Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Arts and Humanities
Associate Professor Susan Ash
Doctor Marcella Polain
Constellations in the sky have been a source of inspiration, in both science and literature, for aeons. Working within the constraints of the ‘official’ 88 constellations, as devised by the International Astronomical Union, this study involved researching the myths and histories of constellations, and then creating a collection of poems based upon those. Thematic connections between the eight modern constellation “families” or groups of constellations were explored and it is in these groupings that the poems work, to tie together, through experimentations with language, a somewhat cohesive fabric of poetry.
Each constellation consists of three poems. The first is a dense prose poem. The poem is then reconfigured, containing elements of the old prose poem, but offering new associations and meanings as punctuation and words are removed. The third and final poem reflects the actual constellation shape, as observed in star maps. It is a movement of poetic archaeology, with new poems emerging through excavation of the first two pages. The poems challenge notions of language, such as closure, dealing with repetitions, renewal and discontinuous narrative threads. There is an element of play with the work, and the final page encourages reading beyond the left to right formation of conventional reading structures, instead making connections to be traversed in an improvised reading process.
The poems are presented as four pages for each constellation. Three pages are the poems, and the fourth page, on the reverse of the final constellation shape, is the actual constellation map. The pages are clipped and folded into a black storage box. This design is to encapsulate the feeling of discovering a box of maps, with the folding and unfolding process aimed at being part of the play involved in reading and discovering the poems.
Accompanying the box is a Powerpoint presentation on a USB stick. This is a ‘Twitter’ type feed, where a one sentence epigraph, derived from the beginning of each constellation, is inscribed in a continuous feed, in an attempt to illustrate the futility of trying to comprehend and keep up with an endlessly shifting landscape of words online, and in particular, in social media. The 88 phrases revolve aimlessly across the screen. It becomes a blank space, littered with odd words and phrases, recognizable but fleeting The accompanying exegesis discusses language, mapping and orienteering. It explores theoretical concerns in poetry and language, and how, by looking at constellations and the way we interpret them, that they can be seen as metaphors for the way the constellation poems have been created.
Leber, D. (2016). Constellations – a space in time that’s filled with moving. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1810