Speaking the Earth’s Languages

A Theory for Australian-Chilean Postcolonial Poetics


Author: Stuart Cooke
Speaking the Earth’s Languages brings together for the first time critical discussions of postcolonial poetics from Australia and Chile. The book crosses multiple languages, landscapes, and disciplines, and draws on a wide range of both oral and written poetries, in order to make strong claims about the importance of ‘a nomad poetics’ – not only for understanding Aboriginal or Mapuche writing practices but, more widely, for the problems confronting contemporary literature and politics in colonized landscapes.
The book begins by critiquing canonical examples of non-indigenous postcolonial poetics. Incisive re-readings of two icons of Australian and Chilean poetry, Judith Wright (1915–2000) and Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), provide rich insights into non-indigenous responses to colonization in the wake of modernity. The second half of the book establishes compositional links between Aboriginal and Mapuche poetics, and between such oral and written poetics more generally.
The book’s final part develops an ‘emerging synthesis’ of contemporary Aboriginal and Mapuche poetics, with reference to the work of two of the most important avant-garde Aboriginal and Mapuche poets of recent times, Lionel Fogarty (1958–) and Paulo Huirimilla (1973–).
Speaking the Earth’s Languages uses these fascinating links between Aboriginal and Mapuche poetics as the basis of a deliberately nomadic, open-ended theory for an Australian–Chilean postcolonial poetics. “The central argument of this book,” the author writes, “is that a nomadic poetics is essential for a genuinely postcolonial form of habitation, or a habitation of colonized landscapes that doesn’t continue to replicate colonialist ideologies involving indigenous dispossession and environmental exploitation.”

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Stuart Cooke is a poet, translator, and scholar based on the Gold Coast, Queensland, where he is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literary Studies at Griffith University. His poetry has appeared as Corrosions (2010) and Edge Music (2011) and he is the translator of Eleven Poems, September 1973 (2007) by the Chilean Juan Garrido-Salgado.
"A unique and memorable book. The result of sustained fieldwork and research, and also of deep and conscientious engagement with individual writers, their cultures, histories, literatures and communities." – Bridie McCarthy, Deakin University
List of Figures
Notes on the Translations
Where to Begin?
Judith Wright and the Limits of Her Tradition
Pablo Neruda and Complex Topography
Reading Complexity
Leonel Lienlaf and the Potential of Song
Paddy Roe’s Nomad Poetic
The Non-Limited Locality: Paulo Huirimilla with Lionel Fogarty
Imagining Syntheses
Appendix A: An Introduction to Mapuche Poetry
Appendix B: “Ríos de cisnes,” by Paulo Huirimilla
Works Cited