Poets have long expressed art through verse to accentuate discontent, shame and hope. Words coalesce to pen an artists purpose. From this expressive practice of social justice, lyrics have the potential to call us to action.
Take the life of Judith Wright, a poet, environmentalist, social activist, and a formidable force in progressing Australian conservation and Aboriginal land rights. Her daughter, Meredith McKinney said of her mother’s conservation polemic; “In the beginning it was just really because she could see the destruction happening to the natural habitat, she could see it was happening everywhere and nobody seemed to be doing anything. She said, ‘This can’t go on.’” Meredith lamented that Judith realized many people shared the same feelings yet there was no action because nobody knew what to do.
Many accounts of Judith’s life point to her natural inclination to retreat. Against these odds, and out of a belief of pure necessity, Judith became a persuasive catalyst for change. Judith exemplifies the “creative ethical and ecological dialogue” discussed in the Conservation Biology paper “Promoting predators and compassionate conservation”, Wallach, Bekoff & others (2015). Her poetic legacy, calls those who are willing to listen, to continue to act for the protection of our natural habitat.
‘Sounds for Social Justice’ can be heard in Judith’s poem as she laments on the sacred life of lyrebirds in her respect for conservation.
Lyrebirds – Poem by Judith Wright
Over the west side of the mountain,
that’s lyrebird country.
I could go down there, they say, in the early morning,
and I’d see them, I’d hear them.
Ten years, and I have never gone.
I’ll never go.
I’ll never see the lyrebirds –
the few, the shy, the fabulous,
the dying poets.
I should see them, if I lay there in the dew:
first a single movement
like a waterdrop falling, then stillness,
then a brown head, brown eyes,
a splendid bird, bearing
like a crest the symbol of his art,
the high symmetrical shape of the perfect lyre.
I should hear that master practising his art.
No, I have never gone.
Some things ought to be left secret, alone;
some things – birds like walking fables –
ought to inhabit nowhere but the reverence of the heart.