The Secret to Poetic Precision

Composing lines, poet and former actor Marcella Polain states, is “like going on stage. . . When you go on stage, you’ve done the rehearsal, and your body knows it, so it’s a matter of putting aside any concerns about the words or the movement and entering into that space. It’s the same feeling” (2009). My paper tackles the intuitive correctness of comparing poetry writing to acting, and the set of objections this immediately raises. How can you act out lines that haven’t even been written? What, furthermore, of the many commentators (Johnson 1751; Attridge 1982; Ford 2021) who have pointed out how little the sounds in a given line of poetry relate to the actual sounds (horses’ hooves etc) they are purported to imitate? If poets are actors, what are they generating a likeness of? As for ways out: could it be that the mimesis in question is less about imitating a pre-existing reality than producing—by insisting on it—a link between a meaning like “horses hooves” and a suggestive soundscape, that will come to sound like horse’s hooves for ever afterward? Maybe this is what actors do more generally: create what will come to be taken as imitation?


Paul Magee studied in Melbourne, Moscow, Sydney and San Salvador. He is author of Suddenness and the Composition of Poetic Thought (Rowman and Littlefield, 2022), Stone Postcard (John Leonard Press, 2014), Cube Root of Book (John Leonard Press, 2008) and From Here to Tierra Del Fuego (University of Illinois Press, 2000). Paul is Associate Professor of Poetry at the University of Canberra.

The Gift of Secret: Blanchot and the exigency of the (Be)yond

“The disaster, unexperienced. It is what escapes the very possibility of experience – it is the limit of writing.” writes Blanchot in his Writing of the Disaster. How does one account for this “unexperienced” that “escapes” the “very possibility” (the condition favourable to the realization) of “experience”? If it is so, then what is the experience of this “limit of writing” that is experienced? What is it that happens on the very “limit” that translates the unexperienced into an experience? It is under such considerations that the present paper will attempt to look at the text of The Instant of My Death, and locate the site of the event along with its implications on literature, and the subject. It would interrogate the secret of the “beyond” in Blanchot; and argue for a case of the (be)yond – the yond (there-ness) of the event as a proper abode on the margins of writing (on the limit); and the immanence (the instant) of the prefix be (as verb) where existence shelters itself in the yond, by carrying it over the limit: the beyond. This moving (be)yond of the secret of the event at the threshold of writing calls for a (re)turn to the very edges of the limit that leads the subject to a past that formed the limits of its own subjectivity– a past that is remembered forgetfully.


Arnav Gogoi teaches in the Department of English at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. Currently, he is pursuing his MPhil at the Department of English, University of Delhi. His research interests include romantic poetry, sublime studies, philosophy of the Event, literary theory, and continental philosophy. At present, he is working on the project titled “Towards a new metaphysics of the sublime in literature: Wordsworth and the limits of possibility” for his dissertation.

‘Curtains blow in and out’: Poetry and the Landscapes of Silence

As Charles Wright shows in his poem ‘The Southern Cross,’ poetic language weaves together both that which is articulated and that which is not. In that poem, the curtains of memory and perception blow gently in and out, demonstrating poetry’s capacity to use both word and silence to suggest a diaphanous and permeable movement between present and not present, sayable and not sayable. Like music that creates effect and possibilities through a delineation of sound and pause, or painting’s interplay between line and colour and the incipience of a blank canvas, poetry’s semiotic ‘laciness’ constructs meaning through a synaptic movement between word and white space, what can be articulated and the occluded territories of non-articulation. In this way, poetic language builds a field which highlights the fundamental transience of all forms of signification; it moves evocatively between nodes of apparent opposition such as past and present, self and other, inside and outside to create flow, possibility and inter-engagement, thereby breaking down the apparent rigidity of binaries. In this paper, I will reconsider the idea of silence as a fixed binary as it operates within specific examples from the poetry of Charles Wright and Adrienne Rich and contrast this with the connection between poetic language and embodiment from one of my own poems, ‘Poetry and Breathing.’


Dr Rose Lucas is a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University and a poet. Her collection This Shuttered Eye was published in 2021; her next collection, Increments of the Everyday is due out with Puncher and Wattman in 2022. She is founding editor at Liquid Amber Press.

