The poetics of settler colonialism: Kyle Kohinga, ‘”Soil Is a Toil Needing All to Recoil”: Lionel Fogarty, Andrew Forrest, and the Settler-Colonial Georgic’, Australian Literary Studies, 38, 1/2, 2023


Abstract: Lionel Fogarty’s difficult, urgent verse is universally accepted as an ‘activist poetry’, yet the very axiomatic nature of this characterisation has ironically obviated critical engagement with Fogarty’s experimentalist poetry as it emerges from specific protest – as a response to, and analysis of, the particular, contemporaneous, shifting injustices faced by Aboriginal people. Proposing to bring the interpretative frame of activism to bear anew upon Fogarty’s work, this essay reads Fogarty’s ‘No Cites like the Cites Hum In’ (‘Written Land’ 2016) as a timely language of judicial and poetic intervention – one itself seeking to intervene on another, restless language of intervention – that of settler lawmaking. It considers how Fogarty’s poem enacts a ‘decolonisative’ critique of the settler poeticisation of toil operationalised by Fortescue Mining Group CEO Andrew Forrest in his 2014 report on Indigenous employment and training programs, ‘Creating Parity’. Fogarty’s poem, it argues, reckons with the centrality of a ‘battlerist’ mythos to the settler-state’s specific, contemporary, neoliberal efforts to not only expropriate Aboriginal land, but also to discipline and pathologise Aboriginal bodies. This essay demonstrates how ‘No Cites like the Cites Hum In’ provides a poignant analysis of the way settler law, time and labour regimes function together to desiccate and enervate the distinct temporal subjectivities underpinning Aboriginal political imaginaries. It contends that a stronger poetic and philosophical appreciation of Fogarty’s verse is gained from understanding it in its relation to extraliterary Aboriginal struggles.

%d bloggers like this: