one more lively.

The rhythm and rhyme rolls along.

Immersed in all this it’s quite likely

To find one’s self caught up in the throng.

 

By the bell-bird’s song mesmerized.

Merging one’s self into nature.

This sublime connection realized.

For one moment experiencing rapture.

 

Now an adult I live in the city.

An uninspired soul in the sprawl.

Before I submit to self-pity,

This joyous memory I recall.

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