Leaks and Archives: Re-envisioning Australian history with once silenced voices and women’s knowledge

Australian nation building and identity formation, though the colonial historical tradition, celebrated white male achievement. This resulted in the silencing and erasure of Indigenous peoples, women, their knowledges, and their agency. Indigenous peoples and women have been absent from national history due to archival or source material being constructed by patriarchal culture. W.E.H. Stanner referred to this as the “great Australian silence”. This silence is most evident in the celebration and commemoration of colonial scientific exploration, where it was understood that ‘successful’ colonial scientific exploration required cross-cultural skills and knowledge. However, these skills and knowledge were only recognised and celebrated as the property of white men – a form of Australian masculinity – which was used to further legitimate white possession. The colonial historical tradition and the construction of an Australian masculinity informed the developing discipline of anthropology. Throughout Australian history, social knowledge produced through the discipline of Australian anthropology has been used to inform government policy and pedagogy. This research illustrates how the colonial historical tradition and knowledge produced through the discipline of anthropology created a divide between concepts of gender, ethnicity, and class, reinforcing the divide between the ‘natural’ and social sciences. A hybrid and situated methodology, that combines ‘Indigenist Standpoint Pedagogy’ (Phillips, 2021) and a critical (auto)ethnographic approach which addresses my own positionality is applied to selected archival sources, oral histories, popular colonial historiography, and visual works.


Peta Jeffries is a Lecturer of Indigenous studies in the School of Indigenous Australian Studies (SIAS) at Charles Sturt University (CSU). Peta’s interdisciplinary research and ethnographic histories focus on the co-production of social and ecological knowledges, and processes of silencing, through the use oral histories, social memories, and archival records. Her work is published as book chapters by CSIRO and the Australian Journal of Islamic Studies. Peta has worked for GunditjMirring and Glenelg Hopkins in an Indigenous led project developing a traditional ecological knowledge resource. Peta’s work draws upon feminist, anti-oppressive, decolonising, environmental, Indigenist and Indigenous theories.

The Demands on Secrecy by the Stranger-Intruder in Contemporary Literature

The proposed study attempts to explore the complex ontological and functional implications of the figure of the ‘stranger-intruder’ and their secrets upon narrative style and form of the contemporary novel through an examination of Ali Smith’s The Accidental (2005) and Catherine Lacey’s Pew (2020). While the novel form has historically celebrated the white-Western (largely male) protagonist’s spirit of wonder while travelling across foreign lands, the arrival of the stranger/outsider in a predominantly white space is shrouded in suspicion and secrecy and is often represented through a xenophobic gaze. This study will draw on Derrida’s notions of the ‘secret’ and ‘unconditional hospitality’ to examine the radical alterity of the stranger-intruder in the above-mentioned texts.

In Smith’s novel, an English family is visited by an unannounced guest, Amber, at their holiday home. The novel oscillates between third person narration and first-person narration by Amber, whose sudden intrusion threatens to unveil the secrets of the family members. In Lacey’s Pew, the arrival of the eponymous racially ambiguous and seemingly genderless character at a small town in the American South perplexes the residents of the town and eventually leads them to confess their secrets to Pew in one-sided conversations. This constant othering has grave implications vis-à-vis contemporary migrant and refugee crises which, in turn, shape and are shaped by literary explorations of the stranger-intruder. This study reads these contrasting representations through three frames: the ‘religious’ revelation of the confession of the secret, the ‘secular’ acknowledgment of the secret through its everyday implications, and the secret law of language that, in Derrida’s reading, is contingent on the production and possibility of iterability.


Nishtha Pandey is a doctoral research scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India. Her research interests include 20th and 21st-century literature and philosophy, critical theory, memory studies and affect studies. Her current project looks at travel, testimony and intimacy through the figure of the flâneuse in contemporary literature. She can be contacted at

Avishek Parui is Assistant Professor in English at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and Associate Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. He is the author of Postmodern Literatures (2018) and is currently contracted for his second book Culture and the Literary: Matter, Metaphor, Memory. He is on the advisory board of the Memory Studies Association, one of the founding chairpersons of the Indian Network for Memory Studies, and principal investigator at the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras.

Missing heroes in the epic canon: when silence speaks

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following document contains the names of people who have died.

In Poetry and Its Others: News, Prayer, Song and the Dialogue of Genres (2014), Jahan Ramazani considers how poetry evades definition as it is shared between forms and evolves (2014:62,238). He points out that poetry permeates our lives, but how do we permeate poetry? Historically, in epic poetry, the predominately western, white, male, straight and able-bodied man has occupied the role of the epic hero and therefore saturates and narrows the scope of the poetic canon (Tosun 2012).

This paper applies Indigenous Standpoint Theory to explore how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals can step into the conventionally western form of epic poetry as the epic hero. By practicing Yunkaporta’s ‘respect, connection, reflection and direction’, this paper will situate the researcher as they are connected through their ways of knowing, being and doing; facilitating the harmonisation of the First Nations hero with the western form (Yunkaporta 2020:11-12; Moreton-Robertson 2013). This evolution of the epic hero will serve to include First Nations truth-telling and expand the hero’s arsenal.

