A ghost in the world

I stand on the doorstep.

What do you want to see? says the sky.

     I don’t want to see anything.
     I’m tired of seeing, moving, searching.
     I want to sit somewhere, be still, listen.
     Somewhere no-one will expect me to talk.
     Somewhere I am no-one.
     A ghost in the world.

Zhuangzi says chasing even that
is not the Way. You’re chasing an object:
something outside you that always recedes.
The quiet place is inside you
in all the sounds of space.
What do you want to hear? says the sky.

     No more questions, I say.
     I want to hear the lap-slap of wavelets at the edge of a lake
     I want to hear a dove coo / and another answer
     I want to hear a car pass without being afraid it will kill us all with its carbon
     I want to hear a man whistling / as he walks to his place / of work
     I want to hear the ten pm train / without wondering / in what year it will cease to run
     I want to sleep / without dreaming / that all the butterflies die at once and are not reborn
     Without dreaming / of a strange sour land / too hot to inhabit
     I want to wake up without that / in the back of my head

     People carry on
     as if death will never come
     Making five year plans, ten year plans, investing
     People carry on as if death will arrive tomorrow
     Eating, drinking …

In spacetime, says the sky,
or in Hawking & Hartle’s imaginary time,
every moment, then now when,
always
is
You can carry yourself
as if death has / already come
A sadhu, a monk, a ghost in the world …
Or just a practitioner
of wu wei:
not here,
not anyone,
exerting no
force

First published as part of “The Dream”, in my PhD thesis, October 2018

“A coat of ashes” and “Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics”. Jackson’s doctoral thesis is online.

My 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 is now available on Edith Cowan University’s research repository. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2125/

Because they are to be published in 2019 as a book (“A coat of ashes”, Recent Work Press) the poems are not included, except those used as examples in the final essay. However, the thesis includes links to those poems that have been published online.

A coat of ashes and Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics

Books relevant to poetry Daoism physics systems theory
Just a few of the books

Abstract

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.

Let’s fly!

Found in Yinchuan, China, with the help(?) of Google Translate

Yinchuan double-flying day, we ride by plane
to Zhongwei Quanchuan Q… Shepherd Heads of the
Duo Dui Dedue Airport Yinchuan (big grease 530)
shortage head AL (or-step or so): the main stage
of the saleswear head — Gui Kangguan and the
Dali country of the Leader of the Yangsaw,
the concept of life and the future, the success
of the people of the Yangwan, the success of the
Yangwan, the success of the Yangwan, the first
suspension of the world, the final life of the
people of the river, the life of the gang, the
final and the like, the final achievement of the
dead invasion, the people of the life of the
guardian, the final achievement of the
environment, the final achievements of the
natural sandwich, the oval, the mountains, the
main tourism resources, the real emergence of the
natural sandwood of the environment, the
existence of the tourism resources, the real
emergence of the natural sandwood of the
environment, the existence of the tourism
resources, the real resources of the natural
sandwich, the overalls of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the toll of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the dawn, the talent, the tower of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the city of
the city of the year of the salads, the existence
of the same time, the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city.

The above is a slightly edited Google Translate rendition of the following flyer. It gets across how I feel after two weeks in Yinchuan better than anything I could have written in the usual way. Apologies to anyone who reads Chinese.

Photo of found flyer

Jackson’s goodbye gig at Perth Poetry Club 11 August 2018

I’m featuring at Perth Poetry Club on 11 August 2018.
2-4pm
The Moon cafe, 323 William Street, Northbridge
Plus open mike
Entry is free, but patrons are asked to contribute according to their means.
This is your last chance to hear me read before I leave for a year. I’m going to work in China teaching English as a second language.

Here’s a photo of me not reading poetry, but maybe thinking about it.

Photo of Jackson not reading poetry
Photo by Callan Huxtable