Dream Pastoral Inversions: Re-approaching pastoral fraughtness through questions of Australian rurality

Now the dream is a picture-puzzle of this sort, and our predecessors in the field of dream interpretation have made the mistake of judging the rebus as an artistic composition. As such it appears nonsensical and worthless.

—Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

mum’s partner was in a rollover last night after leaving jam tree gully…he was run off a gravel road and the ute with mower on the back (he’d just been doing our top paddocks between the trees) caught a culvert as he pulled over to avoid a collision and the ute went through a fence and rolled. the person who caused it didn’t stop but fortunately someone found him a short while later (and it’s a very isolated gravel road so he was lucky!) and he is now in hospital down in the city—tracy is driving my mum down now. he’s okay, but lot of staples in head etc etc.

—email to Russ, 2018

Inside the pastoral is no field trip but rather entails separations from a rurality that have been and remain invasive, biospherically damaging, and degrading to so many people outside the land-food-capital interface. We are intended to fear the power of farmers—the non-unionised collective of property owning or land controlling (tilling)—because they hold food over us. Mass agriculture is sold as the panacea against mass starvation. Increasing populations have to be fed, obviously, but the use of (multinational) agrichemicals in/and genetically modified crops might act as a ‘saviour’ commentary in synch with profiteering in the context of ‘Global South’ ‘rapidly increasing’ populations, significantly enhancing Global North capital’s ability to manipulate fear/anxiety across ‘demographics’ and to concentrate its wealth and control. The case of the ‘unwanted’ GM cows in Australia’s south-easternmost state, Victoria, adds a further dimension; from Dolly the Sheep via a mammary-gland cell, and certainly in medical research, the animal of science is also the animal of food that privileges and prioritises human bodies. Big Pharma agriculture is the dream rebus of horror—the words of largesse and gifting combine with images of the well-managed locus amoenus at every ‘spot’ redressed by seed patents, heavy-industry machinery, satnavs, and apps developed in the counter-contextuality of the decolonised ‘ideas’ spaces still being manipulated by colonial capital. As industrial agriculture retains its footing and profitability and only collapses under present virus conditions where labour cannot be accessed, a more sustenance-based (and in dialogue with habitat) agriculture is completely devastated by sickness.1

Emerging from these nodal points of ‘pastoral’ referentiality, necessity and desire make for a seemingly nonsensical rebus that can form poems of devastating clarity. ‘Western’ pastoral poetry essentially arises from aesthetically configuring (for entertaining a privileged audience) herding and grazing (by those who serve) on land, if not held in common, often bordering on the cordon sanitaire if not beyond. And, if on a rich patriarch’s land, that land still having a certain amount of threat and wildness to embody the patriarch’s sense of the chthonic, of hunting prowess, of control ‘over the forces of nature’. And if that sounds a little like the black-and-white movies of the Rank Studios or Hollywood of the 1930s to ‘50s, then think again: the big white houses of colonial land grants are still central in many Western Australian wheat belt districts, and if family connections have changed (many have not), the symbol of the (restored) house remains, uncannily.

Modernising pastoral begins with the rise of (ancient) Rome as an obscenely militant, self-automating superpower, and not with the ‘early modern’ period—and is certainly set by the late eighteenth century and might be seen as a subtext, even, of the French Revolution. Post ’68, the struggle over the compulsion to increase profits while retaining ‘traditional’ farming rights and protecting land-usage patterns by farmers in France (prior to the Yellow Jackets’ cross-communal consumer-driven anti-wealth and pro–energy usage contradictions) was one of the greatest and most virulent sources of social agitation. A pastoral protectionism on one level, but of a pastoral that tried to reconcile private property ownership with ‘tradition’, and anti-control by big business, but with tariff protection and market sureties. The pastoral life is a construct of freedom and profit, of openness and behind the closed doors of the barns where the research takes place: it is the window in the side of a cow on a university property in a city pretending to be a farm, then being sold off for housing. It is the breath of fresh air from a country-rural ride with a dose of Roundup spray drift; it is the class action that follows in America, not Australia. It is writing a poem against Monsanto and being legally silenced.

