Reading Australia Final Summative Entry


So here we are at the end of another fascinating semester of Australian literature and what an experience it has been! Michael Griffith asks if Australian literature has helped me to expand the boundaries of my own experience. Well the answer is a resounding yes!!!

We began our odyssey with Judith Wright who tantalised our senses with her wondrous use of poetry. She vividly brought to life both landscapes and human emotions. She introduced us to the ‘weaver’; that enigmatic part of our mind that takes the random elements that our senses absorb from the external world and create a meaningful picture with which we can interact and explore. Reading this poem not only ignited my philosophical brain, but it also left me pondering the connection between the psyche and God.

The next wordsmith we met was Patrick White and his novel “The Tree of Man”; Wow! My last encounter with Patrick White was not very successful. After reading “Riders in the Chariot” I was left feeling rather confused and a little stupid. Maybe that experience better prepared me for this amazing novel! “The Tree of man” was a tough slog, I will not lie. However the wisdom and humanity I gleaned from the pages of this novel were astonishing. Patrick White assembles sentences like a consummate artist. He imbues all his characters with such realism and frailty that I cannot help but feel connected to every one of them. What kind of brilliant writer can compare God to a gob of spit and leave the reader not only taking it seriously, but wanting to write a complete essay on it!

The writer who had the greatest impact on me this semester was without a doubt Francis Webb. This tortured soul possessed a sublime ability to transcend the hideous depths of mental illness and create glorious poetry; although many of them can be very difficult to decipher. I would never have been able to understand and enjoy this awesome writing were it not for the combined efforts of Michael Griffith and my classmates to break down each verse and find the remarkable meanings hidden in these life-affirming gems. My own battles with mental illness were given meaning and even made seemingly heroic by this tormented writer. Francis Webb impelled me to see the value in all people and that also includes me! Self-worth and humility I take away from these readings.


We were all re-introduced to David Malouf through his novel “The Conversations at Curlow Creek”. Here is a literary talent to challenge even the amazing Patrick White. A seemingly simple, yet dreadfully morbid, tale of a man appointed to execute a captured bush-ranger manages to plum the depths of human experience. The conversations between the soldier and condemned man, together with numerous flashbacks to the soldiers past explore so many themes: Does evil exist, does God exist and is He all-forgiving, the fact that good and bad can be so subjective, socially constructed roles and hierarchy, love, jealousy, death, empathy and so much more in such a short novel. Just as with “The Tree of Man” I found myself intimately connected with the hopes and fears of all of the characters. We may all have had different backgrounds and be headed in different directions, but deep down we are all fundamentally flawed human beings.

Finally we read “My Place” by Tracey Morgan and received a rare insight into an indigenous perspective of the Australian experience. One of the most heartbreaking things about this story was the fact that Tracey Morgan’s mother and Nan were too frightened to let Tracey and her siblings even know they were aboriginal. What a heinous blight on our national history that our very own native people do not wish to own up to their origins! Tracey’s Nan seemed even ashamed of her heritage and tragically took so many possibly illuminating stories to the grave with her. I read this story many years ago in high school and it was probably my first encounter with the pain and humiliation suffered by this countries original inhabitants. As a nation we still have a long way to go, but we need to hear these tragically taboo tales. So many times while reading this book I felt angry and ashamed of my own ‘white’ heritage, but I also felt elated and optimistic with every small victory Tracey won on her journey toward her re-connection with her people and spirituality. The crimes of the past must be brought out into the light if we ever hope to heal. Stories do matter and can connect souls in a much deeper way than mere facts.

So many heart wrenching, heart warming, inspirational, question raising stories and poems. Therefore I have no qualms announcing that these amazing writers definitely expanded the boundaries of my own experience. It has been an intellectually stimulating, spiritually enlightening and emotional journey. I have had a lot of turmoil in my life this year in dealing with anxiety and depression. It has been a blessing to explore these literary artists; and a joy to take the journey with Michael Griffith and my curious and perceptive classmates.


Peer Review 8

You seemed to have received a double helping of food for thought from David Malouf’s visit. I too was surprised to hear his views on assimilation, yet I am sure his parents must have played a part in this decision. It seems odd to me having grown up with children with parents from so many different countries. Every Saturday I would see them being forced to go to school in order to learn the language and history of their family of origin. Maybe David Malouf’s parents were not interested in this for him, or maybe he didn’t have access to it. While I certainly wasn’t envious of my friends having to go and do extra classes on Saturday, I really wished I could speak another language. The usual lazy person’s lament; I want the benefits without the effort. I think it is important to know your heritage and in this day and age it is a definite advantage to speak a second language.

