In the 1970s, the book Wrappings, by Vicki Viidikas was a must-have for a young feminist in the inner-west of Sydney, along with several Joni Mitchell LPs, The Dialectic of Sex, by Shulamith Firestone, and various other cultural artefacts.
But Vicki Viidikas (1948-1998) was closer to us than all the others. She was our contemporary, she lived in Sydney, and she wrote about the sorts of places and people that we were familiar with, in uncensored language and indeed, thought.
(Did I ever meet her? I think she may have answered the door of a house I was visiting, once. The 70s was like that. )
Viidikas wrote poetry, and things that she called 'pieces' and things that could be short stories. Or not.
I'm not quite sure when it was, the first time I wanted to say something about myself, that I was quite definite I had to speak, and someone would listen. Whenever it was it was early, I wanted to run into the darkness and start talking to the night, standing in that black tent, a voice in dark veils, imagining an answer. Or walking about in daylight addressing myself to the sunshine, calling out as it drew me out, to be turned like a mute thing, to be cooked and gone brown. Maybe it was the trees I imagined had ears, putting my arms round their knobbly trunks, laying my face against their skin as they stood there tall messengers.
Vicki Viidikas, 'Trying to Catch the Voice', in Wrappings (Wild and Woolley, 1974)
Some of her words make me laugh. Look at the imagery and brilliant economy in this sentence:
"They made love that night like crocodiles on a rampage, and again in the morning before she went to work." (in 'It's just the Full Moon')
and others I know by heart, the way you never forget a line of poetry :
"I am not making love at the time of writing this story, in fact it's been some time since I felt any sunlight streaming through the skin." ('The Incomplete Portrait')
Her work is funny, angry, gutsy and real - and it will last. She is someone who certainly caught her own voice. She is brilliant and inimitable.
Fortunately, for those not around to get their own copy of Wrappings in the 70s, a selection of her work, some of it previously unpublished, was published last year. Vicki Viidikas: New and Rediscovered.
There's a review here.
New and Rediscovered contains many of her poems, including her first published poem, at the age of 19, 'At East Balmain'.
I love this from it:
A hermit dog lives here, in a burnt-out boiler turning
orange. He stays inside all day - I've seen his eyes
glint in the dark, he is huge and black and solemn.
What a noticer she is, what strength of writing, and what compassion.
Finally, I'll let the page speak for itself, as it always does.
|'The page should fuck back': from 'The Incomplete Portrait'|