Writing on Thresholds: An Australian Postcolonial Poetics & The Blue Archway

Author: Molly Murn

Murn, Molly, 2022 Writing on Thresholds: An Australian Postcolonial Poetics & The Blue Archway, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis develops a ‘threshold poetics’ methodology through a reading of aesthetic and material thresholds in contemporary Australian poetry. It considers the works of my case study poets: Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha poet Ali Cobby Eckermann, Iranian-Australian poet Ali Alizadeh and Australian poet Andy Jackson. It addresses how both the poetry, and the poets themselves, inhabit the threshold as an in-between place where a transformation—bodily, linguistically, culturally, spatially—can occur, revitalising what Philip Mead calls the ‘networked language’ (2008) of contemporary Australian poetry. This kind of understanding sees poetic language ‘networked’ to the culture and history in which it is formed and allows room for a polyphony of voices—migrant, settler, Indigenous, exiled, and bodily different. The thesis discovers the threshold as a productive or generative space—one that acknowledges and embodies the unsettlement of contemporary Australian postcolonial poetry and poetics.

The creative component of the thesis is a full-length poetry collection, ‘The Blue Archway’, in which I address the notion of the threshold as an imaginative, sensorial, figurative, and material site for creative investigation. The work of Cobby Eckermann, Jackson and Alizadeh has influenced and affected my approach to composition, or poiesis in different ways. Their work serves as a provocation to me, or Barthes’ punctum (1979; 2000), prompting a series of associations, questions, impressions, memories, calls and responses. The poems in the collection encounter the threshold in various ways: as rite of passage, synthesis, meeting place, locus of transformation, and site of crossover in nature, such as the shoreline or where the river meets the sea. They enter dialogue with other poets and artists whose works encounter the threshold (including but not limited to the works of Cobby Eckermann, Jackson and Alizadeh). The exegesis and poetry collection together consider unsettlement, ekphrasis and collaboration as practices of threshold poetics, and formulate a statement of threshold poetics.

Keywords: Australian poetry; threshold; postcolonial; poetry; unsettlement; contemporary poetics; ekphrasis; collaboration; decolonisation.

Subject: Creative Arts thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2022
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Emeritus Professor Jeri Kroll