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Lionel Fogarty’s Literary Criticism after the Postcolony

by Corey Wakeling

What kind of literary criticism will there be after the postcolony? What relations would thrive in a decolonised space? In such a space, what would the concept of Australian literature be? How would its topoi and characteristics, agents and environments, circulate? When we envision a new relation to this cultural inheritance, to what extent are we speaking to, or after, the former colony called Australia? Lionel Fogarty has been articulated as many types of poet in relation to colonial history: as one whose relation to language suffered the policies of the late colonial regime of the 1950s (Mead 2008; Mudrooroo 1995), as a major agent of the postcolonial rethinking of Aboriginality and Indigenous poetics in their relation to modernity (Ashcroft 2014; McCredden 2009; Mead 2008), or as an anti-colonial radical (Alizadeh 2013; Hopfer 2002; Mead 2008; Minter 2013). These differences speak also of the diversity of approaches available to those who invoke the idea of colony in their theorisations. Moreover, these differences reveal the multiplicity of orientations the appellation “decolonisation” implies. For different critics and theorists, postcolonialism was meant as a tool of decolonisation (Chakrabarty, Spivak). But, to the extent that postcolonialism has prioritised an engagement with the semiotics of politics and cultural memory over a more immediate engagement with political subjectivities and praxes, “postcolonialism” has for some come to connote the face of neoliberal neo-colonialism and its sleight-of-hand diplomacy between world actors.

I don’t see the resolution of these lexical and conceptual divides as necessarily relevant to a revivification of the discourse of decolonisation. But, I present this lexical and conceptual problem before commencing my own exposition of Lionel Fogarty’s after-postcolonial imagination. Basically, the problematics of the postcolony are different from the colony’s, even when postcolonialism stands to represent contemporary regurgitations of colonial ideologies. Moreover, the colonial past and its persistence in the contemporary State in neo- and post- forms is unquestionable. But, which present-day injustices and prejudices are recitations in postcolonialism, which are new campaigns, and which are effectively decolonised but archived? The subject of this essay is a point of engagement that is verifiable. Subject to the criticism of Fogarty’s aesthetic politics, there is one subcolony of the Australian postcolony that I can locate with confidence using the rubric of decolonisation: “Australian literature”.

The possibilities of an Australian literature after the postcolony is the subject of Lionel Fogarty’s more recent work, Mogwie-Idan (2012), and Eelahroo (Long Ago) Nyah (Looking) Möbö-Möbö (Future) (2014). Fogarty the decolonising literary critic is a neglected subject for discussion which I hope to illuminate. Yet, such a discussion seems obvious given poems such as “Anthology Our International” (2014, 118) and “Advance Those Asian and Pacific Writers Poets” (2014, 70–74), which explicitly flout literary and national borders in imagining new social and political relations through writing. Fogarty is one of a few writing in a tense explicitly after the postcolony. This essay tries to piece together what appears to be a complex dream of a particular kind of literature postnation, after the colony.

The first half of Fogarty’s oeuvre[1] closely recites his activist demands for a revolution to oppose the unjust Australian State imaginary as it colonises the fate of many Aboriginal people; the central event of injustice for this oeuvre during this time was the death in police custody of his brother, Daniel Yock. The second half of his oeuvre, including his most recent work, has redoubled the significance of this decolonial activism as the foundation for future thought predicated on Aboriginal history, but also the imagination of a literary solidarity. Consciousness that this work has constituted a body of knowledge and an intellectual and poetic tradition, if you like, as well as an anti-colonial praxis, has become an overt concern of the poet by the time of more recent work. Dreams for the fate of writers in particular, articulated specifically in terms of Asia-Pacific relations, encourage a renovated view of the literary. Specifically, Fogarty appears to endorse an imaginary taking place after the tensions of the postcolony.

I want to suggest that the contemporary Fogarty is concerned about the fate of literature in parallel to political enthusiasms for Indigenous futures. I want to look closely at the lexical and spatiotemporal manoeuvres Fogarty embedded in this book, to shift towards an understanding of the space after the postcolony he imagines, a speculation towards what I think is an internationalism of Australian and non-Australian relations written in “lingo”, with Aboriginal literature in international literary friendship across ocean floors (Fogarty 1997, n. pg.).