By sharing the experiences, knowledges, and cultures of our heroes such as Gambu Ganuurru, Weeratt Kuyuut and Muara Lifu, this paper will discuss how translating the lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heroes through epic poetry can help to broaden the scope of this poetic genre and aid in the diversification of its form.


Moreton-Robinson A (2013) ‘Towards an Australian Indigenous Women’s Standpoint’, Australian Feminist Studies, 28(78)331-347,

Ramazani J (2014) Poetry and Its Others: News Prayer, Song and the Dialogue of Genres, University of Chicago Press, USA.

Tosun TE (2012) ‘Women writers and rewriting epic as a female genre/Kadin yazarlar ve destanin kadinlara mahsus bir edebi tur olarak yeniden yazimi’, Interactions, 21(1–2)

Yunkaporta T and Shillingsworth D (2020), ‘Relationally Responsive Standpoint’, Journal of Indigenous Research, 8(2020),


Mel Alexander is a descendant from Mabuiag Island and recipient of the Maar Nation Aboriginal Art and Culture Scholarship. The former Managing Editor of Offset Sixteen, Mel is currently a PhD Candidate at Deakin University. Working in collaboration with the Maar Nation peoples of south-western Victoria, Mel’s research focuses on how epic poetry can facilitate a sharing of First Nations histories, cultures and knowledges.

Working cosmologies together and separately in North Australian literature.

Historical narratives set in North Australia, from colonial times to the present era, most often present negative, or romanticised, if not dismissive, portrayals of traditional⁠ Aboriginal Australians. The exceptions are narratives created under the supervision of the traditional Aboriginal knowledge holders themselves. However, collaborations between authors and Aboriginal knowledge authorities bring people together from multiple and multi-faceted epistemic worlds. Given that the novel form and the English language of articulation are firmly embedded in the Western cosmology, is it possible for an author to write a novel, so that the representation mirrors the Aboriginal story holders’ remembering, takes their knowledge traditions seriously and minimises the chance of ‘epistemic violence’?

In this paper I linger in the dynamic interface between the Yolngu and English worlds, where English language grapples to verbalise meanings and articulate concepts. I present and re-perform research experiences of disconcertment. These stories are not intended to translate—so the reader can know another’s culture—but to draw the reader into the experience, where they themselves must struggle to comprehend. The power of narrative in this instance is not in its ability to explain or interpret lifeworlds but in its power to draw the reader into the imaginative experience of others’ lifeworlds. As a writer who uses fiction to experientialise cross-cultural negotiations, I see this paper as making a contribution to the complexities that underpin collaborations between creators and traditional Aboriginal people in north Australia


Leonie Norrington grew up in southern Arnhem Land and was adopted by the Bush/Blanasi family. Leonie is interested in the places where cultures and languages meet, especially how people use language

and story to bridge difference or to make statements about their separateness. She writes in a mix of English, Kriol and Indigenous language. Her stories are a beautifully conceived reflection of the life she lives, black and white characters merge, lives are entwined and for her there is no racial issue, merely a different way of looking. Her books have won or been shortlisted for many Australian literary awards.

Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) in Norther Australia: Literary Pasts and Futures

Part of the violence of British colonisation of the Australian continent was the introduction of a variety of infectious diseases that Australian First Nations People had not previously encountered. These diseases had significant consequences for First Nations People who did not have inherited immunity. The introduction of these novel diseases did not, however, end with an initial wave of infection and the gradual build up of population-level immunity. Instead, European public health cultures – also imported into the Australian continent during colonisation – were imposed upon Indigenous populations. In the case of Hansen’s disease (historically referred to as leprosy), this led to the establishment of a number of so-called leprosaria in the north of Australia, where disease sufferers were hidden away and often experienced discriminatory and inhumane ‘care’ in the name of the greater good of the emergent nation.

This paper looks at the literary texts which represent Hansen’s disease and northern Australian leprosaria. While public health policy did often seek to diminish and hide the sufferers of Hansen’s disease, Australian literary culture has resisted this subterfuge by storytelling. But even within the literary desire to reveal this ‘secret history’ there is additional complexity; in a situation where the majority of Hansen’s disease sufferers were First Nations People, many of the literary stories told have been written by non-Indigenous writers. The paper will conclude by ‘zooming out’ to the larger context of contemporary First Nations literary texts on disease, observing the relation between colonisation and disease and anti-colonial politics emphasising to First Nations self-determination and cultural safety around health care in the present.


James Gourley is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies at Western Sydney University. A scholar of modern and contemporary literature, his research addresses the literary representation of crisis (from the personal to the geopolitical). Gourley’s recent work is published or forthcoming in Global Media Journal – Au, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Sydney Review of Books, and in edited collections published by Sydney University Press, Wiley-Blackwell and Cambridge University Press.

