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Write into the unsayable: Apophatic strategy in poetic practice

Webster, M. (2017) Write into the unsayable: Apophatic strategy in poetic practice. Axon, 7 (2).

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Poet Alice Notley once remarked, ‘like many writers I feel ambivalent about words, I know they don't work, I know they aren't it’ (Notley 2010: n.pag.). Over centuries, in both East and West, poets, mystics, philosophers, and worshippers have developed a semantics of negation—apophasis—to deal with what lies beyond language, to draw closer to uttering what cannot be said. As part of my PhD research I am experimenting with apophasis as a poetic strategy, exploring representations (in both poetic form and content) of absence through space, silence, and denial. Taking Notley’s statement as a reference point, this paper contemplates, from a practitioner perspective and through examples of my creative work, the idea that every poem is an attempt to write into the unsayable.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Univerty of Canberra. Faculty of Arts and Design
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