The question of literary criticism in Lionel Fogarty’s work

For a number of reasons, it is not conventional nor pertinent to study Fogarty’s poetry as works of literary criticism, nor as poetry containing it. Fogarty being a model of devotion to a revolutionary activist poetics rooted in practice, it may seem beside the point to propose to read such work for the sake of a literary criticism to come, of all things. Who cares about literary criticism! Surely such a revolutionary poetic metier seeks instead to agitate and depose any coercions of how to read Fogarty’s radical poetic voice. Moreover, hasn’t Fogarty long pushed readers to encounter his work more immediately through the lens of Indigenous epistemes, anti-colonial political rhetoric, and the immediacy of the poet’s voice itself? In 1980, when Fogarty was in his early twenties, he writes, “Mr Professor”: “Thanks, Mr Professor / for those kind gestures / but I’m doing my thing”, concluding, “your intellectual / and academic criticisms / have been your industry, / out of our oppression” (Fogarty 1995, 13). The anti-institutional bearing of the work is undeniable. But, it would be wrong for us to conflate the early Fogarty with the present. In more recent work, we see the subject of the writer, the teacher, the collective, and the anthology raised in a different light. Oppositions between physical action and poetic or intellectual activism are in fact unsustainable in application to Fogarty’s oeuvre by the time of Eelahroo (Long Ago) Nyah (Looking) Möbö-Möbö (Future). What has become of this work is no less exciting. Fogarty’s activist poetics have developed to contribute to, rather than disavow, discourses of literary relations and subjectivities.

Fogarty’s work shows us a better way to do literary criticism. He shows us how to share poetic acts with archival, theoretical, poetic, and environmental discourses, discourses which constitute a hallucinatory and politically radical envisioning of riots side-by-side with international literary solidarities and imaginative ecological encounters. Consider that as early as 1982, Fogarty writes a poem called “Ecology”, situating an index of animal spirits under the heading of an episteme, its milieu an “eco-system” (Fogarty 1982, n. pg.). Moreover, in an annual lecture series conducted at the University of Melbourne in the Australian Indigenous Studies programme, Fogarty speaks explicitly about poetics and the mobility of the international travelling artist/teacher as agent of paradigmatic change. So, if critics have an anxiety about making institutional matter like literary criticism of the decolonial project, then, such anxieties foreclose the kinds of engagement that Fogarty himself seeks out as a teacher and as a model. Moreover, recycling the notional circulation of critical writing as apolitical is to clash with Fogarty’s radicalism, his capacity to transmit decolonial ideas in institutional and non-institutional, cultural and subcultural spaces. Disavowing the academy is today’s cliché in times of ambiguous legitimacy. Fogarty’s role as a teacher and the particular literary statements of his 2014 book suggest that decolonisation of literary criticism can mean the revivification of critical writing, theory, and poetics as political acts, giving space to those like himself who have revolutionary notions of what Australian literature might be. In this sense, Fogarty is consonant with Peter Minter’s call for “a renewed ethical and aesthetic architecture” (Minter 2013, 157). The kinds of architectures Fogarty imagines for the Australian literary landscape have hardly been seen before.

The specifically literary critical engagement with Fogarty’s oeuvre so far has been to view his work as broadcasting Aboriginal politics to canon and other conservative cultural institutions. Lyn McCredden has viewed Fogarty as contributing a “locatedness” and “located remembering” (McCredden 2009, 10) to literature amid the uncertain implications of the 2008 Australian Federal Government’s Apology to the Stolen Generation; Peter Minter has integrated an early critique of the literary canon in “My Cry is Lost in a Name” from Kargun (1980) as a decolonial gesture (Minter 2013, 158), part of a broader critical enterprise of conceptualising decolonisation; Ali Alizadeh has observed how Fogarty “challenges and reinvents identitarian assumptions apropos of Aboriginality in contemporary, multicultural Australia” (Alizadeh 2013, 129) by “naming its voids” (130), mobilising a “politicized spirituality” (132, italics original); Claire Nashar has suggested that section of Mogwie-Idan CONNECTION REQUITAL”, invests in “intergenerational transmissions of culture”, Nashar’s proposal corroborating Fogarty’s own remark about inspiring youth: “Oodgeroo told me all you have to do is catch all the young people” (Fogarty 1997, n. pg.); Sabina Hopfer has brought explicitly biographical details which feature in Fogarty’s work to bear upon the broader question of delay in justice in the postcolony, part of a broader, explicit anti-colonial politics: “Fogarty is well aware that the theme of death in custody is a sub-theme of a much larger one, namely that of having been in the custody of a colonial society for more than 200 years” (Hopfer 2002, 50). These are just an obvious few.