The dream of the pastoral is the advertising campaign—Barthes by proxy; of course I am thinking specifically of ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’ (1964)—in which the denoted is the list of ‘benefits’ the farm and its literary correlatives (insert name of poet and name of poem of agri-mining-industrial-landgrab-colonialism HERE) and the connoted is THE FARM as universal signifier, it being essential in itself, and also overriding other land uses (be they collective, communal, industrial, privatised or familial). THE FARM connotes life, connotes a control of nature, connotes presence and permanence. The farm as concept highlights the competitive aesthetics of traditional familial connections with specific tracts of land, and the ‘need’ to increase production because in bringing fruition and fertility it will ideally increase human life, seemingly to boost productivity to feed people, but ultimately to maintain profit and if not a labour force in the age of mechanisation and post-mechanisation, then to maintain an audience for products thought up and sold, profited from, by capital. State and business collude in this but are also at loggerheads, and this drives an ongoing pastoralism in the arts. And I am not talking per se of, say, Hugo’s Normandy or Rimbaud’s vagabondage with the possibilities the countryside offered for social disruption (and avoidance—and the cascading racialisms and bigotries that implode in A Season in Hell), but a universalism of THE FARM that is utilised as an extension of The Art of War in all its cultural variants—that is, extensions of state and capital, of individuals, groups and also families entrenching power in the earth itself (as with mining) and often making it dynastic in the process. So if the farm is the code, it is also its decoding. We buy or are supplied with its produce and are indebted to its clarity of meaning, which are in fact obfuscations of design, research and control. Farms are claims to the past but are about controls of ‘future’. They contain many variants of rurality, even the more industrialised farms, but they always rely on the persistence of memory of having to provide, meaning that they are likely to continue to provide, even more than what the ecological, social and health (and animal rights) ‘costs’ might be. They are implicit and explicit at once. They are of the dream, but ‘real’, seasonal and controlled, natural and artificial.

In Australia, rural causation of climate damage, land toxicity, extinction through clearing (flora and fauna) and mass fire events that extinguish ancient forests are counteracted or even entirely denied because of the ‘necessity’ of food production and even a colonial-generational relationship to landholdings. The ‘need’ for fire to germinate and regenerate is deployed by capital as an excuse to limit economic loss through a reduction in emissions, controls on rapacity. Indigenous knowledges of fire usage are ignored on an official level, though given some acknowledgement on the level of decoration, rather than concede that this is stolen country that was ‘agriculturally’ far better managed and lived with before invasion and colonial control. Acts of dispossession of Aboriginal people are absorbed into a patriotic nationalism that is reinforced by rural-town war memorials and an ongoing active myth of the rural that serves Canberra and state parliaments as a lever for large-urban-population needs and fears. They will be fed if the rural is not messed with. As long as someone is out there providing poems that give comfort to this national myth, it will roll on. Les Murray, brilliant a poet as he was, happily filled this role. Judith Wright didn’t, but she was thought to do so by people who didn’t actually read her poems closely, and especially not her non-fiction. 

In Feminism & Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (1993), Gillian Rose notes (and cites) the historic ‘stronger men’ dynamic of the ‘field trip’ and also its ‘heroic ethos’. Geographers become stronger men by challenging Nature—‘geographers, like the mythical giant Anteus, derive their strength from contact with the earth. Anteus became stronger each time he was hurled to the ground’—and the real geographer faces wild Nature for the sake of knowledge, ‘even though it may on occasion mean taking risks, living dangerously’. Pastoral poets, contra geographers, are in a constant state of field tripping, wandering or hallucinating from the writing zone into the paddocks/fields/gorts et cetera, seeking an order of words to denote the relationship between wild (or the errant ‘wilderness’ that becomes a form of open ‘untamed’ farm) and farm per se, between nature and nurture, between power and surveillance, between eating and singing. This mediation serves the state well—it ensures that lines of supply are kept open and encrypted as topoi, as tropes of presence and the need to ‘defend’ that crucible of body and mind. The field trip from the city to the farm is entertainment that brings back information to reassure but also allow for adaptation and prescience. The field trip allows the pastoral state to be one step ahead and, arguably, poetry is its propaganda. It is an inherently patriarchal incursion that requires the farmed land to be reconstructed in field notes as a rebus of performative figures and textualising of the land. The next step in this is the poetic boustrophedon, but the irony is in the reading against the Euro-colonial light, right to left, left to right, the furrows turning against themselves, and yet the land marked. Ways out, from grinding the soil with disc plough on disc plough. Chemical ploughing—super-toxic farming (dream that rebus and find the words). Overseeding.

