Les Murray

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I liked him. He was the only thing good about Quadrant in recent years. Kindly wrote a piece for the last Neos, too. See Vale Les Murray, a witty, anti-authoritarian, national poet who spoke to the world.

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Read some poems, including this favourite of mine:

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There’s a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can’t stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There’s a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.

Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.

 
from
The Weatherboard Cathedral, 1969

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December 2008 — ten years!

Just a few memories…

Fantastic, but another reason to feel old!

11 DEC 2008

cover_dec08I was skimming the Sydney Morning Herald’s glossy free mag just now, checking out whether I was on the list of Sydney’s Top 100 Influential People… 😉 Many of the usual suspects were there, and quite a few I hadn’t thought of. It is one of those that really attracted my attention.

thumb_jackThere under Community was Jack Manning Bancroft.

Now there was a familiar name: Class of 2002 at SBHS!

So how at the age of 23 did Jack get into the Top 100?

Through this:

Jack is the founder of the AIME Program. He graduated from Media and Communication in 2006, and attended St Pauls College in his time at university. He was awarded the inaugural ANZ Indigenous Scholarship for his degree, and received the Sydney University Union Leadership and Excellence award in 2005. He is a member of the Bundjalung nation in the North Coast of NSW. Jack hopes to lead AIME to every university in the country in the next 5 years.

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Click on the screen grab to explore AIME. It is well worth it!

And in 2018: Mentoring — The Key to a Fairer World

Update

I found some blog references to Jack and his work.

Indigenous Literacy Day by Judith Ridge (September 2008) says:

Tonight I went to the launch of Bronwyn Bancroft‘s beautiful new picture book, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words at Gleebooks. The book is, as you would expect if you know Bronwyn’s work, quite stunning. The images are striking and vibrant, and the colour reproduction remarkable. And a great celebration of indigenous Australian language.

Possum and Wattle was launched by Linda Burney, who spoke of of the terrible loss of Aboriginal languages (which she rightly said are, of course, Australian languages) while reminding us that all Australians are in fact speakers of Aboriginal Language. Each time we speak certain place names, or of native flora and fauna, even certain idioms, we are speaking Aboriginal Language.

Bronwyn spoke of the importance of education and literacy, especially for Aboriginal Australians. Her own father was excluded from formal education because of his Aboriginality. Now her children are school and university students and graduates, and she is about to embark on her PhD—just one generation away from that exclusion. And there is no education without literacy…

I also have to mention Bronwyn’s son, Jack Manning Bancroft, who spoke at the launch about the organisation he heads up, AIME Mentoring (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience). AIME pairs Aboriginal university student volunteers with Aboriginal high school students in a one-to-one mentoring project that aims to support young Aboriginal students in education. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and it’s something I want to learn more about. Jack was strong and heartfelt as he spoke about the value of the program, which hinges on the dedication of the current generation of young Aboriginal people to get out there and do something practical to support each other. As it says in the “About” section of their website, AIME is action. Fantastic. (And I am really curious—must ask Bronwyn about this—my grandfather’s middle name was also Manning, after the river/region where he was born. I guess that means Bronwyn’s people come from there, as mine do, although so much more recently.)

A blog called Event Mechanics promotes 2007’s Indigenous Carnivale, and quotes another blog to this effect:

A very cool, and damn motivated and inspiring bloke, called Jack Manning-Bancroft is helping organise the above day. He writes: “We welcome you all to this years Indigenous Carnivale. On Saturday the 26th of May it will be National Sorry Day. We will pay our respects to those who have suffered in the past, we will pay our respects to those who continue to suffer, and we will offer nothing but respect to each other. This is our arena. This is our community. This is our time.”

Running alongside Carnivale is it’s big brother AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) – where Jack’s helping me to do some mentoring work. It’s a mentoring program that works with High school Indigenous students. All of the profits from Carnivale will go to its big brother AIME.

Such is time… Stream of consciousness, almost…

13 DEC 2008

raleghwBefore his head was removed, Sir Walter Ralegh wrote this magnificent lyric:

Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust ;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days ;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust !

