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.

Friday, August 25, 2006

one book has gone in the giveaway (to pb in sydney). one still available for the first w.a. reader to email me: readingrevival at gmail dot com.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

the first reader to email me at readingrevival at gmail dot com with a w.a. address will receive a copy of ngarla songs courtesy of fremantle arts centre press. another copy is available to the first reader from anywhere else. thanks to nyanda for arranging this.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

ngarla songs book group today at st kilda library 2pm.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

in 'piyuwiki'/'buick' pp 50-1, by wirrkaru jingkiri, there is (because of the grammatical structure) the same ambiguity that was in the koolinda poem (pp 40-1) with regard to gender and pronoun. the 'he' in the poem seems to refer to the car, then the meaning slides to the referent of the driver. im assuming that theres something of this aspect in the ngarla also. the effect is not just to gender & anthropomorphise the car, but to suggest that there isnt a limit to the driver or car, that they are one.

this five line poem is a belated refreshing anecdote to a terrible poem we did in class about a car being a woman? some well known american (novelist i think) dickey? one of those. (cummings has one also -- its sheer offensiveness somewhat redeems it.)

the drivers name in the ngarla is given as ''Ngarlu Jurrkanalu' -- in the english its 'Alec Beeton' - the notes dont explain why?


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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

shearers back: its said australia became prosperous on the sheeps back. the ngarla songmakers arent described as shearers, but they all worked with sheep and or cattle in one way or another -- all station workers at some point except one who worked in a slaughter yard. an interesting juxtaposition of photos can be seen in ian macleans 'white aborigines: identity politics in australian art' pp 62-3. the left image is a photo of aboriginal shearers shearing c. 1906. on the right is a reproduction of tom roberts' 'the golden fleece - shearing at newstead' 1894, which is a scene of white shearers. (it can be seen at the art gallery of nsw.) the images are strikingly similar. the most obvious difference is the difference between the roofs & the way the light blurs into the photograph but is held at bay in the painting. another difference is that several of the aboriginal shearers are looking out of the picture toward the viewer (ie looking at the camera), while the white shearers are all looking down at their work. the only ones looking toward the painter are the wool classers(?) & possibly one other at the back who isnt working.

maclean says there was an increase in aborigines employed in the pastoral industry from over 2000 in 1881 to 4000 by 1905. he says 'employed' was a euphemism for slavery. hence the strikes that took place much later (1946).

maclean writes 'The image of Aboriginal shearers was too transgressive to be considered an icon of the nation at the time of Federation.' [i.e. 1901]

click go the censoring shears.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

collected works reorder of ngarla songs has arrived .. not just melbourne news, anyone can call them for mail order 03-96548873.

Friday, August 11, 2006

wirrkaru jingkiri is described as a musterer, fencer and pearl sheller (p 47). his first poem 'wiyurkarra'/'fast work', like miriny-mirinyarra jingkiri's 'wupuri' concerns horse riding. just five lines, its an interesting contrast to the long romantic ballad horseriding poems of colonial poets adam lindsay gordon & banjo patterson.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'Wariyarranya Nyurranga Ngurra Pungkarriya'/'Wariyarranya Is Not Your Country Any Longer' pp 44-5 is addressed to sheep, implying theyve been cursed.

'You poor fellows from Wariyarranya,
it's not your country any longer.
He will take you to Port Hedland forever.

The mild humour is gone, but the complexity and identification (with sheep this time) remain. An original song-poem -- it resonates with much beside the ostensible story: of being forced from the land, of genocide. yet even here there is the poetic and sympathetic irony of using sheep as the identification point: a prosaic reading of settlement is that sheep farming was one of the whites' reasons for driving indigenes away. this is not political in a reductive rights-based way but one that refuses to abandon notions of wholeness and integration - & thats radical.

