The Poetics of Profanity: Essay and Fiction by Anthony Eaton

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In my capacity as a practising writer and teacher, I have over the last few years been actively involved in the design and administration of an intensive writing program for traumatised Australian servicemen and women, all of whom have served overseas in various deployments. This program, which involves immersive work with a small group for a month of 6- to 8-hour days, has consistently challenged my preconceptions about the people involved: the diversity of their attitudes to nationalism, politics, government, philosophy, education, creativity, family and myriad other social and cultural forces was (for me, at least) both unexpected and powerful.

This diversity of ideologies and opinion, however, rests upon a common understanding of several of their shared identities: as members of the defence forces; as members of a community of service; as protectors; as Australians who have served their country; and as survivors of trauma.

One thing that has consistently struck me throughout this process is the language of trauma that often — but not always — evinces itself in expressing this latter identity. The use of profanity in informal situations (and almost never in public or official capacities) is a regular occurrence. It struck me, though, that in many instances profanity was not being used as a linguistic device to gain or express power over someone, but rather as a poetic device — often used with to achieve a darkly comic effect — as a way of expressing the inexpressible. Through drawing upon the social taboo of publicly-expressed profanity as a way to mirror the inexpressibility of trauma, profanity becomes a means of giving context to the impact of trauma upon the formation of identity, and thus becomes a step in the recovery and resilience-building process.

In this piece, I attempt to explore this idea in a short narrative, where the use of profanity is approached from a poetic standpoint, as a means of allowing my protagonist to give voice to the ongoing management of his trauma, within the context of his domestic setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-137
Number of pages5
JournalAxon: Creative Explorations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2018


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