So here am I, not in the Tower of London contemplating execution of course, but in a Surry Hills flat contemplating the $1400 Mister Rudd so thoughtfully placed in my bank account yesterday. (Very handy to cover a couple of debts, and maybe to buy a new pair of boots…) I contemplate also that next year is the fiftieth anniversary of my comparatively undistinguished leave-taking from Sydney Boys High – well I did win a History Prize after all, I suppose.

dec11 010My niece was in contemplative mood a little, I think, in her Christmas letter, which I also received yesterday. Her family has had an eventful year and have done many interesting things, some of them reflecting how The Shire these days reaches out to the world in a way that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago when, as it happens, my niece was born. They are a rather good looking family too, as you may glimpse on the left… The daughter is a promising dancer, I mean seriously promising. Rather proud of them I am, though through circumstances I have seen less of them than I may have done. You may recall we all got together in Julywhen my brother visited from Tasmania.

I can recall having a few “my God! a quarter of a century!” thoughts when I turned 25, and then, as my niece mentions of herself, even greater wonder when I turned 50 – M gave me a magnificent party – and of course this year I went on the pension, which means I am now…

dec11 009And looking back through my bits and pieces (right) I see how quickly the kids I have taught have grown up and made their ways in the world, some of them with great distinction, or making important contributions of one kind or another – one I mentioned just the other day.

I have every confidence in the young.

Now, what kind of boots will I buy? A good choice will last me at least three years, as the last pair has…

In another age of recession Henry Lawson wrote of an even deeper level of misfortune:

When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn’t white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you’ll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.

I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.

I am well stocked with pants…

Bonus pic: Surry Hills Christmas

14 DEC 2008

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Surry Hills prepares to party

Too busy to blog!

16 DEC 2008

Now that’s not something that happens often, but it has been a rather full morning, which took me first to this balcony in East Redfern. And yes, more in line for the photoblog! (The two entries there today went up on autopilot, having been preloaded yesterday.)

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Where, looking down…

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Then to The Mine. On the way home I ran into an ex-student, Andrew Goodwin (1996), who now lives in England – a Cambridge scientist in fact. Coached him in Debating once…

Friday I’m off to The Mine English Department end-of-year party…

Meanwhile all those things are happening out there in the world, and you are deprived of my deathless prose on any of them… I hope you can survive. 😉

You may read about Andrew Goodwin and quite a few other bright young Aussie scientists on this PDF document: Science Olympians.

Australia: A D Hope

I was reminded of this recently while considering recent debates about Australia’s population.  I have posted it before — around ten years ago. Note also Friday Australian poem #3: A D Hope, “The Death of a Bird”.

I first saw him at Sydney University in 1964, already at that time a man with an enormous reputation as a poet, critic — he called Patrick White’s prose “verbal sludge” — and enemy, in most respects, of modernism, while really being thoroughly modern in content if not always in style. …

Hope seemed very old to me in 1964! To the young Australian poets of the “generation of ’68” he seemed not only old but positively archaic. I met him at a dinner at Sydney University in 1978; Professor Rob Eagleson was kind enough to sit me next to him. He was quite charming, for I have to admit I had been feeling somewhat over-awed. We talked about trains! I did however ask him what it was like being “studied” for the HSC. He told me that one day he had gone to his office at the ANU where he was a professor. Several teenagers were waiting for him. “You A D Hope? We’ve got to ‘do’ you. Your poems are too hard.” “Not at all,” he replied. “They are perfectly plain to me. Let me tell you all about them.” So he invited them in.

So here is A D Hope, Australia:

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Last night I dreamed of a Latin poem

Really! It was this one:

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec sese a gremio illius movebat,
sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.
qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.
at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae
Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis:
tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis.
o factum male! o miselle passer!
tua nunc opera meae puellae
flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.

You will find a full translation at the link above, but here is the opening:

Mourn, ye Graces and Loves, and all you whom the Graces love. My lady’s sparrow is dead, the sparrow my lady’s pet, whom she loved more than her very eyes; for honey-sweet he was, and knew his mistress as well as a girl knows her own mother. Nor would he stir from her lap, but hopping now here, now there, would still chirp to his mistress alone. Now he goes along the dark road, thither whence they say no one returns. …

Shakespeare made use of some of that, you may recall. I studied Catullus in 1959 under the tuition of Edgar Bembrick in his last year teaching. I have posted about Latin and Bembrick before:

I had studied Latin at school, mainly under the legendary Edgar Bembrick – his last class in fact. He died in 1960. See also my post 1957 or MCMLVII. So Latin as my fourth subject, just for one year, looked an easy choice. Except it turned out there was so much of it! Not just Cicero, but Livy and Horace – the Epistles, with Mr Duhigg, whose Cambridge accent charmed me.

