chapter  14
15 Pages

‘Faces in the Street’: the Australian poetic working class heritage: Sarah Attfield

BySARAH ATTFIELD

Australia has a rich history of working class poetry that includes poetry of lament and protest from eighteenth-century transported convicts, nineteenthand early twentieth-century poems of colonial settlement in the bush and developing city slums, 1940s and 1950s poetry with socialist leanings and links to the Communist Party of Australia; union songs, 1970s and early 1980s worker and performance poetry, Aboriginal poetry dealing with hardship and discrimination and contemporary poets from working class backgrounds who continue to explore working class experience. According to Silverman and Ruggles, heritage can be tangible and intan-

gible and is important for creating a sense of ‘personal and community identity’ (2007: 3). Heritage in this sense is not neutral and is entwined with notions of power and control (Silverman and Ruggles 2007). What is interesting is who and how certain types of heritage gain credence over others and how exclusions occur. Trouillot (1995) emphasises the importance of history outside official, academic sources – history instead that is produced and learned through popular culture and unofficial narratives. He describes writers as ‘field labourers’ in the production of history (1995: 25), and suggests that it is necessary to access histories that are written in the ‘home, in poetry and childhood games’ (1995: 71). For Trouillot (1995), the past and present are implicated in each other and poetry from the past can thus help us to understand the poetry of today and provides continuity for a shared culture.