Phillip Hall Reviews Judith Wright, Georgina Arnott and Katie Noonan

By | 30 October 2016

2016 is another milestone year in the repositioning of Wright within contemporary Australian culture. We have a biography that shows us how Wright was not born, fully formed, as the dynamic and radical voice she was to become in her maturity. Arnott uncovers new writing, even new poems, that allow us to hear a feisty young Wright as never before. And she spotlights the fractious personal struggle that Wright underwent, in her early years, with matters of class and gender. The new Collected recovers several poems not included in earlier editions (though is oblivious to Arnott’s groundbreaking discoveries) and presents a stunning essay by John Kinsella that clearly shows the continuing magnetism Wright holds for contemporary poets. Griffiths continues the process of reassessing the Wright legacy, broadening the picture to include her function as public intellectual (poet, philosopher and historian). While in Katie Noonan and the Brodsky Quartet we encounter the ultimate tribute to Wright’s ongoing impact – a performed reimagining of sublimity. As Brady so beautifully writes in her eulogy for Wright:

She reminds us of our destined land, this very ancient land, the oldest cultures on Earth and of a place that some of us used to believe represented a new beginning, a new hope for humanity. The great task of settling into a new land doesn’t have to do with economic growth. It doesn’t have to do with ravaging the environment. It doesn’t have to do with this insane materialism, and this imaginative poverty, and emotional brutality. It has to do with transforming chaos into cosmos. In the end long run, history is governed by people with an over-arching vision, a vision that gives shape and meaning to life by relating our venture as human beings to the larger destinies of the universe.

Wright is our fierce and inspirational colossus and we would do well to continue in following her lead. She is our conscience to progress.

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