For the methodology of decolonisation itself, what indeed are the new horizons of literary critical practice after the postcolonial predicament, after the renovation of institutions, governance, and particular discourses? Some new horizons have developed to conceive of relations outside of crisis and representation, in terms based upon notions of a beneficiary space of decolonisation. These horizons have been articulated, for example, in terms of ethnographic fieldwork in collaboration with literary criticism (see Martin, Mead and Trigger 2014), bilingual archiving and translation (see Cooke 2014), literary theory based on transnational relations between First Nations poetics (see Cooke 2013), and literature in the context of transmedial experiment (see Harkin 2014). The recovery of a poetics of unsettlement from within the colonial and its spectral and actual post-iterations is the horizon of recent Writing Australian Unsettlement (see Farrell 2015).

What is the status of nation for a decolonial imaginary? Fogarty repeats the term “international” rather than that heavily theorised postcolonial concept, the “cosmopolitan”, for reasons, I suspect, that pertain to the postcolony as an untrustworthy promulgator of cosmopoles, or cosmopolitan centres. For decolonial politics, cosmopolitanism can present policies of friendship that are dishonest, unconsummated, false, or a cover for neo-colonial programmes of control. The international, by contrast, retains the national as a state of politics that Fogarty, even if in agitation, is invested in. Cosmopolitanism is a tricky lexical alternative by contrast with the international when considering how those cosmopoles of the postcolonial twentieth century have upheld in many cases white legacies of governance. This is a phenomenon best theorised by Achille Mbembe as an inevitable condition of the postcolony (2001). Why indeed are the cosmopoles of the postcolony so often grotesque? Regarding the colonial period, Philip Mead in Networked Language (2008) has pointed to Lionel Fogarty’s denunciation of “European colonialist ways of writing, and the disease of stupidity in their language” (Fogarty 1995, ix). Mead maps how grotesquely euphemistic Australian colonial language became as it corroborated and legitimised genocide of Indigenous people and cultures (Mead 2008, 399-433). Mead’s position in the postcolonial frame is ameliorative, centring the polyphonic and heteroglossic poetics of writers whose postcoloniality is explicit. By implication then, to disregard voices which speak out using English marked by the violent and colonised heritage of nation and, like Fogarty, “see words beyond any acceptable meaning”, is to sustain a version of Australian literature with the fantasy of white Australia remaining its central adjudicator.

Fogarty’s persistent use of the trope of the international in recent work is amenable to more radical theories of cosmopolitanism. But, as I will observe, questions remain for Fogarty how possible such future interactions are within national borders when the urge is to defy such borders through writerly solidarity at liminal interzones. Indeed, Fogarty seems to be more concerned with literary geographies which bind nations to each other and constitute “postnational” (Mead 2015, 203) interzones, such as the Pacific Ocean, where Fogarty reckons “if we walk under the seabeds we / sleep together” (Fogarty 2014, 70). Seabeds are the broader but often invisible ecological commons which establish our biological and environmental relations in the first place. This ecological orientation may hint at Fogarty’s reason for preferring the term “international” over the postcolonial false promise of the cosmopole: Fogarty can engage his own experience of international literary solidarity in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere, and experiment with it, whereas cosmopolitanisms by contrast seem to sustain violent neo-colonial interventions into geographies, and codify or demand certain kinds of participation and production of subjectivity. Indeed, the multicultural sites of cosmopolitanism like Australia’s urban spaces are the same spaces which either segregate or exclude Aboriginal people altogether, spaces of transnationalism where Indigeneity itself is often a recognisably subaltern element. This type of cosmopolitanism is at odds with the spaces in motion enabled by international interactions and solidarities which poems like “Advance Those Asian and Pacific Writers Poets” imagine, entailing cosmopolitan agency across international zones.

