Negotiating 'negative capability': the role of place in writing for two Australian poets

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Hawryluk, L 2014, 'Negotiating 'negative capability': the role of place in writing for two Australian poets', Axon Journal, vol. 6.

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This paper takes its lead from the poet John Keats’ notion of ‘negative capability’ (1891: 48), exploring some of the key methodologies of representing landscapes in writing, specifically using place to effect the process of ‘… being capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubt, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason …’ (48).

Keats refers to the poet as ‘taking part’ in the life of the poem; and being in the poem. This paper features our own poetry, located in two different landscapes and with its own understanding of place, which captures a sense of connection to rugged and remote terrains. To evoke this sense of connection, Keats’ negative capability comes into play—understood in this paper as a metaphysical space where a meditative state provides the writer with a ‘glimpse’; a recognition of that moment of connection without which ‘poetry cannot happen’ (Oliver 1994: 84)

Our writing, as will be discussed, is individually informed by knowledge about environment and notions of poetic space, where ‘aspects of the unconscious move into consciousness’ (Hetherington 2012: 8). This paper explores the commonalities and distinctions between our work, using brief examples.

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