Judith Wright’s Delicate Balance
Judith Wright's poetry, stretching as it now does over thirty years and a dozen volumes, can be seen as a complex, evolving series of exhaustive intellectual and emotional exercises, directed at reconciling the basic dichotomies of human existence into paradox or harmony. The titles of her volumes reveal this concern with duality: Woman to Man, The Two Fires, The Other Half, Fourth Quarter. The problem is compounded and perhaps finally solved—or dissolved—in the other great theme of her poetry, Time or Flux: again the titles are indicative, The Moving Image, Gateway, Shadow, or The Generations of Men, a biography. It is tempting to see in the first of these themes the masculine mind of the reflective, analytical philosopher (her husband Jack McKinney was such a philosopher)—in John Locke's terms, the judging mind, busy polarizing and dissecting. Time, the second theme, may be seen as a preoccupation of the feminine consciousness, Locke's faculty of wit which sees resemblances and merges polarities. In Judith Wright, these two facets have been complicated further by two obsessive Antipodean concerns: the Australian landscape, and the capacity of language to apprehend it.
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