Poetry as Investigative Pedagogy: Issues of Ethics and Praxis in Hay and Thorne’s Last Days of the Mill, 2012.

Pete Hay


This paper examines dilemmas of ethics and practice in the author’s co-written Last Days of the Mill (2012).  The usefulness of poetry as a tool of social inquiry is considered, both in the immediate context of a dying pulp mill in an industrial town in northern Tasmania, and the wider symbolic import of the mill’s demise within an island wedded to an unrealisable vision of industrial greatness.  It is argued that there are forms of knowing in which poetry is far more efficacious than analytical prose, most notably elusive and grounded understandings such as ‘being there-ness’, and the accretion of a vividly storied mindscape expressed through the spoken word. The paper then considers the injunction of the Canadian poet, Robert Bringhurst – that ‘when he sees his people destroying the world, the poet can say, “we’re destroying the world”.  He can say it in narrative or lyric or dramatic or meditative form, tragic or ironic form, short or long form . . . But he cannot lie, as a poet . . . ’  The paper argues for a more nuanced and inclusivist ethic, even when, technically speaking, this requires an act of dissimulation on the part of the poet. 


Literature; poetry; Burnie Paper Mill; Tasmania; Tony Thorne; Robert Bringhurst

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