Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The poetry and the passion: Judith Wright's Moving Images

Cresting the Moonbi range in 1942, Judith Wright's love of the New England, "my country", suddenly crystallised. The 1946 result was The Moving Image, her first book of poems.This, the fifth in a series on growing up on the Northern or New England Tablelands, is the second on poet and writer Judith Wright
In 1946, the 31 year old Judith Wright published her first book of poetry, The Moving Image. Dedicated to the father she loved and who loved her, the book is one of the masterpieces of New England literature.

The poems cover many of the themes for which she would later become well known including love of the environment and awareness of Aboriginal dispossession, but most are local poems that will be instantly familiar to anybody who knows the New England Tablelands. They reflect a love of country, a sense of passionate identify.

This long felt love had suddenly crystalised in 1942.

Judith had been working in Sydney. Most men were now away at the war, while her father was leading civil defence planning to evacuate people and livestock from the coast in the event of Japanese invasion.

After pressure from Judith, her father agreed that she should come home to help on the property. Topping the Moonbi Range, Judith was suddenly aware, struck, that she had entered her country.

She had long known that she would be a poet.

After her mother’s death in 1927, the twelve year old Judith had tried to adopt the role of Norah from the Billabong series, books that she loved. She became fiercely protective of her brothers and tried to look after her father. She was also struggling with the stresses of early puberty.

When he father  remarried, Judith and her new step mother clashed. It was decided that Judith and her cousin Tina should go to NEGS, the New England Girls' School, as boarders.

Unlike the slim Tina, the bespectacled Judith was bookish, spotty, bulgy and uncertain. She was not sure what to expect, but knew that she would always second. She consoled herself with the love of poetry and the knowledge that she would become a poet.

At NEGS, Judith decided that she would like to go to the University of Sydney, but her plans were thrown awry by the second of two serious accidents.

In the first, she was thrown from a horse and broke her arm. It was set wrongly and had to be broken and reset.

The second accident was far worse. Her horse fell, leading to very serious injuries. She was carried by stretched to the homestead, driven to Armidale and then sent to Sydney by train for surgery and rehabilitation.

It had been an agonising experience, one that had also put paid to any idea of matriculation. But not all was lost.

I will continue my story next week, also introducing our third character in our growing up on the New England series.
 Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 25 July 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017here 2018 

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