Sunday, October 4, 2009

Judith Wright

I have no earthly idea who Judith Wright is.

I shall go and find out.

Lord Wiki says she was a poet. She also fought for the environment and Aboriginal land rights.

Baby Judith was born on 31 May 1915 in Armidale New South Wales. Armidale sounds familar to me. Was someone I wrote about before connected to that place?

Well, I did a search on my blog for Armidale, and nothing came up. I might have seen it on my Statcounter. Lord Wiki says Armidale is known for severe hailstorms. We have those in Texas sometimes.

I'm looking at Google Maps now....

Armidale is close to seven hours north of Sydney. It's inland. It's not too far from Tamworth. I've definitely heard of Tamworth before. It's the country music place. Right?

Lord Wiki says that Wright didn't spend much time in Armidale. She spent most of her childhood in Sydney and Brisbane. I wonder which came first.

Wright's mom died when she was young, so she went to live with her aunt. I guess her father was too busy to take care of her. This it not the first person I've read about that went to live with a relative after the death of a mother. I guess in those days fathers didn't feel they had what it takes to raise their children.  Or maybe they were too busy working. I imagine these days that more fathers take custody of the children if the mother dies.

In 1929, Wright's father remarried. Wright would have been about fourteen. She was sent as a boarder to the New England Girl's School. That was back in Armidale. What I'm guessing is that her aunt lived there. Maybe they had a lot of family there, and that's why Wright had been born there. Maybe it was kind of like the family base. Our family base is Chicago. I was born there. One of my sisters was born there. My two nieces were born there. My parents were born there. Three out of four of my grandparents were born there. My great grandfather was born there. All of my first cousins were born there. Some of my second cousins were born there. Many of my relatives still live there.

So I'm thinking Wright's family left Armidale as we left Chicago. But then after her mother died, Wright returned to live with an aunt.

I could be totally wrong.

After she finished with New England Girl's School, Wright went to the University of Sydney. There she studied English, psychology, philosophy, and history. That's a lot of things to study. Maybe she got some kind of humanities degree?

During World War II, her father lost a lot of workers on his station because they were off fighting the war. Wright went over there to help him out.

In 1946 she was at the University of Queensland. She worked as a research officer. It was at this time that she published her first book of poetry: The Moving Image.

In 1950 she moved in with a man and had a baby. They weren't married. I wonder how scandalous that was at that time. Together they lived in Mount Tamborine Queensland. That's about an hour south of Brisbane. Wright and her man finally got married in 1962. He died four years later.

Wright later moved back to New South Wales. She spent the remainder of her life in Braidwood which is about an hour east of Canberra.

Wright was one of the founding members of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. She was the president of the organization from 1964 until 1976. So I'm guessing she stayed in Queensland for at least ten years after her husband died. I can't imagine that she'd be president while living in New South Wales. In these days, with email, it's probably possible. But in those days.....

The purpose of the Wildlife Preservation Society is to protect ecosystems and animals. They're all about conservation. One of their projects/goals is to protect crocodiles from being killed and exploited. The organization says they are NOT against the commercial harvest of super-abundant species such as the red kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo and the wallaroo. But they feel there is no scientific evidence that shows the crocodile is in abundance.

Well, then I think I made the right choice in Canberra. Jack tried to decide if he wanted to buy Kangaroo jerky or crocodile. I pushed him to get Kangaroo because I knew there was an abundance of them. I also knew that kangaroos don't mind hanging out with a bunch of other kangaroos. I know they'd be fairly okay in a farming type atmosphere. I remembered hearing that crocodiles are territorial. They don't like being bunched up with crowds of other crocodiles. If we bought the crocodile jerky, we might be supporting a farm that puts crocodiles in uncomfortable situations.

What's cool is that the organization lets people get involved. You can donate money, of course. But sometimes people like to do more than just open their wallet. These people can help with animal watches. The Wildlife Preservation Society is looking at various wild animals, and they ask people to fill out forms if they've spotted one of the animals. That's cool.

Lord Wiki talks about her poems. She published several collections. It's hard for me to write about all that because I'm not a big poetry fan.

I'm more interested in her conservation stuff and Aboriginal land rights. Lord Wiki says she wrote pretty scathing letters to John Howard about the latter.

I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'm not sure where to go next.....

I guess I'll just google.

The World Socialist Website has some information about Judith Wright. It's kind of like an obituary. It was written about a month after she died.

Wright's family were wealthy pastoralists. Wright once said her family were those who chose to adapt themselves to the new environment rather than superimpose their class values of Englishness upon it. I respect that. It's like the difference between missionaries who respect and embrace the culture of the place they're visiting, and missionaries that forbid the language and culture.

Wright started writing poetry as a young child. She did it as a young child to cheer up her sick mother. I guess the mother had some kind of disease. I wasn't sure if she had died from an accident or illness.

It sounds like she was homeschooled. She was educated on her home property, and then later at a relatives' property nearby. Then eventually she went to the boarding school.

This poetry website has some of Wright's poems. I'll TRY to read them.

