To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ned Kelly: from the Jerilderie Letter 10 February 1879

[At the start of a month’s visit in Australia I thought it appropriate to re-post the following, included also in Barbaric Vast & Wild: Outside &Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present. (J.R.)]                                                                                                               
(As dictated to Joe Byrne)

Any man knows it is possible to swear a lie and if a policeman looses a conviction for the sake of swearing a lie he has broke his oath therefore he is a perjurer either ways. A Policeman is a disgrace to his country, not alone to the mother that suckled him, in the first place he is a rogue in his heart but too cowardly to follow it up without having the force to disguise it. next he is traitor to his country ancestors and religion as they were all catholics before the Saxons and Cranmore yoke held sway since then they were persecuted massacreed thrown into martrydom and tortured beyond the ideas of the present generation

What would people say if they saw a strapping big lump of an Irishman shepherding sheep for fifteen bob a week or tailing turkeys in Tallarook ranges for a smile from Julia or even begging his tucker, they would say he ought to be ashamed of himself and tar-and-feather him. But he would be a king to a policeman who for a lazy loafing cowardly bilit left the ash corner deserted the shamrock, the emblem of true wit and beauty to serve under a flag and nation that has destroyed massacreed and murdered their fore-fathers by the greatest of torture as rolling them down hill in spiked barrels pulling their toe and finger nails and on the wheel. and every torture imaginable.

More was transported to Van Diemand's Land to pine their young lives away in starvation and misery among tyrants worse than the promised hell itself all of true blood bone and beauty, that was not murdered on their own soil, or had fled to America or other countries to bloom again another day, were doomed to Port Mcquarie Toweringabbie norfolk island and Emu plains and in those places of tyrany and condemnation many a blooming Irishman rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke Were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains but true to the shamrock and a credit to Paddys land.

What would people say if I became a policeman and took an oath to arrest my brothers and sisters & relations and convict them by fair or foul means after the conviction of my mother and the persecutions and insults offered to myself and people Would they say I was a decent gentleman, and yet a police-man is still in worse and guilty of meaner actions than that The Queen must surely be proud of such herioc men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house. I have seen as many as eleven, big & ugly enough to lift Mount Macedon out of a crab hole more like the species of a baboon or Guerilla than a man. actually come into a court house and swear they could not arrest one eight stone larrakin and them armed with battens and neddies without some civilians assistance and some of them going to the hospital from the affects of hits from the fists of the larrakin and the Magistrate would send the poor little Larrakin into a dungeon for being a better man than such a parcel of armed curs.

What would England do if America declared war and hoisted a green flag as its all Irishmen that has got command of her armies forts and batteries even her very life guards and beef tasters are Irish would they not slew around and fight her with their own arms for the sake of the colour they dare not wear for years. and to reinstate it and rise old Erins isle once more, from the pressure and tyrannism of the English yoke, which has kept it in poverty and starvation, and caused them to wear the enemys coats. What else can England expect.

Is there not big fat-necked Unicorns enough paid to torment and drive me to do thing which I dont wish to do, without the public assisting them I have never interefered with any person unless they deserved it, and yet there are civilians who take firearms against me, for what reason I do not know, unless they want me to turn on them and exterminate them without medicine. I shall be compelled to make an example of some of them if they cannot find no other employment If I had robbed and plundered ravished and murdered everything I met young and old rich and poor. the public could not do any more than take firearms and Assisting the police as they have done, but by the light that shines pegged on an ant-bed with their bellies opened their fat taken out rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot will be fool to what pleasure I will give some of them and any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the Police in any way whatever or employing any person whom they know to be a detective or cad or those who would be so deprived as to take blood money will be outlawed and declared unfit to be allowed human buriel their property either consumed or confiscated and them theirs and all belonging to them exterminated off the face of the earth, the enemy I cannot catch myself I shall give a payable reward for.


[The following was pieced together from entries elsewhere on the world wide web.]

Ned Kelly, the Australian bushranger, carried out a series of daring robberies with his gang in Victoria and New South Wales from 1878 to 1880, after which he was captured and hanged.

Only two original documents by Ned Kelly are known to have survived. The most significant of these is the Jerilderie Letter, dictated by Ned Kelly to fellow gang member Joe Byrne in 1879. It is a direct link to the Kelly Gang and the events with which they were associated. This lengthy letter has been described as Ned Kelly's “manifesto,” and brings his distinctive voice to life. The Jerilderie Letter provides a detailed account of Ned Kelly's troubled relations with the police. The passionate tone of the letter makes plain the intensity of Kelly's antagonism towards the police, and his sense of injustice about the treatment that his family had received at the hands of the law.

The letter was written immediately before the Kelly Gang's raid on the Riverina town of Jerilderie in February 1879. In that raid, the gang held up the Bank of New South Wales and escaped with more than £2000. While the gang controlled the town, Kelly sought to give the letter to Samuel Gill, editor of the Jerilderie and Urana Gazette, with the specific demand that it be published. However, to Kelly's anger, he discovered that Gill had already escaped from the town after becoming aware of the gang's presence.

To pacify Kelly, the bank's accountant, Edwin Living, offered to take the letter and to pass it to Gill. Kelly gave it to him—his clear purpose in seeking to have the letter printed was to provide an explanation for his situation, and an accurate record of what had passed between the Kelly family and the police. Edwin Living lent the letter to the police in Melbourne and a copy of it was made. The original document was eventually returned to Living. It seems that at no stage did Living ever take steps to have the letter printed.