Out of curiosity I have just done a quick search, finding that Edgar Bembrick was born in 1890, appointed to Canterbury Intermediate High in 1922, retired in July 1960. He was at Sydney Boys High long before I started as a student in 1955 — he’s in a 1943 staff photo. He was ill for some of late 1959 — cancer, I think.

Here he is, second from the left, in 1951 at SBHS:

1951a

Heaven knows why I should have had such things in my dreams last night!

Living with the facts of our history

There has been a kerfuffle lately about this statue on Sydney’s Hyde Park.

Hyde Park Captain Cook

Obviously recent events in the USA have caused this current crop, notably the observations of Stan Grant in America tears down its racist history, we ignore ours. Grant’s key point is quite reasonable:

Think of those words: “Discovered this territory.” My ancestors were here when Cook dropped anchor. We know now that the first peoples of this continent had been here for at least 65,000 years, for us the beginning of human time.
Yet this statue speaks to emptiness, it speaks to our invisibility; it says that nothing truly mattered, nothing truly counted until a white sailor first walked on these shores.
The statue speaks still to terra nullius and the violent rupture of Aboriginal society and a legacy of pain and suffering that endures today…

Captain Cook’s statue stands in the centre of our biggest city. There are Indigenous people who for good reason would prefer to see it removed.
Personally I accept that it remains; Cook is part of the story of this nation.
But surely we need no longer maintain the fiction that he “discovered” this country. It dishonours the people who reached this continent 60,000 years before Cook.
This was not an empty land.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, defending Australia Day this week, said it is also a day we honour Indigenous Australians.
If he is serious then what could be more apt than to correct a monument that tells us, still, that in 1770 we did not exist?

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In 1879

Do have a look at Kenneth Slessor’s poem Five Visions of Captain Cook.

Let rum-tanned mariners prefer
To hug the weather-side of yards,
‘Cats to catch mice’ before they purr,
Those were the captain’s enigmatic words.
Here, in this jolly-boat they graced,
Were food and freedom, wind and storm,
While, fowling-piece across his waist,
Cook mapped the coast, with one eye cocked for game.

And now we have a concern about a recent statue of Governor Macquarie.

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Keep in mind that Lachlan Macquarie was among the most enlightened and humane of our early NSW governors. Macquarie definitely deserves a statue, but on the other hand:

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See my post Bicentenary of Dharawal massacre in Appin area.

I say keep these statues, but correct their inscriptions where they are plain wrong. We should then face ALL our history.

Update

Typical! Here’s the OTT sensationalising of, essentially, Stan Grant’s article as filtered by the Daily Terror! Talk about “fake news!”

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So disappointing! 26 August

Referring to the news item on SBS: ‘Change the date’: Vandals attack statues in Australia Day protest. On Facebook I have said: “How disappointing! Turnbull —shame on him— is being a total arse, and is dead wrong himself, and these vandals are self-righteous pricks with no understanding of history either. Given my family history I am utterly opposed to ALL those right/left who have made such a hash of the perfectly sane and reasonable points made by Stan Grant. Why can’t we all just grow up? ”

Next day!

I stand by the everything from “these vandals are self-righteous pricks” on, though there may have been just one vandal. I have however been too harsh on Malcolm Turnbull, given what he actually wrote on Facebook. Shame about his “Stalinist” claptrap, but this is fair enough I think:

Tearing down or defacing statues of our colonial era explorers and governors is not much better than that. Of course Cook didn’t “discover” Australia anymore than Columbus “discovered” America or Marco Polo “discovered” China. I knew that when as a schoolboy I first read the inscription.

The statue gives a perspective of history from the time it was erected – 1879. Just as a history text in the Mitchell Library from the same era would do. Is the next step of this new totalitarianism to burn the 19th century histories of Australia as well, or should their yellowing pages be simply overwritten in crude graffiti condemning their long dead authors?

Old histories should not be burned, anymore than old statues should be torn down. Rather they should be challenged and complemented by new histories, fresh evidence and modern monuments.

And now to be really provocative, here is a thought that often crosses my mind:

Hyde Park Captain Cook01