Skip to main content
placeholder image

Indigenous life writing: rethinking poetics and practice

Chapter


Abstract


  • WHAT DOES IT MEAN to "write of life"? And how does Aboriginal writing

    position itself in relation to the politics of life itself? The opening

    stanza to Jack Davis's poem about sixteen-year-old John Pat, brutally

    beaten by police in 1983, troubles the relation between the Aboriginal

    custom of not speaking the name of the dead and the necessary task of

    memorializing such trauma. One way to read the stanza is to identify

    the pious as a double category: the pious may be those whites who insist

    Davis "forget the past"; yet, paradoxically, the pious may equally refer

    to those voices of tradition from within the Aboriginal community that

    insist upon maintaining the taboo against speaking the name of the dead.

    John Pat's death is a tragedy, like that of so many Aboriginal victims of

    Australia's (post)colonial inheritance of trauma and continued structural

    violence and systematic dispossession. Speaking Pat's name is not only

    tragic because of his death in police custody, on "a concrete floor / a cell

    door," but also because of Davis's necessary compulsion to continue to

    speak his name and thereby break a traditional taboo.

Publication Date


  • 2013

Citation


  • Griffiths, M. R. (2013). Indigenous life writing: rethinking poetics and practice. In B. Wheeler (Eds.), A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature (pp. 15-33). Rochester, New York: Camden House.

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1227

Book Title


  • A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature

Start Page


  • 15

End Page


  • 33

Abstract


  • WHAT DOES IT MEAN to "write of life"? And how does Aboriginal writing

    position itself in relation to the politics of life itself? The opening

    stanza to Jack Davis's poem about sixteen-year-old John Pat, brutally

    beaten by police in 1983, troubles the relation between the Aboriginal

    custom of not speaking the name of the dead and the necessary task of

    memorializing such trauma. One way to read the stanza is to identify

    the pious as a double category: the pious may be those whites who insist

    Davis "forget the past"; yet, paradoxically, the pious may equally refer

    to those voices of tradition from within the Aboriginal community that

    insist upon maintaining the taboo against speaking the name of the dead.

    John Pat's death is a tragedy, like that of so many Aboriginal victims of

    Australia's (post)colonial inheritance of trauma and continued structural

    violence and systematic dispossession. Speaking Pat's name is not only

    tragic because of his death in police custody, on "a concrete floor / a cell

    door," but also because of Davis's necessary compulsion to continue to

    speak his name and thereby break a traditional taboo.

Publication Date


  • 2013

Citation


  • Griffiths, M. R. (2013). Indigenous life writing: rethinking poetics and practice. In B. Wheeler (Eds.), A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature (pp. 15-33). Rochester, New York: Camden House.

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1227

Book Title


  • A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature

Start Page


  • 15

End Page


  • 33