“Advance Those Asian and Pacific Writers Poets”

What is an internationalism activating “postnational” (Mead 2015: 203) encounters? For Fogarty, linguistic experimentation of this trajectory entails a “long ago-looking-future”, the title of Fogarty’s 2014 volume, a way of looking forward which is ancestrally informed, temporally fluid, and porously embedded in deep ecological time. Poem “Advance Those Asian and Pacific Writers Poets” (2014, 70–74), first published in Mascara Literary Review in 2013, articulates transnational flows and counter-nationalist operations which happen to sustain local and regional difference in the process of dissemination. It extends the ecological rethinking of subject and place familiar to readers of Fogarty as a series of flows which distribute and reconsolidate subjective-spiritual engagement with land, but also oceanic and subterranean ecologies. Moreover, these flows threaten the consistency of one apparently unified Australian subject to be verified by a national Australian milieu. “Advance” also speaks directly of the terms of readership and literary political solidarity that the poem proposes to occupy in future tense, a kind of recursive gesture of self-situation in an imagined archive. The setting is of an Australia in Asia:

Asian unity we need is most important

They are the beings on top of us an on the side of us.

At our arms is the Pacific of knowing

We need to unite for rights in all writing powers.

Our Asians are on our earth if we walk under the seabeds we

sleep together

Think where there’s no sea the waves of our humanity is the same.

(2014, 70)

And at the conclusion of this minor epic, the poem proclaims:

Let the Asian Pacific warriors live message UN broken.

Let the Asian Pacific warrior’s faith the barely crawled belly of


Come Brothers of the Asian Pacific writers pleasant our pride

for a truce in a thousand devour years, no colony can con.


Speaking about Fogarty as a singular visionary unduly collapses what is evidently a pluralistic approach to form. Moreover, a poem of this length is uncustomary in the Fogarty oeuvre. His ability to move between seriousness, unseriousness, levity, anthem, criticism, exposition, rhythmic versifying, arrhythmic visceral wordplay, epic narrative (“warriors”), and media ecology, effects a kind of linguistic commons of interrelation that makes the impossible possible – of postnational Indigenous and Asian writers in intimate contact under the seafloor.

The imaginary conditions of this exchange point to a materialist objective referred to earlier in the poem: “Our skies in outback here beds and houses their skies” (71), skies, Fogarty concludes, “no colony can con”. “[N]o colony can con” – a great slogan of decolonisation in lingo. The construction of these relations – indigenous Australia and the Asia-Pacific linked at once by a broken UN and an ocean floor – are not distant when articulated ecologically and politically. The solidarity born atop the failures of the UN and the ecological bulwarks of international difference is positioned as literary in future tense, as an advance of “Asian and Pacific Writers”. Postcolonialism’s politics of control are seen to collude with the concept of “the humanitarian”, invoked by this reference to a “broken UN”. “[T]he humanitarian”, as Jacques Derrida has deconstructed, is the subject with “a right to interfere, to invent” (Derrida 2005, 273). The familiar Fogarty politics turns to the sphere of international literary politics to stage the conjunction of the failure of the postcolonial humanitarian with “rights in all writing powers”, with an ecological, but literary, postnational sensibility emerged after the fact.

Literary criticism takes place immanent to reception, readership, utterance and inscription. Criticism is discursively placed and contextualised. Fogarty’s literary critical context is, importantly, symbolic. Asian-Pacific writers meet on the ocean floor, flouting not only national borders but also the biospherical limits of what is seen to be possible for the human. This posthuman meeting place is ecological (we will need gills, and then claws), and rooted in geological time (of the pulsating durations of natural gas, of magma?). When embodied imaginatively, nation as we know it is unsustainable, its literary limits based on unimaginatively received ancestry and an assimilatory advance. Fogarty’s work may not convey care for the literary critic as such, but it does apparently care deeply about the context of its being read and shared, and how this sharing and reading constitutes a politics. This, I think, is a kind of decolonised literary criticism.

