working where we are - a quote

"It makes sense to say that Australian poetry is different from the work of many (it not all) modern American and British writers because a disproportionately large number of Australian poets intuit that the theme of local feeling, place and placement is important to them and their readers. More, what such poetry deals with is not just a feeling about landscape or land in a romantic or nostalgic way. One thing indeed that sets Australian work apart is a prevalent sense of that 'country' (definitely not 'countryside' but nearly yet not quite what Americans and Europeans call 'land' and 'landscape') is something you are a part of, something that changes your sense of self and placement and that requires a change in envisioning if you are able to see it and understand it. Land, in other words, is active and mallaeable; it can also be oneiric and ancestral; while, as if in contradiction of those symbolic and poetic facets of a sense of place, many of the discussions and sentiments best associated with country are technical, environmental and technological matters, in part discontinuous from human images and uses of it. Besides, country does not easily offer back a comfortable image of white Western presence, either in terms of colonial history or in terms of technological intervention. This in turn obliges anyone writing about Australian poetry to recognise that a claim about the wider contemporaneity of Australian poetry must reflect a fairly high level of discontinuity: the claim is that almost inevitably in a specifically Australian relationship between poetry and place you will find a fragmented sense of subject and land."

Martin Harrison, in "Self, Place, Newness", Meanjin, 2.2001, p.23-4.


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