I read a bunch. It doesn't really appeal to me. That is totally me, and NOT Wright. I'm just not good at reading poetry. It's VERY rare for me to find something that I like.

Here's an ABC interview with Wright. It was broadcast in 2000...after she had died. But it was recorded a year earlier than that. I wonder if it was also broadcast in 1999. Or did they tape it, decide not to use it, and then after she died....figured it was valuable after all.

Towards the end of her life, Wright was deaf and visually impaired. That's kind of like Helen Keller. Jack and I learned about Keller the other day. She's one of those people who has always fascinated me. Her story is SO inspirational.

Wright wrote an autobiography, but wasn't happy with it. She was shy about sharing her life.

Wright says, I may not be a forthcoming person, but my views are held strongly. And therefore when they're challenged, I tend to shout rather than sit down.

I'm trying to figure out if I relate to that...probably not. I'm usually more forthcoming about my views. Well, I'm very forthcoming on my blog, and I'm fairly open in life outside the blog. It depends on who I'm with. I'm kind of used to being with people who don't share my views. I sometimes speak out. Other times, I like to just listen....learn more about the other viewpoint.

Wright says, Poetry is a different thing from prose altogether. And it doesn't necessarily follow that anyone who can write prose can write poetry or vice versa. Yes. Thank you! I love to read, but I have never been a poetry fan. The same goes for writing. I've written short stories, novels, and screenplays. But I've written very little poetry. Sadly, the one thing I ever got published and paid for was a poem. I did publish a novel, but that was self-publishing and I still can't get myself to believe this counts at all.

Wright talks about how she lost the desire to write poetry. She said the impulse to do it no longer came to her. This is what happened with me and fiction writing. The desire just slowly disappeared. A few years ago, I TRIED to get back into it. I rewrote a novel I had written years before. I did it mostly for money; or the hope of money. Tim was out of a job, and I figured maybe.....

I worked on the novel, and then spent a lot of time on publishing message boards and websites. The other writers were so much more passionate than me. They had this NEED to write. I read their posts and it made me feel sad. I had once felt like that, but I no longer did. Writing fiction had become a chore to me. But now I DO feel that special way about this blog. It's something I force myself to do almost everyday, but I WANT to do it. I feel lost on the days that I don't do it.

Wright says, Love is a very important part of life and you have to give in to it. But after a while it ceases to be such an important force in life. And that's the time when you should give in to age and stop doing it, if you don't have the impulse any more. I think that's wise advice. I often wonder (and kind of worry) if I'll someday lose my interest in Australia. I hope I can then close that window and wait for another one to open. I hope I don't cling to it out of some kind of guilt and obligation. BUT hopefully that won't happen. Yesterday I actually prayed that I don't find a new obsession to replace the Australia one. I don't want a new obsession. I want it to be Australia for the rest of my life. Yeah. I know it's weird, but I do sometimes feel it's not entirely my choice.

Wright talks about losing her mother at a young age. She didn't get along with her stepmother, and that made things even harder. I wonder if the stepmother was one of those who wanted to push the children out of their father's life. Was it her idea to send Wright to boarding school. Or did Wright go there to escape? It could have been like this chic-lit book I read recently. The girl THOUGHT her stepmom hated her, but it ended up the stepmom had truly loved her all along.

Wright said that when she was in boarding school she felt like she didn't have a home to come back to. That's sad.

Wright's husband, Jack McKinney was married with four children. Maybe that's why Wright didn't marry him right away. He already had a wife. I guess he eventually divorced the first so he could marry Wright. OR....he might have already been divorced. Maybe the breakup of his first marriage made him hesitate doing it all again.

Okay...well, here it says that McKinney and his family had been separated when they got together. They might have still been married though. It probably just took him a few years to get the divorce.

Wright says The thing that surprised me, looking back, is that everybody who knew us accepted it so easily. I think the kindness of people, their reactions to our relationship, indicates that they realised how important it was to both of us. That surprises me too. It has not been my experience. Maybe in America people are more judgemental. Or maybe it's the people in my life....the ones I know. I think there's a VERY strong stigma regarding adultery and very strong stigmas against divorce. There's this idea that once you marry, you stay married. You work it out. You struggle. You accept that marriage can't always involve love. You definitely don't have relationships outside the marriage, or put yourself between two married people. If your spouse tragically dies, you WAIT a long time before even thinking about finding someone else new. If you jump in with someone new too soon....the rumors fly. In the society I know, it's MUCH more okay for someone to not love their spouse than to cheat on their spouse.

I might be exaggerating a bit. I'm probably going too far in this. There is some tolerance. I have aunts and uncles that married multiple times. The new spouses are welcomed into the family. I've just heard enough gossip, snide jokes, and comments to know that it's preferred that people STAY with the person they originally married.

I'm glad Wright found acceptance for her relationship. Obviously McKinney and his first wife weren't happy with each other. I think it's better that he and Wright found each other. It's too bad he died so soon though.

