reading revival 2

the first sequel. reading revival 2 reads ngarla songs by alexander brown & brian geytenbeek: a collection of 20C indigenous songs translated from ngarla into english. for previous revival incarnation hit link below.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

its interesting to compare adam lindsay gordons 'The Sick Stockrider' with miriny-mirinymarra jingkiris 'murrkanyakarni' / 'Going to the Lock Hospital' p 33: also about a sick stockrider (if were to read the poem autobiographically that is - jingkiri was a stockrider or stockman; gordon wasnt exactly a stockrider as far as i know, but a horsebreaker and jockey, he is known for his abilities with horses and his horsey poems: jingkiri was known as 'horse boy jimmy' according to his bio p25, most of his work being with horses) but the latter is travelling by truck. the latter is more ambiguous with regard to dying: 'Will we go home better, or/ will we go home to die?'. the notes say the word 'convalesce' which ends the poem (im unsure which is the corresponding ngarla word) is used as a euphemism for 'die'. gordons poem ends with a reference to the bush flowers on his grave; jingkiris last stanza begins

'Memorise, look at those shady red gums.
Their tops will be swaying in the breeze for us
when we are ready to go home to convalesce'

ie he is saying memorise the trees for when you are dead.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

ngarla songs book group at st kilda library. the second reading revival book group will be held at st kilda library 150 carlisle st on august 19, 2pm. if youre using public transport, trmas no. 3 & 16 stop outside - or u can get the sandringham line to balaclava station & walk along carlisle 400m. please let me know if yr coming: email readingrevival at gmail dot com. all welcome / free.

if u havent got/read the book nows the time. (st kilda & port melbourne library have copies; also the writers centre 37 swanston st have one coming for their coffee table .) to buy use the online links on this page or order from yr local bookshop. collected works do mail order - (03) 96548873.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

theres a distinct anti-heroic humour in these songs. eg. 'wupuri'p 43 is a portrait of a famous horse-breaker. those watching him are laughing at him, but there is nothing to suggest that wupuri is pretentious, too big for his boots .. he doesnt come a cropper, theres no moral. the poem ends: 'Wupuri will make him sweat': the horse will try, but wont dislodge wupuri.

Monday, July 17, 2006

comments - i had blog programmed to accept registered users only - have changed to 'anyone' - so if youve had difficulties, try again - hope this doesnt result in lots of spamming - well see - have also added some new links today

'murrkanyakarni'/'going to the lock hospital' p 33 - i wonder if there are many poems to compare to this? poems written about sickness in the plural? first person is used in the poem, but not in terms of the narrator's illness. the tone too is far from selfpity. the patients travel in a truck, a reminder of holocaust literature but its tone is miles away.. the truck is 'gobbling up the many miles, humming a tune ..'
Hey! I didn't realise there were so many of us
going to Murrkanya.
'I wonder how we will fare.
Will we go home better, or
will we go home to die?'

Friday, July 14, 2006

more on 'mr nipurl'/'mr neville'. the translation reads like a series of 3 haiku: simple, concise, with a sense of (thousands of) years of culture behind each word or phrase. i can't? keep on saying this, but perhaps the original is more explicit, more rich. the original would have less of a haiku effect in that it has many more syllables per line than the english version, and would i think be said (sung) faster. the style in the translation is straightforward, vernacular, but without the notes (which are longer than the poem) it would be quite obscure to me. but this isnt i dont think what would be concerning me exactly. there are various tones in which to express 'what does this mean?': querulous, resentful, curious, excited ... poems don't need to stand alone. 'ngarla songs' gives the poems plenty of context with the introductions & notes to poems, the bilingual text .. but even without all that, the poems would still have each other. thats how you can read poems, as part of a larger text. reading isnt a closed transaction. (and as derrida writes somewhere obscurity and clarity are both metaphors, already mediating the secondary text, ie the saying/writing on a text.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