Blog 8: It starts with an A and ends with an O

One word can cause so much pain, re-ignite such grief and resentment. “It’s just a word” I may say to try and explain it away. But I cannot deny my own eyes; this ‘harmless’ word has cut deep. I cannot deny my heart; it senses the heartache I have caused. I wish I could just disappear.

I was sitting at my local pub many years ago, one night with two older koori ladies that I loved and cared for very much. One was my mates’ mother and the other a local lady we knew well. We were enjoying a few drinks and many laughs. The word simply rolled off my tongue during a story, just like it had so many times before. I cannot believe I had managed to avoid such a dreadful situation for so long having this word in my vocabulary. I guess we really do know that there are times when this so called harmless word should not be used. It just flowed from my mouth like any other word as if it was completely innocent. As soon as it reached their ears I knew I had slung a vicious slur that I would have done anything to take back.

Their faces instantly turned from amused and interested to confused and concerned. It wasn’t anger that I sensed, it was bitter disappointment. They knew I loved them and I know they loved me, but this was an error that could not go unnoticed. I can still hear the way my mate’s mother so slowly and deliberately said “I haaaaaate that word”. I felt about two inches tall.

I will never forget this horrible moment and the shame it left me with. Nor will I forget the kindness offered to me from these two beautiful women. Rather than hurling abuse or a giving me a stern lecture, they took the time to explain to me the pain they felt every time they heard that word. They shared stories of how cruelly it had been used against them and their loved ones. I will always remember and cherish their patience and forgiveness. So many important lessons in life we learn outside the classroom.


Peer Review 7

Hi Daniel
It is a brave act to put your writing out there these days. It seems that there is a never-ending platform for writers and your work will probably just be lost in the overpopulated chaos. One may well ask; so what’s brave about sending something out that no body will probably ever read? Firstly, the silence can be deafening. Lack of feedback can be extremely deflating and writers must be prepared for this. Secondly though is that the line I wrote was that no bod’ would ‘probably’ ever read it; which means that there is always a chance that some random person will find your little message in a bottle and you will connect with that person on a subconscious level. Someone you will never meet has read a piece of your psyche and has felt a kinship with it. How cool is that?

Keep doing what you are doing 🙂

Blog 7: The Conflict Between Outer and Inner World

The soul of a wistful Irishman imprisoned in the avatar of a straight-laced trooper whose duty it is to enforce the British laws regardless of sentiment. A diligent and rigidly disciplined exterior would be imperative armour for the protection of such an empathic and humane inner world. The dichotomy in Michael Adair’s psyche must have been torture! The fact that he spent the night respectfully conversing with the man he would eventually have to kill is testament to a benevolence and courage I doubt I would be able to muster. I am certain I would be seated with the gruff and seemingly uncaring men around the fire, trying to distance ourselves from the humanity of Daniel Carney and the abhorrent task we must perform in the morning.

Reading this book I was continually reminded of the beginning scenes from the film “The Crying Game”. This 1992 movie became famous for a very clever plot twist, but for me it always raised so many other questions. The relationship between Fergus and Dil brings up the eternal question of what love actually is. However it was the relationship between Fergus  and Jody  in the beginning of the story that kept creeping up while I read “Conversations at Curlow Creek”. Fergus was an IRA member and Jodi was a kidnapped British soldier in Fergus’s custody. It is easy to hate someone from a distance.; to imagine the ‘enemy’ as an evil person who is void of emotions and decency. How can you maintain that contempt if you actually talk to the person and begin to understand their humanness and the path that lead them to be on the ‘side’ that they are on? Life is very rarely cut neatly into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’.


Peer Review 6

“So here goes nothing” I love it! I have grappled with this conundrum since I was a child. I am frightened of dying and becoming nothing. How Can I be afraid of nothing? What is nothing? Can I imagine nothing? No, because to imagine is to think and that is something. That time we lose when we are asleep and are not dreaming is the best I can come up with; and that is painless I guess. It is everything-less as a matter of fact. Trippy!
It always amuses me when I ponder the lyrics of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”:
“Mamma, I don’t wanna die
Sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.”
As you have already said: before we are born we are nothing; so to have never been born at all is a form of death. Therefore we have already experienced death. What more can one say: “So here goes nothing”

Blog 6: Allegory or Metaphor (I always get those mixed up)

Francis Webb often seemed to hide his meaning deep within his poems. Many times I have been surprised to discover the theme of one of his mysterious writings. It intrigues me to try and imagine why he did this: was he trying to be difficult? Did he simply enjoy this style? Was it the only way he could express such deep emotions and ideas? Was he merely acting as a conduit for an intuition he had to appease? I do not yet have the answer and there may well not be one.

