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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesday January 26th 2010

Tuesday January 26th 2010
AUSTRALIA DAY SHOW Robyn Hodge, Bernard Ryan and guest reviewer John Bartlett.

Poem read by Bernard. ‘Australia’ by Alec Derwent Hope (1907-2000).
Pre-eminent poet of 50s-60s [with Judith Wright.] A radical thinker, though his chosen poetic FORM is very traditional. This poem's standard 4-line iambic pentameter structure. He looks to "the desert" of 1950s-and-after Australia for a new spirit in art and culture, after having described - almost brutally - the geography of our old/new land.

A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars,
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.

They call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: "we live" but "we survive",
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.

"Dance on Dusk" by Adrian Ross 
"The last frontier" by Redgum
"Djitije" by composer Peter Sculthorpe
"The last frontier" by Redgum

Some brief discussion on how "The Outback" may still shape us and posing the question who is setting the agenda for Australia, who are the voices? Reference to Brannan, Keneally, Cosgrove, Abbott, Rudd, " Age" editorial reflections on the National Day.

Bernard’s book review.
Poses the question ‘what more could be said about Bourke and Wills?’
Discussion about Australian figures like Ned Kelly, and why they (failed explorers, criminals etc) resonate with us, compared to the hero’s that Americans idolise in comparison (their ability to quote important policy/speeches is noted).

The book "The Dig Tree" [text, 2009] by Susan Murgatroyd's book now in p/b. Why our fascination with this failed expedition? Bernard charts the confusion, disorganisation, poor staffing of the expedition, set up to "beat the 'crow eaters'" to the Gulf. The personalities of the team examined. A very readable and well-researched FRESH look at an enduring myth.

“My Brother Jack” by George Johnston is then referred to and reviewed. Chapter 14 is discussed in detail, covering its influence of the dead centre. Bernard reads a passage which describes our feelings towards the outback.  

John’s book review
Andrew McGahan's "Wonders of a Godless World" [ Allen & Unwin, 2009 ].

This book tends to defy genre, according to our resident reviewer John Bartlett. Quite out of character with his earlier, more naturalist work, he has embarked on magic realism? fantasy? The story is hard to follow as no character has personal name, the time and space are convoluted, there is no dialogue and the over-used italic print is difficult on the eyes. This is not up to his best. John comments on the laughably written sex scenes.

John also mentions a recently-enjoyed favourite, "The Paperback Shoe" [Fremantle Press] by Goldie Goldbloom.
The Wheeler Centre in Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne, the books, writing and ideas centre.
Many interesting events coming up here!
Check out their website for more info:

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