The Blue Hills Archipelago

Longform poetics & the ecological anti-epic

This essay puts forth Laurie Duggan’s decades-long serial poem, Blue Hills (1980–), as a radical antimythic and ecological approach to longform ‘epic’ poetics – or what I term the ‘ecological anti-epic’. The essay first reflects on the mythic ambitions of twentieth century Anglo-American modernist epic poets, such as Ezra Pound and TS Eliot, before turning to what I call the North American ‘antiepic’ postmodernist serial poem tradition. Centring on Robert Duncan’s Passages -- a key influence on Duggan’s own series -- I argue this ‘anti-epic’ approach to the long poem replaced the ‘mythical method’ (Eliot 1923: 483) of early modernist epics with a compositional method. Reading Blue Hills through the guiding principle of Duncan’s series, ‘grand collage’ (2014: 298), the essay then posits that Blue Hills -- as a localised re-deployment of Duncan’s grand collage method -- can be read as both a continuation, and subversive settler Australian reimagination, of the North American anti-epic serial poem tradition. Drawing on Peter Minter’s archipelagic approach to reading Australian poetry, Blue Hills is then read as a type of archipelago of poetic islands, one which challenges not only the epiccum-mythic ambitions of modernist longform poetry, but also the racially charged environmental myth-conceptions of early settler Australian poetic movements, such as the Jindyworobaks. I conclude with a brief reflection on the links between the process-based aesthetics of post-modern anti-epics and what Connor Weightman calls the ‘ecological long poem’ (2020: 3), ultimately positing that Duggan’s Blue Hills refutes the modernist penchant for speaking declaratively about the world and instead affects a sense that the world is reveling in its own wording.

Object Permanence

How does the calligramme take place?

This essay defines the poetic form of the calligramme (also known as the pattern poem, or technopaignia), provides a micro-history of the form in Western literature, before exploring how, with reference to Apollinaire’s Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916) and Foucault’s This Is Not a Pipe, the poems in Object Permanence: Calligrammes (Puncher & Wattmann/Thorny Devil Press 2022) took shape. It also explores how, via Goethe, the calligrammes use colour, and why, via Piaget, their taking shape is a kind of poetic object permanence.