I have often walked vast farming areas alone, and still do. As a child, I always felt vulnerable to the sudden appearance of strangers, though usually only the farmers and their workers that I likely already knew were around. But in vast ‘emptiness’ scattered with occasional pockets of trees, there was always the prospect of a stranger emerging from the horizon and being able to see your retreat through a low field of grain, or down a firebreak, along a fence line, into a small stand of trees. I thought about this when out alone. The field seemed a haunted place because the cuts in the ground were always with you. The markers of earth-body that could be transferred to your own body. What are the politics of this, or will it only, for me, remain suggestion, the waking dream of connection rather than incursion? 

I began thinking about how I would look, walking the farmlands, to a viewer walking across the salty curves of the earth, and what we might yell at each other to ward each other off. I started yelling poems of farming out to mirages and blurs in the distance from early childhood. One time I had sunstroke. The visitor, always the visitor, looking for a place to hide amid places where the vegetation had been stripped away. One day I lay down in an almost dried-off crop of wheat and made a body impression. Then I felt so guilty I got sick trying to lift the broken stalks, raise the fallen heads back to the vertical. As I was saying to someone the other day, ‘Vertical Poetry’ travels the continents (viz. W. S. Merwin’s translations of Roberto Juarroz). It may be urban in its distribution, its location of publishing and sending out, maybe in its making, but its roots will always be non-urban. But it carries the colonial residues, even where what it reaches up to or into is not colonial. The poem as farm that feeds but doesn’t mark? I concrete poems so they vanish. I de-map ‘rural space’ that was once farm that was and will always be Ballardong Noongar land with usages not open to me. I denote the materials of being here in typewritten words on recycled paper. I scan it, and invalidate, and this is the end of any happiness where just acts might bring some happiness to those who have lost happiness. The wish-fulfilment of the pastoral dreaming is self-disgust. A pastoral restoration project? An advert without audience?

This article is from issue 4 of Arena. Read it in print and help to support independent media…!

When ‘Guru’ (Mum’s partner) was driven off the road and rolled the ute, the mower and whipper snipper were damaged and it affected grass-cutting across two zones. His body was damaged, and our ability to control our relationship with Jam Tree Gully (mower and whipper snipper wrecked—shire-enforced grass-cutting and fire-preparedness necessary) was damaged, too. He was the priority, of course, but we all discussed contingencies in retaining control. To protect the nature here from intrusion (if we don’t do it ourselves the shire will spray with herbicides, then fine us—the fine doesn’t matter, but the toxins do!). We cut dry grass, but always leave pockets of dry long grass for creatures (sustenance and/or habitat); we pattern safety. Rebus again. The damaged body bled on the damaged machinery, and a farming couple rescued Guru, his blood on the pasture they’d cultivated. 

Meanwhile, back where Mum and Guru are, under the ancient mountain of Walwaling with its stories as precise as any science (as Noongar Elder Len Collard points out regarding the deep science of Aboriginal ‘dreamtime’ stories), Guru is recuperating. The accident altered my poem-making. Always anti-pastoral and counter-pastoral, always a pastoral of bloodstain and accident and incursion, it also became a pastoral of allowing a space for personal compassion and adjusting to local situations and personal-specific needs. So the pastoral got more ‘anti’, but also more empathetic, I hope. Can that be the case for me? I think it must (be). I rarely sleep and when I dream I dream super-vividly. I unravel the codes as I write, looking out onto my tasks of rurality—not of THE FARM, but of vegetable gardening, firebreaks, tree planting, restorations.