To the extent that communal relations within certain fields, like literature, graph future relations, a concomitant move to embody and activate the ways of living they suggest or themselves facilitate is an act of literary criticism Fogarty appears to endorse. In an interview with Philip Mead in 1997, Fogarty called this kind of embodiment “an energy, good energy” (Fogarty 1997, n. pg.). Another Indigenous experimental poet, Natalie Harkin, has called this method of embodiment an “archive / fever / paradox // my blood it pumps // where hearts / have / stopped” (subtitle to her installation Archive Fever Paradox, 2013). Framed in the context of Fogarty’s poem, such an injunction is a gesture contextualising an oceanic and First Nations-initiated literary exchange in embodied, heart-like pulsation and transfusion into spaces “where hearts have stopped”. Harkin reframes the same idea regarding nation and history in the preface to her book Dirty Words (2015), writing that “[t]his small contemplation on nation and history is informed by blood-memory” (Harkin 2015, ix). Harkin in particular is concerned with sanguinating the lifeless bureaucratic archive of colonial surveillance of Aboriginal people as part of policies now known to be of the State apparatus responsible for the Stolen Generation. Theorisation of this process also appears in an article on a poetics of the archive from 2014 (Harkin 2014). But Harkin and Fogarty share a project of finding continuities between ancestral lines and the trajectories of Indigenous futures, with ecological and corporeal politics of re-enactment and engagement being ideational archives. Like Harkin, Fogarty is especially concerned with fields of relation once precluded from Aboriginal embodiment as arbitrators or as critics, like the sphere of transnational literature. This process continues to unfold. But, here, we see how poets themselves are developing some of the most imaginative ideas about decolonised literary criticism and literary context, finding new continuities with literary and cultural ancestors commensurate with decolonised futures. In concert, then, we can see these two very different poets both refashion the meaning of literary knowledge and the questions of its personal and political embodiments.

The international

In three other poems from the collection – “Amplifier Aims of Circle” (Fogarty 2014, 30), “Immemorial Conservative” (31), and “Anthology Our International” (118) – a theory of international friendship (and its problematics) develops into questions of literary solidarity across national borders and in liminal interzones. These poems endorse the concept of “anthology” as an archive of Indigenous knowledge and as a vector for international relations. “Anthology” has a peculiar temporality, but which seems to me to materialise the book’s titular concern, a “long ago looking future”, with a cosmopolitanism congenial to Jacques Derrida’s theorisation in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (2001), as the convergence of “[e]xperience and experimentation” (Derrida 2001, 23, italics original). Such “experience and experimentation” puts democracy to the test, a position deeply suspicious of the cosmopolitanisms of State and of law so far in late capitalist democracies. But, this commonality is the limit of the “Anthology”’s agreements with such a cosmopolitanism, and part of my strategy in making such a connection. Namely, the unsatisfactory transcendentalism of time implicit in Derrida’s “democracy to come” is overturned by Fogarty’s “enticing times” (30), which “risk the riots tonight”. Interestingly, tonight’s riots are expressed as commensurate with a “reclin[ing] . . . firm folk black lore” (31). States of action and states of rest are not presented as being in opposition. Significantly, Fogarty puts democracy’s future tense at “tonight”. The poem imagines an immanence of action in collaboration with anthological and archival speculations where states of action and rest share space so long as they “risk the riots”. Such an anthological and archival imaginary defies the delays of the postcolony written into Derrida’s imperfect theory of the cosmopolitan, but retains its celebration of “experience and experimentation” as a test of democracy. In a radical temporal move,”Anthology our International” imagines a riotous literary solidarity for “tonight”.

Besides the enormity of those conjunctions of radical politics with literary and ecological experiment, in the interview with Philip Mead from 1997, Fogarty shows a modestly heuristic role for the career of the poet as the poet navigates this international literary sphere:

I’d really like to get all my poetry overseas and I’d like to get it to places in Europe, in Asia, in America, and the Pacific. I mean I’d like to get it to communities of indigenous people as well as into bourgeois society, into communities where they can understand the great intelligence of Aboriginal writers in this country. I’d like to see that my writing creates something that is tangible and recognisable, with great meaning in it, but with small meaning in it, where it helps people at the same time that are helped by themselves, that it furthers their educational standard, and helps them spiritually to a sense of the present-day reality of our people. The way I see my books going, or this next book, is creating a collective thought within people so that they can go back and read other Aboriginal literature or whiteman’s literature, either historical or present-day, or when they read things like deaths in custody, this will help them to meditate, so that they can create an energy, good energy.

