Poetry and Politics in Oodgeroo: Transcending the Difference

Politics has been described in many ways, most of them unflattering and all of them seemingly opposed to whatever poetry may be. Politics is the "art of the possible". As Kath Walker, Oodgeroo made Aboriginal literature possible in 1964 with the landmark publication of We Are Going. Politics in the Western democratic system is about getting the numbers. Oodgeroo's people do not have the numbers in Australia today but her poetry does. Her works have sold more copies than almost every other contemporary poet. Yet this kind of success which cannot be denied is in danger of being translated into a negative judgment on her value as a poet. Oodgeroo is "not a really great poet", the judgment goes. She is of historical interest, yes, that must be acknowledged. But that is all. She is history. But that proud judgment can erode her status as a poet, leading some to think of her as no longer a living poet whose words still count, whose poems can be read and reread with undiminished satisfaction by readers new and old.

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Published 1 November 1994 in Oodgeroo: a tribute. Subjects: Aboriginal Australians, Aboriginal literature - Portrayal of White culture, Aboriginal poetry, Poetic techniques, Postmodern criticism, Poststructuralism, Racism, Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

Cite as: Hodge, Bob. ‘Poetry and Politics in Oodgeroo: Transcending the Difference.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 16, no. 4, 1994. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.8f9eade33c.