I recently had the privilege of reviewing Miriam Wei Wei Lo’s award-winning poetry book “Against Certain Capture” for Mascara Literary Review.
Read my award-winning doctoral thesis A coat of ashes: A collection of poems, incorporating a metafictional narrative – and – Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics: A set of critical essays
here or on Edith Cowan University’s research repository. The University repository also includes links to poems and other related items that have been published in journals.
A coat of ashes and Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics
This thesis comprises a book-length creative work accompanied by a set of essays. It explores how poetry might bring together spiritual and scientific discourses, focusing primarily on philosophical Daoism (Taoism) and contemporary physics. Systems theory (the science of complex and self-organising systems) is a secondary focus of the creative work and is used metaphorically in theorising the writing process.
The creative work, “A coat of ashes”, is chiefly concerned with the nature of being. It asks, “What is?”, “What am I?” and, most urgently, “What matters?”. To engage with these questions, it opens a space in which voices expressing scientific and spiritual worldviews may be heard on equal terms. “A coat of ashes” contributes a substantial number of poems to the small corpus of Daoist-influenced poetry in English and adds to the larger corpus of poetry engaging with the sciences. The poems are offset by a metafictional narrative, “The Dream”, which may be read as an allegory of the writing journey and the struggle to combine discourses.
The four essays articulate the poetics of “A coat of ashes” by addressing its context, themes, influences, methodology and compositional processes. They contribute to both literary criticism and writing theory. Like the creative work, they focus on dialogues between rationalist or scientific discourses and subjective or spiritual ones.
The first essay, “An introduction”, discusses the thesis itself: its rationale, background, components, limitations and implications. The second, “Singing the quantum”, reviews scholarship discussing the influence of physics on poetry, then examines figurative representations of physics concepts in selected poems by Rebecca Elson, Cilla McQueen and Frederick Seidel. These poems illustrate how contemporary poetry can interpret scientific concepts in terms of subjective human concerns.
The third essay, “Let the song be bare”, discusses existing Daoist poetry criticism before considering Daoist influences in the poetry of Ursula K. Le Guin, Randolph Stow and Judith Wright. These non-Indigenous poets with a strong awareness of the sciences have, by adopting Daoist-inflected senses of the sacred, been able to articulate the tension engendered by their problematic relationships with colonised landscapes. Moreover, the changing aesthetic of Wright’s later poetry reflects a struggle between Daoist quietism and European lyric commentary.
The final essay, “Animating the ash”, reflects on the process of writing poetry, using examples from “A coat of ashes” to construct a theoretical synthesis based on Daoism, systems theory and contemporary poetics. It proposes a novel way to characterise the nature and emergence of the hard-to-define quality that makes a poem a poem. This essay also discusses some of the Daoist and scientific motifs that occur in the creative work.
As a whole, this project highlights the potential of both the sciences and the more ancient ways of knowing — when seen in each other’s light — to help us apprehend the world’s material and metaphysical nature and live harmoniously within it.
Jackson’s poetry and prose publications during 2017, 2018 and 2019.
2019. A coat of ashes (poetry collection). Recent Work Press, Canberra, Australia.
2019. The emptied bridge (poetry collection). Mulla Mulla Press, Perth, Australia.
2017. Daoism and the poetry of Randolph Stow, Judith Wright and Ursula K. Le Guin (essay). The High Window 8.
2018. A coat of ashes: A collection of poems, incorporating a metafictional narrative – and – Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics: A set of critical essays (doctoral thesis). Edith Cowan University.
2017 poetry publications
“A dao of poetry? Non-intentional composition, emergence and intertextuality” (peer-reviewed paper) in The Authorised Theft Papers, the Australasian Association of Writing Programs’ 2016 conference proceedings:
A coat of ashes
A failed poem
between the bones of my temples
The fundamental forces dream
The thing U2
What is Tao?
Creatrix 38, WA Poets Inc, Perth:
The dappled shallows
Creatrix Anthology 2, WA Poets Inc, Perth:
The secret slip
Meniscus, volume 5, issue 1, June 2017
The High Window 8:
One, two, three
Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry:
am I not?
suck faint amity
2018 poetry publications
The Canberra Times, 30 June:
Returning to the root
2019 poetry publications
Live Canon 2019 Anthology (50 poems longlisted in international competition), UK:
Home is where it gets dark
Locus (anthology), Out of the Asylum Writers Group (OOTA), Fremantle, Western Australia:
Gratitude at auckland airport
Recoil 10: Ten years of Perth Poetry Club, Mulla Mulla Press:
Poetry d’Amour 2019 (anthology), WA Poets Inc, Perth:
Ros Spencer Poetry Prize, first prize winner published online, WA Poets Inc, Perth:
Split and shaped
Brushstrokes (Ros Spencer Poetry Prize Anthology), WA Poets Inc, Perth:
At the University Library
Split and shaped
The excellent online literary magazine The High Window have just published issue 8, Winter 2017. It includes my poem One, two, three alongside many other good poems and an interesting essay about James Joyce by Neil J Burns. Issue 7, Autumn 2017, includes my essay Daoism and the poetry of Randolph Stow, Judith Wright and Ursula K. Le Guin.
Creatrix 38 includes my poems “Coffee” and “The dappled shallows”.
Creatrix Anthology 2 includes two of my poems, “The secret slip” and “Dadda”. The latter was highly commended in the Creatrix Poetry Prize 2017.