Anger, fury, rage, and action: a distrustful appreciation of Larry Kramer

This paper examines the activist writing of Larry Kramer in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. Texts considered include Kramer’s interventions through published appeals, open letters and the (in)famous eulogy given for his close friend, Vito Russo, upon his death in 1990. Kramer’s ‘inflammatory’ polemic (Rand, 2008) and his carefully staged dialectic of abstract and concrete elements were there deployed against the overwhelming indifference and hostility of the dominant culture to the suffering and death of people with AIDS. His work in this period turned the closet inside out, seeing in the promised security of the open secret in liberal America a deeper complicity with willed annihilation. Viewed in the context of recent work on visibility and liberatory identification (Davidson, 2019), the paper revises the critique of Kramer given in early articulations of queer theory, offering in its place a Burkean frame of distrustful appreciation. Kramer’s writing is of interest to rhetorical studies for its (un)timely investment in a declamatory style of personalising and concrete activist discourse (on page and on stage) and for providing potential lessons on the complex relationship between discourses of humanism and the shared conditions of human life.


Dr Adam Gall is a Sydney-based researcher, writer and teacher. His research interests include culture, writing and textuality in contexts of social impasse, including settler-colonialism, environmental catastrophe and the period of fragmentation of social democracy. His previous work has appeared in Screen, Journal of Australian Studies and Antipodes as well as in several edited collections.

A Character Study of the Enuma Elish

Many mythological stories have remained in cultural awareness long after the decline of the civilizations that recorded them. This is due in part to preservation of art and writing from the time, but also due to contemporary adaptations of mythological stories – new works of fiction in any media, which employ the characters, narratives and themes of myths in order to either retell the myths in new ways, or tell new stories based on or inspired by the myths. This process helps maintain the longevity of myths, but can also lead to distorted perceptions or even erasure of the characters and stories within if handled improperly – facets of character or plot elements, intrinsic to the myths, are silenced if storytellers adapt them out and do not record the changes they make. To that end, a push can be made for transparent adaptation – a process that involves adapting a less widely-known mythological story (in this instance, the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish) and keeping a detailed recording of changes made between the original myth and the resulting adaptation. In this manner, changes can be made to the story’s setting and narrative focus without compromising either. Where the original myth might be more plot-driven, an adaptation can slow its pace to focus on character development, specifically in the case of characters not afforded a voice or perspective in the original myth (in this instance, the villainized mother goddess Tiamat).


My name is Jacob Kingston, and I am a student at Charles Darwin University in the College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts. I am currently studying for a PhD in Literature, focusing on the longevity of mythology and the benefits and consequences of adaptation. I recently completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in the field of literature, focusing on the consequences of abandoning knowledge contained within mythology. I have lived in Darwin for roughly eight years, and the end goal of my studies is to become a lecturer and tutor in English writing and storytelling.

Infamous Inscriptions

In the twelfth-century, Church theologians began to admonish usury on the grounds that it contravened a natural order. Usury was regarded as an aberration, an activity which forces money to increase in value. One significant and enduring notion that developed in that period, the condition of “infamy,” began to play a part in defining a usurer and remained an important category identifier through the ensuing centuries. The gravest determinations and penalties were issued against usurers who could be defined as “infamous,” “manifest” or “notorious.” In addition, the usurer had to be caught in the act of a transaction, or records of the transaction duly sealed, needed to be produced as evidence. The usurer would also reside or conduct business in a district which was known to be the domain of usurers.

Throughout the late mediæval period though, Popes accepted loans at interest and in turn charged interest on loans to churches in lieu of levies, taxes, and procurements primarily to finance the crusades. They overlooked the usurious dealings of the merchants or bankers on whose loans they relied for economic survival and, rather than imposing penalties against them, granted them indulgences and absolutions to make swift restitution and accelerate the generation of revenue, in turn ensuring increased levies to sustain the funding of crusades.

This paper concentrates on the visual-verbal imagery and other literary devices used by Dante in his Divine Comedy, to implicitly identify and one of the usurers, and establish against him a charge of “infamy”.


Frances Di Lauro is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Writing Studies at the University of Sydney. An interdisciplinary scholar formally trained in archaeology and religious studies, she has taught rhetoric, argumentation, and digital writing since 2004. Since 2018, she has been teaching encyclopaedic writing, professional communication, and speech writing. Her research expertise lies in analysing communicative texts and artefacts, including images, chronicles, performative art, films, monuments, and songs. Presently she examines the restorative power of art, song and literature that emerges from crises