A long time ago I had a go at writing in this style, but it was not by accident or an attempt to be clever. In 2008 I suffered a crippling bout of severe depression that floored me for many months. I was laying on the warm concrete one day in a desperate hope that the sun might inject some life into my defeated soul. With my eyes closed I had a vision of the flourishing tomato plants that used to reside in our now fruitless and weed stricken garden. At that moment I decided I would get up and start preparing it for some fresh plant life. This was a basic attempt to give myself something productive to do and maybe keep my mind active for a while to keep the demons at bay.

For some reason, and possibly by coincidence, this moment sticks in my mind as the moment the trajectory of that depressive episode turned for the better. Of course this is not the be all and end of my treatment; I was seeing a therapist and regularly attending 12 step meetings, and this was the true crux of my recovery. However I will never forget how my improvement moved along with the cultivation of the garden. By the time the garden was lush with delicious ripe tomatoes I was back at work, feeling much better about life and myself; and making plans to begin the journey that eventually lead me to university.

I am not so impressed with the poem as a work of art, but I love what it represents!



Desolate, barren, soil.

Scrawny, debris of lifeless plants.

Once so rich and vibrant.

An abundant harvest.

Now withered and decayed.



We must remove the old expired vegetation.

We must eliminate the old,

To make room for the new.

Extract the weeds.

The devious parasite,

Yearning to take over.


A clean slate.

We turn the soil.

We add nutrients.

Create a place that will sustain life.

A place that will nurture life,

Promote growth.


Plant the seedlings.

They are tiny and fragile.

They will need our care and attention.

But they will need to find their own potency.

In the end, we can but watch.

It is up to nature.


We wait and see.


Peer Review 5

I remember feeling the same way about this book when I first read it. It was tough going and I felt that the story went nowhere. The real joy came when we discussed it in class with Michael Griffith and among ourselves. So many hidden gems were uncovered and then we each added our ideas and interpretations. So much wisdom was gleaned from this rather short novel that it is now one of my favourites; just as David Malouf is now one of my favourite authors. I hope you enjoy and fully participate in the discussions that follow. It is a way of not just better understanding the book, but also adding a whole new bunch of fascinating layers to it!

Blog 5: (attempting to) Illustrate with Words

The past two weeks I have heard so many mentions of the limitations of language when it comes to conveying ideas and concepts in our class. Last week we discussed the monumental task of trying to capture the full scope of a natural scene with just adjectives and metaphor. This week we read and listened to Francis Webb’s description of the near impossibility he felt trying to get his intended message across. What chance do us beginners have!!!

I realised I have recently made an honest attempt at this (although my subject was somewhat darker) and would be curious to see how I went. I suffer from anxiety and depression and I have been under attack quite a lot lately by my inner demons. One particularly rough day I felt an overwhelming urge to draw this nasty son of a bitch, but sadly realised that I have NO drawing ability; so I decided to use the tools I have at my disposal; words.

I wrote the following poem and think that I captured this horrid beast in all its ominous glory:


Huge claws wrap around my middle

Crushing my insides

Stomach churns


Huge mouth lowers onto my head

Biting my skull

Sharp pointed teeth pierce the skin

Puncture the bone

Stabbing my brain

I cannot see a body

This monster hangs on my back

It doesn’t look angry

It doesn’t look happy or sad.

It looks insatiable

It looks ravenous!


To my amazement, less than a week later I saw a cartoon on Facebook containing an image that depicted, what I believed, was my own personal monster! I guess I will always have to deal with this insidious goblin, but it was sweetly soothing to see that I was not alone. I am personally awed by the similarity, but only I can know what was in my head. Of course it is not exactly the same, but what it is doing is so exact it’s eerie.

I would be interested to hear if the words I wrote produce a comparable image for you readers.


Peer Review 4

A fascinating take on that multi-layered final chapter Eleanor! ” Patrick White has rooted and linked human nature with the rest of the natural world”. Such a wonderful line that goes so well with the pictures you have used. I love the idea that we are all linked, not just to each other, but to all of nature.
Death is the great equalizer and forces us all to pause and ponder our existence.
I can’t help but imagine the grandson as a kind of young Patrick White. He has inherited his grandfather’s spiritual inquisitiveness and just may also have the literary gift to be able to put those musings and meditations into writing, so as to share them with other people and maybe create a spark in others.
I look forward to more of your blogs.