Always the paradox, but a paradox disrupted. This ‘compassion’ is always there because I like people, even when I disagree with them, and even when they loathe me. Something inherent in life, I like. In The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony, almost twenty-five years ago now, in poem after poem I object to the rapacity and the damage wrought across the Western Australian wheat belt (so called, but I find the human qualities eternally interesting. The human quiddity. And I live—we live—always among people who it would seem mostly oppose what we ‘stand for’). That’s a fraught situation, but also one necessary to break up the dynamic of field tripping, of taking the plough disc back to town or city space to aestheticise, to connect with components of empire without direct culpability. But many farmers (not all) will clear vegetation from land and lament an increase in drought patterns. Suffering doesn’t become less no matter its cause, and compassion is necessary, but so is resistance to clearing and an ongoing intervention in the pastoral poem. Aboriginal poets I have read and heard do not write pastoral poems, even when they are writing of the pastoral—their declared identity and kinship contradict the totality of the machine of agriculturalism, its theft of country and claims of legitimacy in utility and agency, its claims that it feeds those who need to be fed (all of us, but the disenfranchised are the lightning rod for accusations of rural self-interest). 

As such, farmers will always be ‘our farmers’ in the nation state’s propaganda, its harvest- and slaughter-driven raison d’être. In Poetics of Relation (1997) Édouard Glissant notes: ‘[t]he empire is the absolute manifestation of totality. The thought of empire is selective: what it brings to the universal is not the quantity of totality that has been realized but a quality that it represents as the Whole’. 

The Australian version/construction of the ‘Western farm’ is contemplated as a Whole, even when it is in financial or psychological distress, even when it has been dry for years or scorched by fire events, or the farming people have suffered loss or illness and can’t farm and keep the books balanced, are in debt to banks, rely on subsidies and so forth, it remains across the various land titles ‘Whole’ as a concept. The farm is protected, not those who serve the idea of farm—though too often those serving the farm are caught up in the national and empire myth of farm and serve its purposes, frequently to their own detriment. The agri-corporations, the larger, wealthier landholders—well, it is in their interests to perpetuate the myth of the farm and its wholeness, and of the pastoral vision of cooperative rivalry. ‘Primary’ (industry) is core to this propaganda. The advertising.

So, fraught in all utterances, and the poem has to draw on this and find a way of shifting the song so the empire can have no totality in any form, and will eventually break down. So the pastoral poetry I seek to write is one of land returning to a different functionality and relationship with people, with respect for and in dialogue with knowledge of land grown over vast periods of time. The new poem needs to be very very old in its listening.

The pastoral is inherently connected with an agriculturalism of progress, even if this is traditionally an inversion of progress or even performatively ‘anti-progress’—to retain a Golden Age, to keep things as they always were…but, in the country houses, profit will always be the foremost concern, and profit comes with ‘progress’ and the truth of pastoral exploitation resides in this paradox: the mechanisation of the means of producing food. As such, in text, it becomes a ‘magic roundabout’ that sends spokes and tracks out into ambiguities of literary expression (from memoir to the ‘Aga saga’ to documenting the tithing starvation of the rural subaltern and other puzzlings of inequality in literary depictions of land–food production relationships—so often the more sensitivity that is shown to this plight in conjunction with multinational profiteering publishing houses the more exploitative and ultimately callous it is). Further ambiguities are issues of temporariness in terms of change even at the level of the genetics of, say, grain, the per se in terms of military and constabulary occupation of and policy about broader swathes of territory, and a ‘vector overlay’ in three-D without digitalisation through commercial-government-military satellite mapping. Terrain, terraforming, poem, casting poems in lines, in mnemonics. The sundial losing its shadow, its refuge, all day long.

We now have a literary as well as ontic endgame and mass extinction.  Some people are gradually easing/merging this into/with a fantastical ‘Doggerland’ fiction-desiring for a hunter-gatherer Euro purity of presence2 that can remap according to earlier catastrophic climate-change events. They are vaguely seeking to normalise matters through archaeological retrieval of evidence of the continuance and persistence of humans—a new survivalism that is not denial but neither does it accept the personal need for dramatic change. Literature, especially fiction, occupies this position, as do distracting sciences of ‘evidence’ as justifications of our contemporary condition as intrinsic to the ‘natural’ arc of human ‘development’. Pastoral, even in its negating and challenging-status-quo variations, can easily fall into the resist-but-ultimately-comply mode if awareness isn’t omnipresent. 

