Reassessing the Jindyworobak ‘imagery’ revolution on the way to aliterature of the
1. Who were the Jindyworobaks?
It is a ghost that walks before birth.As a faithful promise it comes.To have known it is to yearn with heart and eyesfor the long hushfor the long, long hushunder starlight in the desert with the winds,waiting the sun’s rise.
The ‘Jindyworobaks’ were a loose ‘club’ of Australian poets who wanted to forge a newrelationship between language and landscape, indigenous and non-indigenousAustralians. Their project eventually involved (invoked?) encounters with the spectresand ghosts of Australia’s colonialist history—i.e. ‘entities’ that spoke of the repression of alternative histories, especially indigenous, and of non-indigenous ‘shadow stuff’ (in theJungian sense). It is arguable that these encounters, recorded in poetry and prose, helpedconstruct a cultural space conducive to white acknowledgement—however limited,initially—of indigenous loss and grief linked to dispossession and forced assimilation.These same encounters also paved the way for later indigenous and non-indigenous poetic representations of the suffering of the land itself, its many extinctions, itsdevastated forests and grasslands.The group originated in Adelaide and their anthologies span the years 1938 to1953. The best work of the group’s leading poets—Rex Ingamells, W. Flexmore Hudson,Ian Mudie, William Hart-Smith and Roland Robinson—clearly introduced a fresh hybrid poetic to the national psyche—one cannot say ‘new’ given the antiquity of the Aboriginalelements they openly acknowledged. It is arguable that the Jindyworobak project has alsohad an important, often under-unacknowledged, impact on Australian literary and culturallife. Poets as diverse as, Mary Gilmore, Judith Wright, Colin Thiele, Dorothy Hewett,James McCauley, Douglas Stewart, Francis Webb, Margaret Irvin and Geoffrey Duttoncontributed to the various Jindyworobak anthologies Les Murray has also acknowledgedJindy influences on his work.
This article will reassess the Jindyworobak contribution to 20
century Australianliterary developments. It will also attempt to highlight the role of ‘spectres’ and ‘ghosts’in their poetics. In particular, it will emphasise the group’s local contribution to what isnow recognized as an international environmental/ecological poetics (epitomized by thework of Gary Snyder in the US and Judith Wright, and more recently John Kinsella, inAustralia). In the case of the Jindies this poetics emerged in the form of a uniquelyAustralian ‘landscape poetics’ (Ingamells’: ‘environmental values’). The movement’s
Judith Wright, from ‘Landscape and Dreaming’
From ‘Desert Dawn’, Rex Ingamells, 1940
Brian Elliott in his 1979 book
, goes as far as to equate Murray’s idea of the‘vernacular’ with Ingamell’s definition of the term ‘environment.’ Murray’s
The Vernacular Republic
of 1975 certainly reworked and extended on select Jindyworobak themes.