Poem and commentary contributed by Andrew Fraser
“The core of TS Eliot’s poem Little Gidding, is in my view the line; ‘A condition of complete simplicity’ This ties in with his theme of the ’still point’ running through the complete work , Four Quartets of which Little Gidding is part. When I wrote the Indigenous Prophet, I was imagining all of creation, as like TS Eliot’s idea of the still point at the centre of a spinning wheel. Like the Knowledge Tree in the Garden of Eden or the eye of a hurricane, the still point is in the middle of a vast spinning wheel and contrasts with the fiery, dynamic creation happening at the universe’s outer reaches. To me the still point represents the crepuscular ether at the centre and dawn of creation manifest in the risen Christ that is neither dark yin nor fiery yang. It is a place of eternal stillness, silence and awesome presence where Christ resides. Christ integrates the still/dark feminine or yin power that co-exists in the universe with the contrasting active/fiery, masculine or yang creative force that dynamically evolves outwards in a circular, clockwise motion. So, I see the Body of Christ as no less than all of creation whose crowned head mediates between the Yin Holy Spirit and the Yang Creator in the Trinity, on Creation’s behalf.
Besides connections to TS Eliot’s still point and to his images of transformational fire in Little Gidding, I see ones to dot painting in Aboriginal art and to the modern scientific theory of an expanding universe. In my poem, I compare my view of dynamic creation to a powerful military force disciplined by the moderating influence of the Middle Way (TS Eliot’s still point or Christ). In this model, Life (represented by the Creator) evolves in Christ from Death ( represented by the Holy Spirit) continuously in a clockwise, expanding, circular motion. This ‘canticle of the universe’ marches ‘to the tune of Fife’ that has connotations to both a military instrument and to the middle country of Fife, between the Firths of Tay and Forth. I thought of Fife because my ancestors came from Scotland.”
The Indigenous Prophet
First Nations’ people love divine Auntie
Who lives in the Land and they live in Her;
She who ministers as God of Mercy
And for their suffering applies Her myrrh.
Uncle Creator and Auntie Spirit
Are at either end of the Trinity
And the Prophet does in the middle sit,
Doing a deal under the Boab Tree.
They deliver Decoloniality,
For this diverse post-humanist planet,
That Big Bang reveals as incredibly,
Part of Body of Christ that some have met;
In whom risen, from death evolves all life
And creation marches to the tune of Fife.
Andrew Fraser 23/9/22
Barangaroo and Benelong
My poem begins with the spirited Aboriginal woman Barangaroo, who lived in Sydney’s early colonial period, singing sad songs about her people’s suffering at the hands of the white man. So too does M. Nourbse Philip lament the oppression of her slave ancestors through the white man’s brutal suppression of the former’s native tongue,
in Discourse on the Logic of Language. However, where Nourbse Philip’s language is highly emotive and a personal catharsis, mine is more a satiric meditation from a sympathetic white man, who is outraged at the evil of coloniality. In writing the poem, I was inspired by contemplating Barangaroo’s namesake, Central Barangaroo on the western edge of Sydney CBD which was supposed to be the cultural heart of the site. Instead it is dominated by the ‘The White Man’s Phallus’, the casino tower that is totally out of proportion with its surrounds and sends the wrong message about Central Barangaroo’s cultural significance which should say something about the story of Barangaroo. Instead the dominant statement is a testament to the Tower of Babel. While I like the northern Headland Park, it is in my view spoilt by the adjoining circular artificial inlet that looks like a rich man’s private marina. Far better to turn the inlet into what featured in one of the early designs, an amphitheatre for soulful performing arts at which, in the tradition of the great Gaurimal, many of Barangaroo’s descendants excel, . This to me represents a better cultural statement than the tokenised indigenous cultural centre, tucked away underground while the garish commercial development dominates the best Barangaroo sites. A bad idea that has now been mercifully scrapped when it was announced that the indigenous cultural centre is to be transferred to a more appropriate site near the oldest museum in Australia, the Australian Museum in William Street.
The image I had in my mind when I wrote about Barangaroo, is much how I see Nourbse Philip, that of the Archetypal black woman lamenting the cultural oppression of her people. However, I baulk at employing the latter’s raw- edged style, which would be in bad taste, as one who has not suffered like her people. Unlike Norse Philip’s heartfelt emasculation of the the white man’s power, with her graphic images of severed tongues and penises, my instrument of emasculation is laughter. So in my poem, Barangaroo seamlessly switches from lamentation to stand up comedy, of which I have in mind talented comediens like Celia Pacquola, as expressed in the line;’ She fronts and laughs at the White Man’s Phallus’. Perhaps more so than Nourbse Philip, I am confident that in time the coloniality/neo-coloniality project will be defeated. That is why my Barangaroo Archetype eternally confronts ’The White Man’s Phallus’ from the North and the North Star has long signified hope in African-American culture.
Barangaroo and Benelong
Barangaroo sings sad songs from North centre
Of the Grassy Grotto amphitheatre.
She fronts and laughs at the White Man’s Phallus,
To emasculate Terra Nullius.
Benelong wakes from the mist to the East
And presides at a grand opera feast.
He sings of the Cross raised in 08
When World’s Youth saw in Christ, Warrung’s worth
And to God and Creation did relate,
As the Christ Cross spanned Heaven and Earth.
So, is the Way a bridge Heaven sent
Between the immanent and transcendent.
So, too does it complement yin and yang
And unite creation with heartfelt pang.
Andrew C Fraser 23/9/22
The Canticle of the Universe
Like Gerard Manly Hopkin’s poem the Windhover, The Canticle of the Universe conforms largely to a classical fourteen line sonnet, and the similarities don’t end there. Hopkins typically uses something he observes in Nature, in this case the ‘dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon’, as a segue into his Christian faith. In the Windhover, he personifies the bird as his ‘chevalier’ which is a clear reference to Christ, given Hopkin’s vocation as a Jesuit priest. In my poem, I do something similar when I relate the epic ‘canticle of the universe’ from Big Bang to the evolution of Humankind 14 billion years later. To me the science supports the existence of the Creator and leads to my belief that creation is ’self-working’ like the analogy of a watch promulgated during the Enlightenment. The natural laws govern the workings of the universe (‘the Watch’) but the Big Bang proves to my satisfaction that the Watch was made by a creator (‘the WatchMaker’), something they didn’t know during the Enlightenment.. In the poem, I also express the view that the fact that throughout the vast cosmos, the conditions and chances of intelligent life evolving are so rare, as to constitute nothing short of a miracle and that we are indeed blessed by God. That in turn supports a strong ecological message that our planet is ‘all that [we’ve] got’, so we better take care of it, or there won’t be a world to hand on to our children.
The Canticle of the Universe
Care well for this suffering blue green dot!
A priceless treasure and all that ye’ve got!
Lo in celestial fields far surveyed,
Intelligent life be not evident
And ye know only on Earth evolved;
A miracle that seems no accident!
Could it be what Yahweh had ordained?
Nearly fourteen billion long years ago,
When the Universe was Big Bang sparked
And from primal dust, Humankind did grow;
This great epic canticle that reprises
Whenever new life from decay arises.
Yet though the cosmic Watch is self-working,
From it, thy Maker’s awesome voice does sing.
Andrew C Fraser 23/9/22
Andrew, I love the way you have translated so much of the content of your reading in the last three weeks into aspects of your own experience and especially anchoring this so firmly in the Australian mythic world. You have picked up so much in the last three weeks and it is wonderful to see how you have found a way of expressing this in both poetry and prose. Well done!