Pastoral has always been a vehicle par excellence for satirising social manners, class and wealth/leisure/comfort, but usually with affectionate bite (and that is arguably its failing), but Romanticism dragged it steadfastly into a ‘high art’ (for all its apparent openness to ordinariness and the idiomatic) of elegy, of lament for the loss not only of a ‘Golden Age’ but of the possibility of intactness. Consider Paul Alpers’ claims, ventured in What is Pastoral? (1996): ‘The satiric potentialities of pastoral are commonplace—to the extent that in some accounts, satire is not simply an aspect or potential use of pastoral, but its main motive. And the extraordinary emphasis on the Golden Age in modern accounts of pastoral—far beyond what is justified by ancient or even Renaissance writers—is due to critics’ accepting a structure of relationships which makes the elegy, in Schiller’s sense, a definitive manifestation of the impulse at the heart of this kind of poetry’. Actually, Rosanna Warren (see Spatial Relations, Volume 2—Dialogue with Rosanna Warren) long claimed that pastoral included an awareness of rural problematics, which it does—but for me, never enough. I seek to lift pastoral ‘beyond’ satire and elegy into record-keeping and witness. The question becomes how we talk about that positioning, and how that becomes (necessary) heteroglossia with the poem. Which naturally charts a course that takes one back to forms of eclogue.

The writing of an against-pastoral is an issue of location. All locations of farming have been subscribed to nation-state and corporate power structures, so often by acts of dispossession. The pushing of land to produce more food for the necessity of ‘feeding mouths’ is one thing, but to ramp up to ‘value-add’, to profit to feed a small number of people’s leisure and empowerment, is the corruption of locality and locale out of rapacity and greed. This exploitation of the body is the male field tripping, the geographising of the earth via a persistent and resilient patriarchy. In her essay ‘Toward a Politics of Location’ (1986), poet and radical feminist Adrienne Rich writes: ‘[b]egin, though, not with a continent or a country or a house, but the geography closest in—the body. Here at least I know I exist, that living human individual whom the young Marx called “the first premise of all human history”. But it was not as a Marxist that I turned to this place, back from philosophy and literature and science and theology in which I had looked for myself in vain. It was as a radical feminist’. And in the eclogue, the unifying voice of the poet (traditionally serving the expectations of the privileged, not the ‘workers’) controls the singers/herders’ voices and the voice of the song competition’s ‘judge’. The herders and the ‘goddess’ serve the poet’s purpose of celebrating the privileged, who will inevitably seek to profit from the land of the pastoral. In reconfiguring pastoral, radical retakes of positioning of gender and identity in constructs of land per text are essential. This exists in the work of Canadian poet Lisa Robertson and American poet Juliana Spahr, and many others, but it also needs to happen on the level of how we all (as consumers of text) re-inscribe our presence of consuming locality and how we commune about it. Maybe the pastoral poem has validity in this.

There’s a poem by Vénus Khoury-Ghata written out of experience of war-zone Lebanon in which the pastoral implodes into a reformulation of gender and nurturing stereotypes in the face of catastrophe and survival—a de-pastoral of survival against brute reality in a conflict zone. In ‘L’automne précéda l’été’, she writes:

L’automne précéda l’été d’un jour

des jardiniers vigilants coupèrent plus tôt que prévu les cils humides de

la passiflore

et los horloges tricotèrent des nuits plus étroites

How things keep on in such circumstances relies on resetting and persistence. Not the same, and adapting. But to forget how we got to crisis, and to not try to prevent the damage, is criminal. Pastoral has the ultimate responsibility because it has safe-distanced itself from the damage as much as it is ironised, lamented or celebrated. It should never be merely an entertainment. There is no dream of a pastoral, but the pastoral is infused with dreams of ‘us’ and ‘them’—the readers and the actors we expect to do the doing.

