Writing Country: Composition, Law and Indigenous Ecopoetics

Peter Minter


Under the rubric of a proposed symmetry between contemporary recognitions of nature in law and the “lawfulness” of representations of nature, this paper proposes a theoretical meeting between the “composition by field” poetics of the Black Mountain school of the United States, and an Aboriginal compositional ontology best described as a poetics of “Country”. Known most prominently in the work of postwar American poets Robert Duncan and Charles Olson, “composition by field” defines a compositional ontos in which the proprioceptive apprehension of nature and the logos of speech are fused in a state of mythopoiesis. Similarly, “Country” presents an aesthetic ontology in which the cosmos is substantiated as a “lawful” poetic subject in which speech, mythos and nature are combined. The ontos of “composition by field” is symmetrical with the compositional ethos of Country, a compatibility that can be observed closely in their corporealisation of nature amidst cultural imperatives of aesthetic and custodial law/lore. In both, nature adheres to a logos of personality which is simultaneously legal and aesthetic, suggestive of an array of correspondences between a processual, muthologic compositional methodology, the performative and linguistic embodiment of Aboriginal songs and stories, and a poiesis that is connately local and extensively sustaining. As such, a relation between “composition by field”  and “Country” constitutes a foundational opportunity in theorising potential correspondences between western and Indigenous modes of decolonised literary embodiment.


poetics; law; Aboriginal Country; composition

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