Disclosed Poetics: Beyond Landscape and Lyricism by John Kinsella

By John Kinsella

John Kinsella explores a latest poetics and pedagogy because it emerges from his reflections on his personal writing and instructing, and at the paintings of alternative poets, relatively modern writers with which he feels a few affinity.


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In terms of colonialist Australia, the beach is much more: it is the point of access, the place where the colonisation begins, where the overwhelming oceans yield their reward. The voyages of exploration and discovery find their endgame. It is not coincidental that the overturning of what is now termed terra nullius in the Mabo case began with an examination of continuous occupation of a beach/shoreline-related space in the Murray Islands. There is an implied necessity that the symbolic point of entry should be the point of recognition, of undoing.

It is the unseen stream below the surface sought by the diviner and found to be running salt. The gendering of place also fascinates me. Groser alludes to the maleness of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s way of seeing – ‘He possessed a keen sense for manliness and natural beauty’ (1927, p. 219). For me, gender is among other things a complex and interchangeable way of seeing the land. The use of maleness or femaleness or hermaphroditism in my poetry is meant to show how mobile our interaction with place is.

This othering and fear of the unknown, fused with a Victorian occultism, resonates throughout the Australian literature of the late nineteenth century, and indeed earlier and later. But this is not the bush I recognise, and it is not just a matter of time having passed. Many still view the Australian forests and deserts as places of the ‘other’, where the rules of the Clarke geo-psychology come into play. The forests are where people grow dope and murderers dispose of their victims; the desert is the place you drive into and perish, to be found six months later a few miles from your car (even the radiator drained for water).

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