Of Blood and Terror in the Queen's Own Land: Violence and the Poetry of Lionel Fogarty

Geoff Rodoreda


Queensland, Australia. Sun, surf, beaches, a barrier-reefed, tropical paradise. Hmm. Try “the smell of blood in the waters” and “cut open” bellies filled with stones. Or the “weary years of / Dying in white reigns.” This is how Indigenous Australian poet Lionel Fogarty sees Queensland. Established as a colony of the British Empire in 1859, Queensland, through a Native Police force, engaged in the systematic slaughter of Indigenous peoples on the frontier. For historian Raymond Evans, this colony was “arguably one of the most violent places on earth during the global spread of Western capitalism in the nineteenth century.” The violence of Queensland’s past and present—both systemic and personal, domestic and state-sponsored, acknowledged and elided—resonates not only through the content of Lionel Fogarty’s verse but also through its very form. Fogarty fogs English, opaques it in unique ways, does violence to the laws of grammar, syntax and convention. This essay examines a half-dozen newly-published Fogarty poems for their various representations of violence. Known as Australia’s guerrilla poet, Fogarty, after 40 years on the job, continues to scrutinise and critique both direct, subjective violence, as well as structural and epistemic violences in his unique lyrical voice.

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