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Who wants to create, Australia?

R. D. Wood


This thought between things.

Who wants to create, Australia? Who wants to create a network, a pod, a pack, a swarm, a coterie, a cliché, a quiche, a madeline, a lamington? Who wants to be embraced by Australia, a trick of mind implicated in place, a desire to sate the appetite of thought? Who wants to define Australia exactly, as a continent beguiled, reconciled; the mind’s eye idealed; a frame of contentment? Who wants to create the cradle for the lost soul of the world where conferences of birds-flocks, businessmen-mobs, politicians-herds come together for a standing ovation of poet’s consecrated word? Who wants to create this uncreation of need itself through writing back to the future?

If there’s a cloud it’s in the mind not in the world.

In creating Australia, we may well ask what of the children overboard, the children overbored, the children overawed. As if all the bees were red. They are our audience.

dust and twigs formed, perfect, like a hearth

What is necessary in asking the question who wants to create Australia is who wants to create a poem that is Australia. Who wants to create if not an epic, then an island of the senses, of momentariness, which if not the State is a state of affairs that responds to the glaring absence of something approaching reasonable and reasoned thought through discourse; lyric, as the waves lap and connect to the archipelago that is the moon’s romance. In asking the question in his inimitable Harrisonian way, Martin answered it for us through anecdote, remorse, recollection, more-ish-ness. To be sure, in asking the question now, but slant, we need to consider who wants to be created by Australia and who has been created by Australia before. Dialogic sound, broadcast; public deregulated, unregulated, irrigated by the water of lore. Before we start, we must ask: who is made and re-made by Australia? Who comes here in need to create, Australia?

Years after it’s been put here, it never quite fits.

The poet is the critic of the therapeutic ethos, the bureaucratic pathos, the sun drenched glamours, lifestyle. This is not to suggest your words are not a balm, but that the world is untenable without acknowledging the hard labour of negation; the unenviable, problematic separation of poetry and poetics; the heuristic categorisation of this as not that. We expect in prose to be met with a structure of thinking in language that does not take metaphor into its bones. But the bones are the ash is the compost is the potash is the nitrogen is das ding that makes the lemon trees fertile. As if the bees were all read, already in a grove of soil and loam where the coast meets the mouth and says “take me home in a boat”. Row.

of lucid water glittering through turquoise dusk

Your tongue is my tongue, is my motherland, so: Australia, Australia who wants to create you? Who wants to crate you, cage you, cake you, wake you, walk you, soothe and bake you? Australia is there for the making, not by its citizens alone, not by Johnny-Cake-Hollows, for we exist in a world where the past and the present and the future imply who can come here and the conditions in which they come. The task of the poet though may be to question that, to make it known that the borders are open, that the borders are porous and so, where we now are is with possibility, endless, boundless, hopeless possibility.

petal-froth. A snow-blaze she’ll retain

To leave home is to come into homesickness, is to come into poetry as the philosophy of our time. To come into homeliness is to “put down roots”, is to “find one’s place”, is to “feel like I belong”. But to belong is to be in the word, is to carry with one’s self a sentence, is to be in the self-fathoming wound that enlanguagement brings. We have fallen to the bottom of the world. Kangaroo, lyrebird, cockatoo, fig and wasp; lizard, pelican, grass parrot, kingfisher, platypus and tiger; bronzewings with lightning. We have fallen through the gap, the crack, the chasm at the bottom of the world and are now on top. Back. Snakes, bluetongue, leviathan, midden, heaving sun. We want to create, Australia, for the bees have their own flight path and the honeysweetedge of companionship is not enough to leave without a mark.  At the heart of the matter is “the provisional nature of our selves, our own temporary glimpse of the world’s tragedy and loveliness”.


R. D. Wood first came to Martin Harrison’s work via his criticism and essays. Wood edits for Peril and hosts a reading series with The School of Life. Find out more at

Published: September 2015

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.