It is hard to write while hard physical labouring, but is it hard to think about writing sitting in the air-conditioned header with stereo following the ley lines of a GPS around the paddock? The farmer-poet is the farmer who knows what’s best for the land because they ‘love the land’, allegedly, even though it is stolen land (in Australia). Do we elide David Campbell’s poems of rurality and Virgil’s war-land-grant ‘farming’, do we take the pastoral lease out of the work of Judith Wright, or are these intrinsic to each other across the timing and spacing of global rural capital, for all their different ‘takes’ on it? Do we offset these imperialisms and (in Wright’s case especially) anti-imperialisms with the active voice of singers of and on the land in an array of agriculture-nature elisions, wherein THE FARM does not represent THE FARM but acts of co-existence in which food is one part of growth and being? I think so, and I think so as pantheist and anarchist, as pacifist and vegan, as a believer in rights of self-determination, in the rebus being understood by the layperson and the dream being interactive but respectful. Maybe this is the spiritual-locality respect integral to International Regionalism. To withdraw from Western pastoralism, see, for example the perspective of rural India captured on the PARI website, and particularly the enactments of rural resistance to encroachment as exemplified in these words by Rajkishor Sunani, a Dalit poet, singer and activist from Karlagaon village, around 110 kilometres from the Vedanta alumina refinery in Kalahandi district: ‘From my childhood, I have been a rebel. I protest against injustice’, he says. ‘I joined the movement [against bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills] in 2002–03. I wrote songs to make people aware, and I travelled from village to village to spread the message of the movement’. For me, peace and environmental activism and a justice of cultural and spiritual belief are the drivers of an activism of rectification. 

But in the dream of farm as giving space, ‘the farmer’ requires the tools of a conventional poetics that elides and merges the ‘rural’ (colonial agriculturalism) with Nature, includes a dash and splash of self-deprecating humour (you know, as in how Australians like to ‘take the piss’, as the saying goes, through sometimes brutally satirical means…and out of themselves, too, as self-satirists…but not really!), and lots of national myth-making adapted as science fact embedded in literary-popular canonicity from a montage poem such as Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My Country’, still wheeled out by right-wing media pundits denying climate change (and always misread and geographised as all-continent encompassing). As an aside, the paper referenced in a recent article by Chris Kenny entitled ‘Climate Alarmists Are Brazen Opportunists Preying on Misery’ cherry-picks history, has no understanding of frequency, change, effects of Industrial Revolution, et cetera, and lays claims to the dead and their opinions/responses/feelings in a patriotic fervour of now-ism. Pastoral needs to collapse in their hands when they try such tricks of the mob—the rural mob–ism of national militaristic agriculturalism. The nightmare of their pastoral dreaming!3—the desire to keep Euro-farm traditions alive in colonised spaces and mechanise, chemicalise and genetically modify to increase production and profit. A false claim to community via common purpose and common need. Not the cooperative interactions and the mutual aid envisaged (and witnessed) by Peter Kropotkin but a retreat into a pastoral nostalgia of nature punishing but them not punishing nature: the landowners; pastoral equation—the state–private balance of capitalism and colonialism.4

Dreaming for me is fraught. I counted the number of times I used ‘fraught’ in a recently completed ‘critical’ book and it was frightening. What does the word denote and connote at once? Is it beyond rebus? In one super-vivid dream eclogue, I was trying to argue that it was more ethical to work at a wheat-receival point than to clear land on which these crops are sewn. Why, asked my ‘rival’ singer? Because even within your own logic, productivity will increase by replanting trees, healing the land, cultivating less with higher yields in a healthier non-toxic environment. My rival laughed and sang me out of the picture. But I came back, and said the poem isn’t part of it: land returned to those dispossessed, land-restoration, cleaner air and soil, a pullback of tech and property, and THE FARM will become us all as pure connotation—a rebus of a vast mixture of forest and plains, of mountains and rivers…signing ‘distance’—far—followed by the letter M, which is the valley I am living on the edge of. The rival in the dream eclogue correctly said to me: that’s selfish and egotistical to use your geographical point of reference and interest as a universal signifier.

