Setting Fire to the Poetic Correspondence of Multispecies Relationships




multispecies, animals, poetry, Australia, aporia


This poetic work is a multispecies love letter seeking to make the reader aware of the strange aporia of human ‘love’ for animals.[1] Contradictory human expressions of love, care, indifference, and harm towards animals can be seen in words that change perceptions of animals (as individuals, groups or in general). Consider the changing status of a ‘pet’ cat being discarded and becoming ‘feral’. Is ‘it’ a ‘pest’ to be ‘culled’, not even ‘killed’ or ‘put to sleep’ or can ‘they’ be ‘rescued’? This work explores multiple and conflicting affective outcomes words have on building compassion, understanding and support for animals, or adding to misconceptions which can result in disregard or violent treatment. The words we use to represent animals and express our relationships to them can reduce animals to iconic national symbols and supportive anthropocentric tools, or to draw out the diversity, multiplicity and intrinsic value of animal being and create space for animals in the text.

The poem focuses on the contemporary Australian context for the aporia of human love for animals. It grounds the work in place and time by using Australian phrases, idioms, slang, associations, terms and names for animals, plants, and places while concentrating on recent events of bushfires, droughts, floods, and pandemic isolation. It references ongoing Australian settler-colonial practices where human animal entanglements and conflicts are highlighted, including horse racing, hunting, bushwalking, fishing, and farming.

Repetition and wordplay are used to amplify, destabilize, complicate, confuse and decentre human perspectives. The method is informed by the fictocritical work of Ania Walwicz in horse utilizing ‘The process of associative thought and reflection. Improvisation and analysis. The flight of thought, a trajectory and reflection, retrieval, recoil. The use of multilevel text comprising poetics, theory and appropriated text’ (5). The poet aims to draw attention to the ways our relationships with animals are constructed and circulated through our use of language which forms an inherently anthropocentric frame of reference. Unresolved contradictions between intimacy and distance in human animal relationships are used to create a space of questioning to provoke thought.

Work Cited

Walwicz, Ania. horse: A Psychodramatic Enactment of a Fairytale. Crawley, Western Australia: UWAP, 2018. Print.

[1]Although encompassing both, ‘animals’ is used here to differentiate ‘animals of different species’ from ‘human animals.’ Terms like ‘nonhuman animals’ and ‘other animals’ are definitions centring humans, in terms of what is not human rather than what are these beings. Words like ‘beast’ also have othering meanings.   

Author Biography

Katherine FitzHywel, University of Melbourne

Katherine FitzHywel is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. She is exploring how nonhuman animals are represented or misrepresented through language employed in contemporary Australian poetry, and how poetic language might contribute to the perception and treatment of nonhuman animals. Her poetry has recently been published in Burrow Poetry e-journal, Untethered Magazine, and Interior Journal. She has also published critical work in Australian Poetry Journal and Rabbit Poetry Journal.  An earlier version of this poem was presented for discussion during ‘Unpacking the Parcel’ at the ASLEC-ANZ ‘STRANGE/LETTERS’ Online Symposium in 2021. Katherine has also presented her theoretical work at: University of Warsaw ‘Rethinking Agency: Non-Anthropocentric Approaches’ International Online Conference 2022,  ASLEC-ANZ ‘Ngā Tohu o te Huarere: Conversations Beyond Human Scales’ Online Conference 2021, ASAL ‘Texts and Their Limits’ Triennial Literary Studies Online Convention 2021, ICAS ‘Liberated Futures’ Conference in Naarm/Melbourne 2019, DCASN ‘Unbuilding Multispecies Violence in Storied Place’ Triptych Art-Academic Event in Naarm/Melbourne 2019, AASA ‘Decolonizing Animals’ Conference in Ōtautahi/Christchurch NZ 2019, and the ASLEC-ANZ ‘Grounding Story’ Conference 2019 on Anaiwan Country in Armidale NSW.






Creative Works