Wright Vociferous – ‘Birds’ and ‘Skins’ – Physiognomy, Identity and the Wild Spoken Word

1 February 2018

I want to almost end with this, from the philosophically wry culmination of Wright’s 1999 autobiography, Half a Lifetime:

The act of creating autobiography is far more dangerous to the psyche of the autobiographer than she realised when she agreed to start the job. She knew even then that the construction of ‘I’ is endless, a procession beginning – how far back? … For in many ways, perhaps, it’s been an interesting life in an interesting time and what she thinks she remembers may be to some extent true.

I will end with these letter excerpts; this self-affirming and piercingly delicate one by a 12 year-old girl, published in the children’s pages of the Sydney Mail, 14 March, 1928 and reproduced in With Love And Fury: Selected Letters of Judith Wright:

… after that we went up the beautiful hill again and watched the mountains go slowly behind us, and felt uncommonly pleased with ourselves and the world. The ferns and flowers and bushes and things down there are protected now, nor is anyone allowed to shoot. I am so glad, for every evening one could see the cars coming up loaded with drooping ferns, already dying, and decorated by flowers with their roots and all – nothing left to flower again. It is a disgrace the way beautiful things are torn up and then left to die, isn’t it? Much love from – Yours sincerely, Judith Wright.

And this, an extraordinary 84 year-old poet’s note to a publisher, ‘Just to enquire – do you ever intend to pay your authors, among whom I am one, for their contribution to your welfare?’

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