Womb Tongues : A Collection of Poetry

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of International, Cultural and Community Studies


Faculty of Education & Arts


This collection of poetry seeks to explore the experience of relinquishment (in this case, primarily, being given up or abandoned at birth by the mother) from the baby's perspective. It endeavours to evoke the baby's' voice' and experience (the 'primal wound', trauma, self-loss, and ensuing silence) as an adult trying to find language for something that occurred in the pre-language state. Kristeva's theories of the semiotic and symbolic are referenced to highlight how, without the 'mother' as a translating bridge from the state of 'non-being' (the semiotic chora) to the signed world of language and 'being' (the symbolic), there is a crippling inability to express, define, and conjure a 'self. This loss of 'mother' not only creates a loss of the 'I' as a 'self but, also, a loss of the 'I' as writer and raises the question of how one creates a 'self when that 'self is 'lost' before language. In giving voice to what lies within the inexpressible, incoherent totality of the wordless experience within the mother's body (the 'chora'), the characteristics of 'choric language'- fragmentation, cryptic allusion, repetition, rhythm, and doubt (incompleteness) -are employed to 'give birth' to (or enrich and nourish) the symbolic (language). The collection is divided into a preface and three parts. The preface provides an example of the 'glossolalia' (the 'womb tongues') and various cryptic translations. This is meant to direct the reader through the rest of the work- to the difficulty of 'translating' the lost 'self into a recognisable form (read, language). Part one, 'water', references the in utero experience, the birth, and the abandonment that follows. Part two, 'gap sickness', explores the psychological breakdown as a child and adult (with the emphasis on self-negation and non-human ideation), the loss of a recognisable 'I', and the attempt to find a 'mother' through supplication to 'deities'. Part three, 'land', seeks to represent the dissemination of the experience from a more mature perspective, not only the realisation of what is lost and the grieving that ensues, but also the inability of language to conjure the 'mother'. The accompanying essay, 'Womb Tongues: The Language of Relinquishment' endeavours to explain how Kristeva's dialectic between the semiotic and the symbolic underpins and supports the poetry's attempts to express the loss and subsequent longing of the baby (frozen within the adult) for the lost mother and 'self.

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