Eighteen months or so ago, I ventured on the huge (for me) task of versifying an Alan Jones press conference. You can read its five parts here, here, here, here and here. It wasn’t great art but it was fun to do. For quite different reasons – hommage rather than dommage – I’ve undertaken a similar thing with a recent speech by WA Senator Scott Ludlam. My versification is no match for the eloquence of the original, and the ruthless demands of rhyme result in quite a bit of distortion of the meaning. I’ve skipped over some bits, in particular some party-political moments, but I hope I’ve captured something of the speech’s greatness. Here’s Part One, which takes us to 1:47 of the 7:34 video:
The Senate chamber, ten at night, when bed
or business has led all to quit the scene
save two, who sit in the expanse of red –
not red themselves: a Liberal and a Green.
Scott Ludlam stands to say what must be said,
main audience a future YouTube screen:
his last speech in this place before the poll
to make up for the one that someone stole.
‘Tonight I rise,’ he says, ‘to bid you come,
Prime Minister, to visit my home state,
the beautiful Westralia. Do please come.
I ask in all good faith, because our fate
is on the line. I ask respectfully: come.
You’re welcome here, but please first contemplate
the baggage that you pack for your stopover,
though it be brief, a campaign supernova.
‘You will alight on Whadjuk Nyoongar earth
where Derbal Yerigan (the Swan)’s been sung,
two hundred times as long as there’s been Perth.
Mount Druitt’s further off than Mount Agung.
The drought here’s never-ending. There’s a dearth
of housing fit for purchase by the young.
We live with climate change, we know it drives
the loss of jobs, and property and lives.
‘Prime Minister, I beg you, leave back east
your boring three-word slogans. Read us right!
Not as redneck monsters whose hearts feast
on Manus Island horrors. Though you might
call us ‘the mining state’ as if the beast
that benches, chops and blasts as if by right
a third of this great continent was us.’
Mild mannered, neat, he turns a page. No fuss.
To be continued.