Originally penned in 1879 by Joe Byrne as dictated to him by Ned Kelly, this letter was first published in the 1948 edition of Max Brown’s novel Australian Son, which was based on it. Introducing it, Max Brown said, “Following is an 8,300 word statement I have called The Jerilderie Letter This is the document Kelly handed to Living. The text is from a copy of the original letter made in 1879 or 1880 by a government clerk, and is printed here with such spelling, punctuation, etc, as the clerk or Kelly and Byrne, or all three possessed. Nevertheless, it is one of the most powerful and extraordinary of Australian historical documents, and represents over half of Kelly’s extant writings and by far his best single written statement.”

Not poetry as such, it possesses a quality of writing outside the box of literature that has more than passing interest.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Literary Environments: Place, Planet and Translation (Gold Coast, Australia)

The Australian Association for Literature’s annual conference for 2017, Literary Environments: Place, Planet and Translation, will be held at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus on the 17th to 19th July, 2017.

This year’s conference organisers, Peter Denney and Stuart Cooke, have assembled a stellar line-up of keynotes for the conference:

Ursula Heise (UCLA): “Planet of Cities: Urban Environments & Narrative Futures”           Alan Bewell (University of Toronto):Place, Emotion, & the Colonial Translation of Natures”
Stephen Muecke (UNSW): “Theorising Literary Environments”
Jerome Rothenberg (UC San Diego): “Technicians of the Sacred: Ethnopoetics & the  New  Indigenous Poetries”
Literary Environments is concerned with the different environments in which literature can occur, and our methods of translating between them. At this critical juncture in the Anthropocene, planetary responsibility and situated knowledges need to be entwined in propositions for social and environmental justice. Bodies, texts and artworks are converging in old and new forms of politics and earthly accountabilities. The task of translation between these increasingly interconnected modes of existence is a crucial one: life in all of its manifestations – from DNA to forests – has textual qualities. What does it mean to ‘read’ such a staggering variety of data?

While this conference is primarily concerned with literature, we envisage it as a multi-disciplinary event. We have therefore invited and scheduled papers on any aspect of the environmental humanities, from environmental history to environmental philosophy. We have also welcomed papers addressing literary environments that are not ecological in orientation, such as studies of literary spaces, communities, and so on.

Spread over a three-day period the conference will consist of some ninety papers and thirty panels.

What follow here are abstracts of the four keynote speeches:

Stephen Muecke
‘Theorising Literary Environments’

Literary texts live and die through the environments in which they are nurtured. When cradled in networks of devotion, or at least attachment, literary forms not only survive, but can expand their spheres of influence. I like to think of this expansion as reproductive: not only Benjamin’s ‘mechanical reproduction’, but also organic, generative and multispecies reproduction.  Expanding, or rather extending human capacities is the ‘business’ of literary experimentation, but we are never quite sure where ‘the human’ and ‘capacity’ begin and end. Examples from oral literature and poetry will describe chains of reference, chains of affect, technological extensions and those necessary hiatuses—risks of reproduction—that remind us that aesthetic creation is best conceived of not as communication (bridging subject and object), but something more like the miracle of germination.

Jerome Rothenberg
‘Technicians of the Sacred: Ethnopoetics and the New Indigenous Poetries’

Coincident with the publication of an expanded fiftieth anniversary edition of Technicians of the Sacred, I will explore the early history of ethnopoetics for which that book was one of the early starting points. Drawing from the new introduction to the book I will begin with the emergence in the 1950s and 1960s of a specifically delineated “ethnopoetics” as a collaborative work of poets and scholars to which I was a close witness and active participant. I will then propose a linkage to the survival and revival of many indigenous languages and poetries in the early twenty-first century, with a sense that change rather than stasis has been at the heart of these poetries as well as of our own.

Alan Bewell
‘Place, Emotion, and the Colonial Translation of Natures’

Through a discussion of colonial natural history and John Keats’s Lamia, this paper will
emphasize the degree to which colonial natural history can be understood as being inherently a translational activity available to analysis from the perspective of translation theory. I will argue that the experience of translation, the feeling of being in translation , of having been translated to a new place where strange things seemed somehow familiar, or familiar things took on an uncanny strangeness, the feeling of being between-worlds that were themselves in motion, was not restricted to colonial encounters with other cultures, but also fundamentally shaped, in diverse ways, how people, during the colonial period, related to the natures around them. My hope is that this paper will contribute to the important work that is currently being done on the history of emotions by suggesting the manifest ways in which translation shaped how both settlers and indigenous peoples came to understand the natural world.

Ursula Heise
‘Planet of Cities: Urban Environments and Narrative Futures’

In 2008, humanity crossed a historical boundary: more than 50% of the global population now lives in cities, and future population growth will mostly occur or end up in urban areas. This means that humans' most important habitat now and for the future is the city, a historical shift that entails important ecological as well as social and cultural consequences. "Planet of Cities" will focus on the new interest in urban ecology in disciplines as varied as architecture, biology, design, literary studies, political science, and urban planning through the lens of narrative. How are the city and its relation to nature being envisioned in contemporary fiction and film? What narrative strategies work and which ones fail when it comes to imagining the environmental futures of rapidly growing cities? How do stories focusing on the present and future of cities integrate human and nonhuman actors and networks? The presentation will approach these questions theoretically and through a comparatist analysis of urban narratives from different regions and languages, with a particular focus on science fiction.