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Indigenous Australian Poetry





Issues of Identity in Aboriginal Poetry
by Anita Heiss

Links to Aboriginal Literature





There will be an extensive program of indigenous readings at the Congress.

Sea of Hands, Manly. R Iannsen


Extract from the Anthology


  by Jennifer A Martiniello

Still Dreaming: Old Voices, New Songs
Contemporary Aboriginal Poetry

"Aboriginal literature stems from an oral tradition which in longevity dwarfs Western literature and which influences the form, style and dialogue of contemporary Black Australian writing."
(Davis, Muecke & Shoemaker:

Of those traditional oral forms, none are as expressive, emotive, rhythmic, and structurally and symbolically complex as our traditional song cycles.' Aboriginal poetry has its genesis in these, and despite its relatively late transcription to accepted western literary forms, is the oldest continuing poetic form in the world. When the poets of Egypt's Old Kingdom, c.5,500 years BP, were melding the richly lyrical metaphoric journeys of mind and spirit to the earliest hieroglyphic forms, ours, equally rich and lyrical in their simultaneous timeframes of Dreaming, present and continuum, were already 60,000 years old and more. Aboriginal poetry occupies a unique place in the history of world poetry.

It is always to some degree narrative, is simultaneously multidimensional in space/time rather than singularly chronological, and cannot be truly under- stood by severing it analytically from its historical and socio-cultural context. Its poetic inheritances from oral traditions go beyond mere literary transposition. Tradition, community, family obligation, social and spiritual experience, the continuity of culture, identity, history and law, plus the forced socio-political agendas of 212 years of colonisation, distil contemporary Aboriginal voices to an essence that a dominant culture calls variously political, marginal, mysterious, radical and, always, separate.

The inheritances of a Eurocentric dominant culture impose literary forms, styles, coercions, genres and canons that enforce further separations:

The complete article is available in the anthology.