mr nipurl: the second mr neville poem 'mr nipurl' / 'mr neville' p30-31 presents at least 3 different ironies in the english version. the poem tells of the eating utensils provided to the speaker (an inmate of the lockup hospital). the first stanza expresses a mocking surprise at the 'worn-out antique/stuff' he has to eat from. the second stanza says mr neville (nipple?) has been 'nursing' the stuff but the last line is: 'Neville came here to be a father to us!' - whats the tone of this line? - there seem to be a range of ironies behind it. the notes dont say anything about a gender switch in the original. the third line still retains some humour, however the content is serious: the speaker feels forced to eat from the utensils of the dead, according to custom they 'should have been buried with the owner; to use a dead person's belongings was to invite sickness or death' (notes).

Monday, July 10, 2006

mr neville: two songs by miriny-mirinymarra jingkiri feature mr neville - the aboriginal protector made famous by jack davis in his play no sugar. 'murrkamalu jarnti nyinuya' / 'they built it right at murrkanya' p 29 tells of the building of a 'Lock-up Hospital' for aboriginal patients (on mr nevilles instruction). tho it doesnt recall any writer in particular to me theres something of the feeling of some holocaust literature in this poem. tho it has its own distinction. mr neville has become - it seems - something of a mythic figure or bogeyman - in terms of poetry - or culture - as well as a historical paternalist. consider the end of the poem:

In spite of all that and the parallel wires
we'll still find a way
of continually exchanging little things
through the gaps and cracks.

the wires refer to the barbed wire up to the trees to prevent patients escaping. the humour, the irony and the detachment typical of these songs (or davis plays or ten canoes) make room for symbolic or analogical interpretation.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

one of the most interesting things ive read on translation is frederick turner's intro to his & zsuzsanna ozsvaths translations of miklos radnoti in 'foamy sky'. "...there is also the faith; for after all, the cadence of poetry is already prior to and in common among all languages." " ...if the translator has faith in the ur-language -- one might almost say, if he does not once look behind to check whether the 'literal' sense is following -- he may yet lead the redeemed meaning up into the light. In other words, since English is descended from the same deep root as Magyar, any music of which Magyar is capable exists also in English. To recover it is like, as Michelangelo put it, cutting away the stone to reveal the statue .."

turner is going past the idea of translating language as such - or as words - but reaching to the pulse - the reaching empowered by the poet - that generated the poem originally. he is concerned with metrics: "one must be prepared to ... sacrifice everything to the meter" - what u might call a rightwing radical. would such an approach be going too far with songs in ngarla?

geytenbeek states that he taught brown to read and write english. this language teaching - to differing extents - must be common to collaborative translation work.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

optimum form. malcolm heath, in his introduction to aristotle's 'poetics' (p xvi) discusses optimum form: 'Once the optimum form of anything has been achieved, further development of it is by definition impossible'- aristotle gives the example of greek tragedy. i dont know enough about aboriginal songs to know or tell if ngarla songs have a distinct form or are variations on other aboriginal song forms - it is probablt impossible to tell from roman print versions of the original languages or the english translations. we cant know how old ngarla songs are as form. those in the book are 20th century but it is possible they reached optimum form before aristotle (384-322 bc). rodney hall in the collins book of australian poetry suggests aboriginal songs may be 40 000 years old.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

it looks like i made a mistake with the australian online bookshop link but should be working now - ill keep checking it. its a pretty good option pricewise (in or out of australia).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

the opening song 'The Unbeatable Bloke' ['Wirtiyamarra'] by miriny-mirinymarra jinkiri (who died in the 1930s and also worked on de grey station) evinces a subtle feminism; it is typically unrhetorical: the unbeatable bloke is beaten by a woman at cards. the song is in two stanzas. in the first the narrator is watching the title figure i.e. Wirtiyamarra play cards; the second begins 'Parrkuya with her swag/ is going off down the riverbed.' swag in this instance meaning her roll of money (according to the notes).

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