Canberra Day: Some Les Murray Words

It is Canberra Day today and a public holiday for Canberrans. And each autumn there is a balloon festival. The following is a sunrise photograph from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge looking towards the National Gallery and the Parliamentary lawns as the balloons start to lift in the early morning air.

Canberra Balloon Festival Autumn 2022

In a letter when feeling down and living in Canberra at the time (1962-65), Les Murray had these words to say about the Capital …

I’ve had a bad attack of the old tedium vitae lately. Can’t say why then one never can. It’ll pass. I need a tonic. Like escape from Canberra, which would, without the least fragment of a doubt, be the deadest, dullest, most worthless, ephemeral, baseless, pretentious, pathetic, artificial, over-planned shithouse of a town I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’d set it alight, some days, but I’m sure they’d merely put the fire out with dull, unimaginative efficiency and go on as before. Sod the place.

From an unpublished letter, LM to Greg O’Hara 7August 1963 … taken from ‘Les Murray: A Life In Progress‘ by Peter F. Alexander.

Canberra has grown into a truly magnificent vibrant city, far removed from that rampant LM rage that caused such toxic words to flow fifty years ago!

LM also wrote some short Canberra pieces (Rhymes for a Small Capital) … a couple of examples …

As I walked in Garema Place
I met a man with shining face
Who cried I am not in The Know!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
But Canberra's neither cold nor soulless
(except to those unsold, or coal-less)
she has her delights - I won't distort 'em -
wide embassies of Spring and Autumn

I’m glad to hear LM mentioned some positives! … Spring and Autumn are magic times of the year in Canberra, the Floriade Festival in Spring and the Autumn Balloon week make use of the excellent weather in these seasons.

Les Murray on Wikipedia

– he was arguably an Australian Defacto Poet Laureate.

Canberra as defined by Wikipedia

A Message to my Granddaughters

Mt Ainslie, Canberra – looking down on the city centre and Lake Burley Griffin
A Message to my Granddaughters 
in response to Michael Thwaites
Sometimes you slowly still, 
and within a certain satisfaction exudes
into a self-absorbed contentment.
And you say a quiet thank you,
as a peace envelops the soul.
Sometimes you slowly still.
I chose a marvellous city to call home,
the break of morning, the stars departing,
The mirror lake, the cutting Autumn air,
The sun unfolding on the Brindabellas –
I chose a marvellous city to call home.
And what a city, your native city.
The expansive view from Mt Ainslie
portrays Walter Burley Griffin’s plan in 
the continual change of trees, hills, water,
his forever friends in living beauty.
And in this vista, commanding features - 
St John’s Church, the War Memorial,
Civic Centre, The National Library,
the new and old Parliament buildings,
Regatta Point, Commonwealth Gardens,
Capital Hill … and so much more, caught
in the moment of an Autumn morning.
But will you appreciate in likewise fashion 
And will your days stretch to a contented life
and will you, when time falls back against the years,
will you … well, who knows! …
But on this morning, I will say again –
I chose a marvellous city to call home.

Richard Scutter March 2022, Canberra

March is the start of Autumn in Canberra. And this year it has not been a case of a sweltering summer and the autumn change will not be so dramatic; but always a time to appreciate the beauty of the changing colours of the trees.

And on this day, it is a time to value your home wherever you live. Hopefully, your home has not been violated by needless violence generated by future fear from another country.

All the best, Richard

A Message to my Grandson – Michael Thwaites – Comments

A Message to my Grandson
You chose a marvellous morning to be born,
The orange edge of dawn, the stars paling,
The glassy lake, the diamond Autumn air,
The sun breaking in surf on the Brindabellas –
You chose a marvellous morning to be born.
Welcome: And I extend an invitation
To tour your native city; for a start
The view from Ainslie (quite superlative)
Delineates Burley Griffin’s genius, working
After his death, enlisting trees, hills, water
As friends (he hoped) not subjects to his plan.
Then we could visit some outstanding features,
St John’s, the War Memorial, Civic Centre,
The National Library, Parliament House of course,
Regatta Point, the Gardens, Capital Hill…
But those who met you first at your arrival
Have judged my invitation premature.
You were, I hear, quite tired after your journey,
Found our light trying, though intriguing too,
Through flickering lids seemed eager to discover
Just what was going on, but had some trouble
In focusing the things you had in mind,
And close observers felt that you were opting
For further time to orientate yourself.
In point of fact, it seems you waved your hands
In general greeting to your father, mother,
Then, having twice refused some light refreshment,
You went to sleep.
No explanations needed, my dear fellow!
We’ll simply do our tour some other time
Convenient to yourself. The sun is climbing,
The city goes to work, and you are here.
You chose a marvellous morning to be born.
Michael Thwaites (1915 – 2005)

S1 … Autumn is approaching in Canberra, and it is a marvellous time after the heat of summer. The air is so clear and fresh as night temperatures start to drop. The low Brindabella Mountains form an enclosing forever scenic backdrop and surfing is a nice poetic way of expressing any rolling of early mist as it evaporates as the sun takes strength. Birth of a grandson and birth of a day happen to be married to give that special day double remembrance.