(Fogarty 1997, n. pg.)

This is Fogarty pre-2000 whose poems did not reflect as explicitly on questions of anthology, literary criticism, and theories of Indigenous writing. Yet, the concern for the heuristics of literature are clear. Moreover, the audiences proposed are wide. The non-negotiable political tactics of some are not the strategies of Fogarty: he avows an interest in “collecting thought” in such a way as to draw readers toward “other Aboriginal literature”. Crucially, however, such work is not seen to be at odds with consciousness of “things like deaths in custody”. The project for Fogarty at the time appears to be to “understand . . . great intelligence”, which at once draws the reader to politics and to literature.

What has changed since this interview is the extent to which the circulation of desires for a transformed and postnational Australian literary context is imagined as a repository of transnational and decolonial futures. “Anthology Our International” typifies this view. In “Anthology”, Fogarty writes: “International causes are same as days ahead. / The night differ yet the bloods feels same as cuts” (118). The temporality represented in the poem is crucially the time of now, but also the recent and the soon; “the days ahead”. This temporal strategy amounts to a view of literary archive as a universal to come which is, however, immanent and material, “causes” to be “taken up”. Confronting the differentiation of time across longitudes, the poem admits that “[t]he night differ”. The plural is neglected perhaps to encourage the universal suggestion at hand, that “bloods feels same as cuts” under one shared night of international time. International time in this conception is felt to be at once true but inapprehensible.

The poem concludes by conflating “those entire anthologies” with “our International’s”. This possessive operation of the international is curious indeed, and shows how Fogarty at once engages with a view of internationalism congenial to Derrida’s view of cosmopolitanism as a space beyond or between nation, but defies Derrida’s unsatisfactorily delayed time. Insofar as the poem archives “firm folk black lore” (31) and allows “lore” to “recline” – amid the riots of poem “Immemorial Conservative”, I hasten to add – the international anthology in “Anthology Our International” is conceived in a possessive – “our” anthology. This sentiment of course is anticipated by the opening line as its flag hangs in space – “The International needs us now Black Red Gold” (118).

What are these riots staged in the highly ambiguous “Immemorial Conservative” and how does this scenario relate to Fogarty’s theory of the international? These riots, arguably the anti-racist, anti-Queensland Government, and black deaths in custody activism Fogarty was central to, are not positioned as the past, with the international anthology as the future. Rather, both political and literary futures are imagined as co-immanent in a “long ago looking future”. Admission of aesthetic politics opens the poem: “Rioted by the rights, Do it blacks insights into compelling / writing a painting” (31). Fogarty is also a painter, and reproductions of paintings of his in the work prior to Eelahroo (Long Ago) Nyah (Looking) Möbö-Möbö (Future), Mogwie-Idan, are framed as another kind of archival system, working like chapter headings. “[W]riting a painting” suggests that painting and writing are mutual inscription methods for “insights into compelling”. The gerund, “compelling”, hangs at the end of the line, emphasising writing and painting as acts of compelling, actions tied to riots incited, it appears, by rights.

“Immemorial Conservative” does not address the international directly as other poems have, but like “Advance Those Asian and Pacific Writers Poets” invests in a flow of intensities which start from a political or ethical edict. Moreover, like “Advance”, the poem maps a psychic-spiritual as well as ideational terrain of obstructions, encounters, and openings leading towards an imagined future. Here, following the trajectory of the furious action of the riots articulated as “oddness in panic”, “created levelled outlined laws”, “Vibration manifests fests by guests. / Prosper corroborative reputable distress”, and “Riot those silent in mercy complaints”, the resolution of the poem arrives to sediment the place of particular discourses in this swirl of future time felt now:

Risk the riots tonight for the real fights.

In remembrance of our crowd flushed

Out of this systems.

Recline the firm folk black lore.


The tone mirrors the poem opposite, “Amplifier Aims of Circle”, its conclusion associating the excitement of time to come with sanctuary and repose: “And let go matter burrowed deep. / Enticing times of aims encircled” (30). These earlier poems in the collection foreshadow the cosmopolitan dreams and temporal patterns of later poems like “Advance”. But, situating more intimately an experience of the political activity of the present with the experiments of the imagination, the poem foregrounds “lore”. This lore sides with subterranean, ecological, and Asia-Pacific epistemes.

