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Words that swim between us

Webster, M. and Ray, S. (2020) Words that swim between us. Text: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, 24 (60). pp. 1-10.

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Poet Paul Celan speaks of a poem as ‘a message in a bottle’ washing up on ‘heartland’ (2001: 396). This idea is indeed a poignant one for our times, and for the estrangement as well as strangeness being experienced (at the time of writing) as a result of ‘lockdown’, ‘self-isolation’, and ‘social distancing’. But how can it shape the development of poetries between India and Australia? Celan’s notion has a timelessness and universality, based as it is on an intensely dialogical poetics. As this paper attempts to show, the nuances of this poetics become increasingly pertinent to this exchange between Kolkata-based academic Sharmila Ray, and myself, Perth-based poet Mags Webster. It has been, for me, an exercise in seeking poetic and ontological common ground. I discuss how, prompted by Ray’s epistolatory approach to her home city of Kolkata, I came to interrogate more deeply, in my responses and through my thinking, notions around not only the ‘to whom’ of the poem, but also, and perhaps more importantly for this particular project, the ‘about whom’.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Australian Association of Writing Programs
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