Editor’s Note – Brief Article – Editorial
Looking at a map of Australia one imagines modern cities clustered at the edges of a land mass of vast emptiness, the great middle inhabited mainly by marsupials and scattered groups of indigenous peoples. This paradox speaks to the uncertainty at the heart of many selections in this issue: the relationship of human life to the unexplored center, the mystery that lies within. That mystery is not merely geographic, but psychic and spiritual as well, and–in several of these works–related to an exploration of language and form.
The issue’s guest editor, John Kinsella, himself a poet of place, refers to his inner Australia as “enriching emptiness,” “incredibly inviting,” yet resisting “the sense of belonging that Western human habitation brings to it.” He contrasts his own sensibility with that of overseas visitors who “felt nothing but fear and terror–the openness and the nothingness.”
In his interview with David McCooey, Laurie Duggan, discussing his book Ghost Nation: Imagined Space and Australian Visual Culture 1901-1939, notes that “The creation of imaginary space is really part of the process of colonization.” For a number of these writers inhabiting Australia is only a beginning step in colonizing the continent. Physical presence is not enough. They must embody their understanding of who they are and where they are in the imagery and rhythms of language. For some, that is a dilemma, a struggle and a need, a call for resolution.
Chris Wallace-Crabbe, in “Quizzical Carlton Blues,” asks “Do presbyopics inhabit the same / Australia as the short-sighted? Or / what lies between gossip and maetaphysics?” Peter Porter, in “Duetting with Dorothea,” compares a vision of “Hi-Tech,” advancing Australia with “… a landscape / Lit up by inner doubt / And scarred by self-attrition …” Kate Fagan asks, “Gives me an anchor in all this space, / embed us….” Defining the term “bush” in “From the Vocabulary of an Ex-, “John Mateer writes, “Of ghosts. Fleeing tyranny, going bush, means into wild obscurity, / where local knowledge is spirit and all else the foreigners’ / Inland Sea.”
As if the unique questions of Australian identity weren’t difficult enough, McKenzie Wark adds a further complication in “Elsewhere” by emphasizing the unsettling antipodality of cyberspace:
“Suddenly cultural identity looks like it is in flux. The relations and the flows are more clearly in view than the sources or destinations. Images don’t seem to be representations any more, of the ideal or the typical. They seem to just proliferate and differentiate from each other. … This new experience of difference is an experience of an active trajectory between places, identifies, formations, rather than a drawing of borders, be they of the self or place.” Openness abounds, inviting yet foreboding. Can humans truly inhabit it, discover a way to belong?
COPYRIGHT 2001 Fairleigh Dickinson University
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group