In a temporal and discursively complex scene, Fogarty has enshrined an experimental poetics consonant with Philip Mead’s proposal for a post-national poetics by which to intervene in the uninterrogated futures the Australian literary canon inadvertently sustains. Mead implicates unquestioned literary history with unquestioned colonial history more generally, viewing Fogarty’s poetics as “an index of the harm that the double-speak of colonisation continues to inflict, and a gauge of the unsettledness of all concepts of self-formation and national identity” (Mead 2008, 422). Specifically for Mead, Fogarty’s “heteroglossi[a]” (422) is a multilingual, disobedient, and, after Mudrooroo’s account of Fogarty, “guerrilla”, poetics (426) which works through agitations that oppose the grotesquely monolingual and monocultural vernacular of white Australia. Mead’s reading of Fogarty reminds Australians that the notion of one Australian vernacular dressed in green-and-gold anthems as the vernacular is an erasure of an originary plurality. Interestingly, an unquestioned view of vernacular as universal, rural, historical, and so on, sanctions the strict disqualifications of ungrammatical, polylingual language activity at the level of citizenship, employment, and cultural capital that Mead historicises as suffering by the genocidal policies of colonial Australia (399-433). Monocultural Australianness asserts itself when its collusive elite and working class spheres are given as pre-established and prioritised as the logical social order; all other dialects and discourses, precarious social classes and subalternities, clang. When the dialectic of standard versus vernacular speech is not live and experimental but preordained, all else is prohibited, or, “unintelligible”. Fogarty’s future tense literary imagination and literary criticism resituates these nationally unintelligible language practices in a frame which legitimises their temporal perceptiveness to ancestry and long time, their geological and geographical agency, and the compelling propulsion of their advance.

More specifically, the double distortion the postcolony performs on cultural memory from a linguistic point of view appears to be what is shown to be grotesque about the postcolony by contrast with Fogarty’s decolonised literary sphere. Not only was linguistic mobility in Aboriginal languages subject to genocidal campaigns during the colonial era, but the postcolonial State excludes from its lexical and literary imagination the very polylingual and creolised encounters with English it initiated. Seen as the benevolent agents of self-improvement, self-advancement, and cultural mobility, a closed view of linguistic agency is a counterpart to what Achille Mbembe has called the postcolony’s commandement, specifically its commandment of cultural obedience (see Mbembe 2001, 24–65). A. Dirk Moses has shown to what extent Mbembe’s theory of the postcolony is applicable to the Australian context. Moses shows how since the John Howard era the spectre of colonialism as an administrator of cultural obedience continues to govern the cynical uses of injunctions for self-determination and cultural mobility in cases such as the Northern Territory Intervention (see Moses 2010). “Advance Those Asian and Pacific Writers Poets”, as is obvious, inverts that favourite subject of parody for Indigenous writers, anthem “Advance Australia Fair”. Unlike the assumed listenership of the postcolonial anthem, Fogarty is conscious of the question of who advances, and where, writing: “We need to unite for rights in all writing powers. / [. . .] // Think where there’s no sea the waves of our humanity is the same,” “So black fell writers this sacred future timing is important” (Fogarty 2014, 70). The poem, in short, thinks seriously about actual policies for literary postnational asylum. Again, ancestral past – “black fell writers”, the use of “fell” as if to suggest deaths of past literary figures are historical killings – corroborates solidarity with a future tense of exchange, or “sacred future timing”. This post-anthemic consciousness in view, Fogarty’s “guerrilla poetics” appear less identitarian than an orchestrated decolonial resistance to the postcolonial commandement.


“The International needs us now Black Red Gold” (118). As Mead and Mudrooroo have explicated, as Fogarty has avowed, the state of grotesque hypocrisy of the postcolony might look outwards anew through a decolonial imagination. In particular, the postcolony might be reoriented to look outwards towards transnational political and literary solidarity as a temporal sanctuary, a “long ago looking future” that would conjoin its democratic and international aspirations to its literary imagination. Such sanctuary would be one inclusive of “firm folk black lore” (31), and know that it needs the “Black Red Gold”. If this sounds utopian, we are missing the intimacy survival and visibility have with literary recognitions of language and community. Namely, such literary recognition is necessarily wagered on the speculations of such a space’s terms and forms. Decolonial literary recognition would oppose the mandates of linguistic obedience, and imagine a future for poetics like Fogarty’s which might activate agential aesthetic and political relations in conjunction.

