Kaya to Australia Day 2020


Kaya to Australia Day 2020

De-civilising ships keep arriving, our shores
no longer secure, nor our culture thriving,
the wedulah (the white man) brings sickness,
death too by pointing his lethal finger.

So it’s outrage I sing this Day of Invading,
Anger I shout at the smooth persuading
of their own to the
terra nullius doctrine
and the smug nerve to take and to linger.

Surprise and pride at the enduring
of songlines, of rock art, of language
maturing, of wilga for dance, culture
corrosion resisting, the didj, the singer.

So it’s pride I take this Day of Survival,
ceremony I make to sing and stamp
a revival of a near-lost world of soul
whose force continues, sets my heart to tingle.

Make it too a favourable Day of cautious 
Carnival for the culture that’s come
and the culture that’s here, a caucus
of crafts and story-telling all mingling.

So I make joy from blended blessings,
football deftness, hybrid harmony,
cheeky humour, drama stars, open-
ness to future cultures coupling.

  • Ted Witham
    kaya – G’day
    wilga – ochre for ceremony

Disappearing Arts


From today until Christmas Eve, my poem ‘The Disappearing Arts’ will be printed on patrons’ printouts when they borrow from Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library in Melbourne.

The Federal Government has moved responsibility for the Arts from the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet to a new super Department (Infrastructure, Transport, The Regions), where the Arts do not even feature in its name.


The Disappearing ARTS


The ARTS are so subversive now
(for we are young and free)
They lock them up in ‘Infrasport’,
and hide away the key.


The ARTS can set the people free
(our home is girt by sea)
So smother them in red red tape
and tangle into braid.


The ARTS nerve our loath bravery
(Advance Australia Fair)
but we are not afraid
to speak the truth so to disempower.


The ARTS cause us to laugh at rules
(of beauty rich and rare)
to denigrate the canny clown
and turn them all to fools.


-Ted Witham

Translating Saint Francis


I am pleased to announce that two poems I have translated from medieval Italian and Umbrian into English have been published in the Adelaide Literary Journal.

Part of Jacopone da Todi’s Lauda (Praises) on the subject of poverty is published as Lauda XV

Francis Seal of Love, by Vittoria Colonna is a Petrarchan sonnet. Colonna was a great admirer of St Francis.

Advent Scholastics


Now begins the year ecclesiastical
with storms of judgment, visions of the end,
rejection of all ideas plastical
they clog the soul and block God from being friend.

Without our spiritual cleansing drastical
blindness hides the holy incarnation,
makes belief selective and tactical
its fearful retreat from fervent vocation.

Advent imagery wild and fantastical
stirs up our hearts to see the larger stage.
opens us to live enthusiastical
integrity in this and the coming age.

He will come, he says, in clouds of glory:
Now the time to heed and join his story.

Ted Witham, Advent I, AD 2018

The Quadrangle at Wollaston Theological College


Dennis (former Warden, fellow-pilgrim)

transported the surrounding bush inside

to this once stark square where (when young)

we used to kick a footie and the Archbishop chide

that thongs were not professional wear.

 

Now that so proper lawn has gone.

A eucalypt roughly embraces a pencil pine.

She has lost her slender straightness

and has grown a new and swollen line.

She has a definitely pregnant air.

 

Dog collars and stiff stocks were de rigueur.

Now a Silver Princess sways at head height

like a demented and giant alien insect

hovering and bobbing with foreign delight.

a tree, a chimerical vision, creation’s dare.

 

Parrots in the colossal wandoo

scatter pollen, drop nectar to the ground,

neck and squawk their sweet nothings.

In no way to convention bound,

splashing seeds of new life everywhere.

 

The climbing plant has eaten the wall,

And grown a vigourous, lush and living screen.

The sun shafts aggressively rays,

making the rest dark, and wild, and green,

busting with birds and vital mysteries there.

 

We have grown a little wild and unkempt too.

The old straight edges are softened and coalesced.

God’s tendrils of outrageous vitality

have sprouted even in the hearts of his old priests,

neatness overturned for more authentic care.

 

***

Published in Access Press’s Galloping On VI, Winners And Selected Poems From The Grand National Poetry Stakes 1995.

 

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Photo courtesy Wollaston College

 

Ships of States


Ships of States

What is poetry?

craft carved from hard words and soft,
coloured for the eye and sounded well,
and polished along the true,
tacked with perfume and fathomed for a spell.

argosy launched from the mire of mind
to sail in auditors’ ears,
and float in currents of readers’ specific
memory, bliss and tears.

tender (legal or outlaw) convoyed from hand to hand
rich koine valued by someone new
or poems pocketed lying idle
lost change hiding in plain view.

****

Ted Witham 

Joint Winner WA Poets’ 2018 Occasional Poetry Prize.