Thanks to Dan Disney and Sarah Bailey for copyedits.


1. Ebola is another concern for the Global North because the virus can spread out of designated areas of small agriculture and small and communal landholdings and can also impair supply of gathering and harvesting (cocoa) in ways directly damaging to Global North capital.

2. For a deeply disturbing bonding of archaeology and oil exploration, and with special attention to be given to the word ‘arguably’ in relation to the incontestable science that fossil-fuel usage is causing an exponential increase in human-induced global warming, see this apologia in a piece on abc.net.au, ‘Mammoths and Stone-Age Humans Once Roamed Doggerland, the Lost Land Submerged by the North Sea’: 

‘Professor Gaffney has mapped 43,000 square metres of seafloor terrain, using data supplied by oil and gas exploration companies. 

Today, fossil fuels have arguably played a big role in the current period of global warming, so there’s an irony about these resources contributing to finding out more about the last great melt.’

3. While I was not thinking specifically of Bob Hodge’s and Vijay Mishra’s Dark Side of the Dream in writing this, I guess the spokes of the magic circle are all-reaching.

4. See, as a subtextual interest (and I am not validating all said in this piece by citing it!): ‘Kropotkin, Self-valorization and the Crisis of Marxism’. (It carries this introductory note: ‘This paper was written for and presented to the Conference on Pyotr Alexeevich Kropotkin organized by the Russian Academy of Science on the 150th anniversary of his birth. The conference was held in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Dimitrov on December 8–14, 1992. It was the first such conference to be held on Russian soil since the Revolution in 1917. Published in Anarchist Studies, edited by Thomas V. Cahill, Department of Politics, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom, February 24, 1993’). 

The piece says: 

‘Where the economists (and later the sociologists of work) celebrated the efficacy and productivity of specialization in production, Kropotkin showed how that very productivity was based not on competition but on the interlinked efforts of only formally divided workers. 

When, for example, he turned his attention to the relationship between the urbanization of industry and the relative neglect of agricultural production, he did not merely attack the former and lament the later or evoke nostalgic pastoral images of the past. Instead, he sought out and explored situations where this ecologically and socially crippling specialization was already being overcome, as in the culture maraichere around Paris—where the wastes of the city were being reunited with the soil to the benefit of all. Such living examples, he argued, were manifestations of the counter-tendency of a cooperative interdependence and constituted at least one way forward in this domain.’

Works Cited

Paul Alpers, What is Pastoral?, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams,en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=The_Interpretation_of_Dreams/Chapter_6&oldid=3954821

ÉdouardGlissant, Poetics of Relation (trans. Betsy Wing), Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2019.

Vénus Khoury-Ghata, ‘L’Automne précéda l’été’, https://www.babelmatrix.org/works/fr/Khoury-Ghata,_V%C3%A9nus-1937/L%E2%80%99Automne_pr%C3%A9c%C3%A9da_l%E2%80%99%C3%A9t%C3%A9.

John Kinsella, ‘per se’, received by Russell West-Pavlov, 26 September, 2018.

Adrienne Rich, ‘Notes Toward a Politics of Location’, Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985, London: Virago Press, 1986, pp. 210–31.

Gillian Rose, Feminism & Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge, London: Polity Press, 1993.

Michael Slezak and Penny Timms, ‘Mutants or Miracles?’ ABC News, 15 March 2020, www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-14/genetically-modified-cows-no-horns-in-australia/12018078?nw=0.

Also from Arena no. 4:

Reimagining Rural Relationships

Lauren Rickards and Melinda Hinkson, December 2020

A post-COVID, post-neoliberal ordering of these relationships needs a new shared imagination.

About the author

John Kinsella

John Kinsella is the author of numerous books of poetry, criticism and fiction. His memoir Displaced: A Rural Life was published by Transit Lounge in 2020. He is a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University. He wishes always to acknowledge the traditional and custodial owners of the lands he comes from: the Ballardong Noongar people, the Whadjuk Noongar people and the Yamaji people.

More articles by John Kinsella

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