S2 … Here is the start of a list of iconic aspects known to Canberrans and those that have visited the city. A tribute to Walter Burley Griffin who was instrumental in the design of Canberra from its very inception, not forgetting his wife who played a dominant part. The beauty of the city is emphasised on this day of beginnings. Canberra does have three distinct Mountains that give splendid views of the city, one of which is Mt Ainslie. Canberra is a Capital city if you excuse the pun.

S3 … First light in the birth with a witty touch of thought by clever use in the personification of the mind of baby. An arrogant wave of hand from baby as he decides enough for now, a little sleep is needed. The suggestion of royalty is so apt.

S4 … Acceptance that much time is needed for baby to understand the city. The sun is climbing / the city goes to work, and you are here. And this is what makes a marvelous autumn morning so more meaningful.

Regarding the invitation for a future understanding, I do not know whether his grandson came to value the city in such a way.

Website – A Message to my Grandson | ThwaitesLink

Wikipedia – Michael Thwaites AO was an Australian academic, poet, and intelligence officer.

Canberra Can – Canberra Speaking

Canberra is speaking

Canberra and the beauty of Canberra is speaking loudly at this time of year! Canberra is such a fine city in so many ways apart from benefitting from the relatively low impact of the virus. I do hope those local readers can get out in the spring sunshine and enjoy the colour flush and associated return to warmer days. We have an abundance of recreational areas and nature parks. It raises the spirit no end; especially for those that have been confined at home! And isn’t it wonderful that the majority of those infected have recovered and are now able to get out and appreciate the change!

Here is an image from our garden of the crab-apple saying a white hello.

Unfortunately, the Australian media often uses ‘Canberra is speaking’ in a different context. I say unfortunately because those that have never experienced the delights of Canberra can have a coloured image associated by the political life of our city.

I wonder to what extent this stereotype is changing and how much people can Canberra in this way. It is in this light that I encourage the uninitiated to come see and for themselves in the following sonnet …

Canberra Can
Canberra can be quite annoying 
the polies are soul destroying
they come from a different place
to give our fine city a tainted face
please do not send rubbish here 
to rape their time in sex and beer
we care about our reputation!
we are the Capital of the Ozie nation!
so, peel off this superficial skin 
place firmly in the rubbish bin
and come to Canberra yourself to see
the abundancy of our city
then I am sure you will discover 
that this fair city is like no other!
Richard Scutter

For those readers outside Australia the unacceptable sexual behaviour by some politicians has come to the fore, including inappropriate behaviour and lack of respect for women generally. Interesting, the ‘Profumo / Christine Keeler Affair’ documentary has recently been on television. This was a major scandal in British Politics in the early sixties.

‘Poetry on the Move’- Canberra 2017

POETRY ON THE MOVE is a festival of poetry, taking place in Canberra University and other local venues from the 14th to 21st of September 2017. Paul Munden, Festival Director,  explains this year’s program …

The theme for this year is ‘Border Crossings’ …

The theme emerged naturally. ‘Borders’ of all sorts are very much in the news, and poetry reflects that. We have an event at the National Portrait Gallery (Saturday the 16th), exploring issues of identity and migration. Another session considers cultural boundaries within Australia, led by poets who have done exceptional work with regional communities. And we’re fortunate to have a number of distinguished Japanese poets attending, so poetry in translation became another major focus, relating to the theme.

The poets-in-residence this time are …

Two wonderful poets, both from the UK. Vahni Capildeo won the prestigious Forward Prize last year for her collection Measures of Expatriation(yet another connection to the Boundary Crossings theme). And Glyn Maxwell, whose collections have also won major prizes, is particularly well known for his book On Poetry. Simon Armitage, one of last year’s guests has called it ‘the most compelling, original, charismatic and poetic guide to poetry that I can remember’.

Full details can be referenced here