No Settling Down

Cassandra Atherton, Paul HETHERINGTON

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


    For some poets the act of writing poetry is almost all to do with producing polished and finished works, and such poets often write relatively few poems. For example, almost every one of Kenneth Slessor’s one hundred or so poems are conspicuously ‘made’ things, crafted and polished as individual works that stand alone in their own poetic space, reflecting a particular, disciplined poetic sensibility. Other poets may produce such polished works but are as much, or more, concerned with poetry as an ongoing inquiry into and investigation of the resources of language and the ways language constructs and construes meaning. John Kinsella is one such poet – prolific, restless, frequently returning to preoccupations about the environment and the consequences of its degradation and, in doing so, writing a discontinuous poetic chronicle of his experiences in Western Australia’s Avon Valley. He is also often focused outwards on international concerns and issues, and on personal and public ethics, and is a traveller who writes about places he visits. In these ways he is powerfully engaged in his poetry with both the quotidian and the abstract. Yet Kinsella also has another major preoccupation, and that is a continuing investigation of the language of the contemporary lyric, particularly as it manifests in various versions of the contemporary pastoral. This is a tradition that he has to some extent re-fashioned in his own, sometimes idiosyncratic image, frequently writing what Marthe Reed, following Rob Wilson, terms ‘anti-pastoral’ poetry. In applying this term to Kinsella’s poetry, she states that his ‘dark vision of place recognizes in agriculture, as it has been practiced in Western Australia, nothing of the European idyll of Arcadian happiness’ (Reed 2010: 92). One interpretation of his complete oeuvre is as a questing exploration and a testing of what contemporary poetry might say in extremis – particularly in the face of environmental crisis – and how language might be adapted, and even pulled and stressed, in order to say it. The three-volume publication, Graphology Poems: 1995-2015 foregrounds this enterprise more clearly than any other volume Kinsella has published. This extended and occasionally sprawling group of poems is explicitly and self-consciously about language, the writing of poetry, and about what poetic gestures may look like as inscriptions of being, self and experience if examined from the perspective of a poet who has made of himself a forensic identity:
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalTEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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