Such terms of a literary field after the postcolonial are dreams of subsistence and learning, rather than grandiose utopianism, in sum. This sanctuary is, rather, ecological; such friendships and such an advance promise only the subsistence of visibility in a national site which has otherwise foreclosed literary recognition from outside the nationally received vernacular-standard English dialectic. No wonder this literary critical field Fogarty imagines is under the ocean floor. A kind of ecological view of posterity, its magnitude and scale exceed the social prejudices which limit literary politics to the meagreness of generations and fragile national traditions built upon negations and erasures.

Fogarty leads Australian literature in envisioning spatiotemporal and linguistic ways in which to engage in international friendships which subvert canonical Australian linguistic adjudication. To use Fogarty’s phraseology, such a linguistic friendship would mean the meeting of “lingo” (Fogarty 1997, n. pg.). It is an exciting project. Fogarty’s lingo has inspired so many in Australian poetics with its celebration of disobedient, geographically and ecologically-singular, but also educative and visionary, linguistic interactions. Fogarty’s is a poetics which flouts national borders, envisioning a space where the “landmass hearts” of trans-Pacific poets constitute a field of “writer’s futures” (30, 104). Fogarty stages these imperatives through new speculative encounters between nations as biospheres and seaborne but geo-bound poet-subjects, a grouping whose archive of reading and “long ago looking future” tense could indeed proceed postnation, after the postcolony.


Alizadeh, Ali. 2013. “Naming the Voids of Multiculturalism in ‘Biral Biral’: A New Reading of the Poetry of Lionel Fogarty”. Antipodes 27. 2 (Dec): 129–33.

Ashcroft, Bill. 2014. “Material Resonance: Knowing Before Meaning.” In Decolonizing the Landscape: Indigenous Cultures in Australia (Cross/Cultures 173), ed. Beate Neumeier and Kay Schaffer, 107–27. Amsterdam – New York, NY: Rodopi.

Cooke, Stuart. 2013. Speaking the Earth’s Languages: A Theory for Australian-Chilean Postcolonial Poetics. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Cooke, Stuart (ed. trans.). 2014. George Dyungayan’s Bulu Line: A West Kimberley Song Cycle. Glebe: Puncher & Wattmann.

Derrida, Jacques. 2001. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes. London and New York: Routledge.

Derrida, Jacques. 2005. The Politics of Friendship, trans. George Collins. London and New York: Verso.

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Fogarty, Lionel. 1982. Yoogum yoogum. Ringwood: Penguin. Reproduced Australian Poetry Library.

Fogarty, Lionel. 1995. New and Selected Poems: Munaldjalli, Mutuerjaraera. South Melbourne: Hyland House.

Fogarty, Lionel. 1997. “Australian poet Lionel Fogarty: in conversation with Philip Mead”. Jacket Magazine 1: n. pg.

Fogarty, Lionel. 2014. Eelahroo (Long Ago) Nyah (Looking) Möbö-Möbö (Future). Newtown: Vagabond Press.

Harkin, Natalie.  2014. “The Poetics of (Re)Mapping Archives: Memory in the Blood”. Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 14. 3 (2014): 1–14.

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Nashar, Claire. 2013. “Review of Mogwie-Idan: Stories of the land by Lionel Fogarty”. Southerly, Long Paddock 73. 2: n. pg.


[1] By first half, I mean work prior to 2000, roughly represented by the New and Selected Poems: Munaldjali, Mutuerjaraera (1995), which compiles poems from Jagera (1990), Ngutji (1984), Kudjela (1983), Yoogum Yoogum (1982), and Kargun (1980), along with “New Poems” at the time of publication (1995).

Published: July 2016
Corey Wakeling

is Lecturer in Drama at Kobe College, Nishinomiya, Japan. He received a PhD in English and Theatre Studies from the University of Melbourne in 2013. With Jeremy Balius he edited Outcrop: radical Australian poetry of land, Black Rider, 2013.

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