'You are headed for your graveyard' is the final line.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

ive always thought the gendering of ships and nations a bit odd; tho perhaps it seems more natural to those who language is more gendered than english. in jingkiri's poem 'Kurlintanya'/'Koolinda in Harbour' pp 36-7 the ship - the kurlinta/koolinda is gender neutral - is referred to as 'it'. Yet the second stanza begins as if the koolinda is male: 'He'll head straight out into the wind' - there is no other referent than the ship at this point. four lines later the skipper appears & 'He' then seems to have been deferring referring to the skipper. the affectionate tone given to objects is typical of these poems (and for example the sensibility of the 'bush mechanics' series). It's referred to as 'a huge plucky thing' 'a plucky thing' & 'Huge Koolinda!'. The anthropomorphism(?) (animation?) of this is unusual for its humour and imagination - a reading of the image (ie of the ship) not typical of euro poetics. (a more typical translation i think would be an uncanny one, unnatural behaving of the ship in an animated fashion: in this song however, the ships behaviour is presented as perfectly natural.)

'(huge plucky thing,
all its masts and derricks standing up),
on account of the cyclone

suggests various meanings of plucky to me. plucky seems to be bristly, nervy - nerving for the weather - tho it also evokes sexual arousal. & it makes me think of a chook ripe for plucking its feathers on end. it ends

'The skipper will take care of it
out in the deep water'

the koolinda needs to be brave, going out into the sea; yet it also has a carer. the line evokes indigenous care. its an exemplary poem suggesting ways of care that white culture has only quite recently been waking up to: & its derived from indigenous culture. the perhaps paradoxical aspect is that modern culture looked to indigenous culture for ways of living in the natural world (i dont mean to sound reductively optimistic about these trends: obviously modern culture mainly exploited the indigenous in every which way) - but indigenous culture has as much if not more (or at least more pertinently) to teach non-indigenes about modern living, the urban spiritual ..

Monday, August 07, 2006

i spotted a copy of ngarla songs at the paperback bookshop in bourke st, melbourne the other day. snap it up - let them know poetry sells. please let me know if you see copies elsewhere.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

sean cubitt writes of 'english as a racist instrument of exploitation, oppression & genocide, and the core role of other languages in the resistance to colonialism'(in 'digital aesthetics' p 2; he is discussing the work of african writers arguing for gikuyu & kiswahili languages capabilities for 'voicing the experience of anti-colonial & post-colonial struggles'.

this raises a number of issues in relation to ngarla songs .. the experience they tell of is different to the poems of jack davis & kath walker for example: or at least the way theyre told. the book doesnt say how many people speak ngarla - but it suggests that its less than hundreds. english is used to communicate these songs to non-ngarla people. the songs arent directly political in the way that davis & walker can be. this i suppose has something to do with the nature of ngarla itself, its vocabulary, and with ngarla contact with white political culture. but resistance isnt all in the writing - its in how things are presented, & how read.

(& resistance isnt everything. theres an education in these poems.)

the main act of resistance here is of course presenting the songs in ngarla - proof that ngarla (as an example of an aboriginal culture) survives - & not just that it survives, but how: the songs show the adaptation to modernity to non-indigenous impact.

another level of politics is in the bios that tell of the 1946 strike for better conditions for aboriginal workers. (wirrkaru jingkiri p 47)

these songs show its not possible to reduce aboriginal poetry / songs to a mode or two.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

how western is it? geytenbeek automatically brings his english speaking/writing heritage into the translation. ngarla itself -- as a written form -- is westernised by using roman letters to form words to approximate the pronuncition of english.

a convention of bilingual texts in english speaking countries (or at least those ive seen from the uk, us, & australia) is to present the original language on the left page & the english on the right. this encourages a reading by an english reader from right to left. anyones reading practice might be different - but i usually read bilingual texts right side first, whether a line or whole poem, and then refer to the left. tho - especially if im interested in learning the language i might read the left first. or i might not read the left, if im tired, hurrying.

reading from right to left is more typically an eastern (arabic, asian) practice.

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