Book review by Sheila Suttner
My Country, My World
by Justina Williams NOT IN MY NAME Justina (Joan) Williams entered her 87th year on Australia Day 2003. Physically frail after a year of worrying and painful ailments, intellectually she is as feisty a fighter for peace, social justice, a nuclear-free planet, feminism, Aboriginal rights, workers' rights and freedom for all as ever. The publication of My Country, My World is evidence of this: a beautiful and reminiscent selection of poems, covering personal and world- wide issues from 1970 to 2003. Her vision is sharp and clear on the issues of the day; her language ranges from the euphoric to the frank. Justina calls a fork a fork, and not a garden implement.* Yet she can describe the birth of a baby, the opening of a flower in such terms that the reader can smell and touch and feel the experiences in a living and loving way from the pages of her book. Her poems vibrate with love and anger, outrage and wonder. Justina's poems have inspired social activists over the decades. They are read out at rallies, emblazoned on flyers, called out in choruses of marchers. Her poems are as relevant today as they were in the brutality of the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the war against Iraq, presently in prospect. (Not in My Name was reprinted by peace organisations during the Gulf War and is read out at meetings and rallies, at home and abroad today, against the war on Iraq.) They have spurred on the efforts of those who fought for legalised abortion, the protection of workers, the preservation of indigenous culture, a humane response to asylum seekers, and the cessation of environmental degradation of her beloved country. And then there is the personal side of Justina's life, the relationships of marriage, parenthood and friendship that are described with passion and tenderness, in beautiful metaphor and symbolism. What a living treasure we have in this woman. We must treasure her and her living legacy of the miracles of poetry.
* * *My Country, My World, published by Lone Hand Press, 68pps (ISBN 0-9598402-5-7) is available from Vic Williams 5B Jemerson St, Willagee, WA 6156 (ph (08) 9337 1074) or SPA Books, 65 Campbell St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010 (ph (02) 9212 6855) for $10 plus $1 p&p. * I must explain my misuse of the well-known adage "call a spade a spade etc." Many years ago in South Africa I was involved in a family planning project in Soweto. The white lady running the event was explaining the sexual act in delicate terms such as 'sexual intercourse", "genital penetration", etc. A large black lady stood up and said "If we are to help our people we must speak plainly. We must call a fock a fock, and not a garden implement."