I really like this Wright woman. She says she doesn't want her poetry used in school. Why? She doesn't want children tortured with it. She says, And that, unfortunately, is what often happens in schools. If people don't like poetry, they don't like poetry; and there are some people who can't appreciate poetry. I know that very well. She feels poetry should be introduced to school children, but they shouldn't be punished for disliking it.

How refreshing....a poet who doesn't believe everyone needs to love poetry. And Wright doesn't say any of this in a condescending manner. She doesn't present it as people like me being inferior or anything. She is a little sexist about it though. She talks about boys not liking poetry. I don't know. Maybe boys statistically are less likely to like poetry. It's not something I've ever imagined. I've always felt there was an equal number of male and female poetry fans. I could have been wrong.

Here's a recent essay from The Monthly about Wright. It says she had another lover after her husband. This was a guy named Nugget Combs. It sounds like he was famous in his own right....well, maybe not famous. But he was very active in the community. He was the chairman, adviser, director, etc. of various things.

Combs was married. Wright was his SECRET lover.

The essay says that Combs and his wife had been separated, but he had too much loyalty to his wife to ever get a divorce.

It seems Wright wanted to keep it a secret because she still had guilt over her previous relationship. She felt she had caused pain in McKinney's family. I can imagine it was tough for her. Did she deserve blame? I don't know. People don't always fall in love with the most convenient people. And it seems she truly did love him. It seems like she truly loved both men. They both loved her. And they weren't happy with their wives. I can't hate either of them for that, but I do understand that the wives must have been hurt by all of it.

Wright and Combs had agreed that after they died, their relationship could come out into the open. They agreed that their letters to each other could be published. The writer of the essay says, To read her and Coombs's letters is to be made poignantly aware of how the need for secrecy, their work and, later, their health problems kept them apart - and how much they missed each other. I found myself wishing they would just ditch their commitments and wander off into the sunset together.
Yeah. But I wonder if sometimes this secrecy adds to the relationship. Does it sometimes make things a little more romantic? If they ran off into the sunset together, would they have remained happy and in love? Or would they have had affairs with other people? It's sometimes hard to know. I think it works differently for different couples. I think some couples NEED to be together. The distance thing won't work for them. But I think other couples work best when they can't be together in any traditional form. They need to be apart in order to stay in love.

The essay talks about how Wright had some paranoia about the letters. She worried that the wrong people would read them. At some point, she asked Coombs to burn some of them.

I have paranoia like that sometimes. I used to write very personal stuff on Livejournal...some of those friend's only posts. I would write about my problems, and a few days later (sometimes a few hours) I'd quickly delete them. I was so paranoid that the wrong person would read what I wrote. I also have a LOT of paranoia about my private dream/spiritual journal. I would get so scared that one day I'd accidentally forget to make an entry private. Fortunately, now they've made it where private entries can be made automatically. I worry less about that. My other fear though is that I'll use someone's computer and forget to sign out of Livejournal. That's why I never write down my dreams when we're away from home. I'm afraid I'll accidentally leave all this info up on Tim's laptop. It's really ridiculous because Tim is totally not the type of person to dig his nose into other people's business. Also, I'm really not writing anything incredibly scandalous. Then on top of everything, I write in code a lot. If he did decide to read it (which I can't imagine) he probably wouldn't know what the hell I was talking about.

My other paranoia occurs with email. Sometimes I'll be really mad at someone (usually a family member). I'll totally vent to a friend. I'll pour my heart out. I send the email. I go to do something else. Then I get this sudden fear that I sent the email to the person I'm mad at. I usually have to rush upstairs to check and make sure I didn't accidentally do that. The horror hasn't happened to me yet....knock on wood.

I don't know why I'm revealing all this. Everyone is going to think I'm completely paranoid and nuts. If I'm willing to share this about me, what the hell could be worth hiding in the dream journal?

Anyway, I think I'm going to end this here. There's probably more research I could do...more secrets about myself I could reveal....BUT I am going to spend most of my day finishing the last book in the saga of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. I totally despise Jacob Black, by the way. I hope it's not a spoiler for me to say that. I don't think it is..... And who knows, maybe I'll end up liking him in the end. I doubt it, but we shall see.


  1. This is the strangest blog I have ever read. I had no idea people actually liked Australia outisde of Australia.

    I check stuff out at the Judith Wright centre here in Brisbane all the time but didn't know much about the woman behind the name.

  2. Amy Michelle,

    I think it might be the strangest blog I've read too ; )

    I do know other people besides me (not Australians) who are interested in Australia though.

  3. Hi
    Judith Wight is my step Great Grandmother
    Jack was still married when they had an affair. She did not see her step children very much but instead left my poor great grandmother to look after the four children herself. My grandmother sort of idolised her, in our family we refer to it as reflective glory.

    Other than her the rest of us don't care to much for her, as she did not care to much for us.

  4. Oh, i forgot, my great grandmother had moved inland because of the scare along the coast to do with the war. Tht is why they were separated, Jack stayed where he was because he had to keep his job so that the family could still survive.