Journeying together virtually on Country: Building a relational poetics and pedagogy in the middle of a pandemic
In the introduction to Fire Front: First Nations Power and Poetry Today, one of several anthologies dedicated to First Nations poets published in 2020, Alison Whittaker describes the gathering momentum of First Nations poetry as a ‘sovereign renaissance’ (p. x). This paper outlines the rationale for – and tells the story of – the collaborative development of a general first-year poetry subject whose pedagogical foundations lie in an Aboriginal epistemological framework, and that privileges the work of First Nations poets. The subject, designed on Dharawal Country and informed by the University of Wollongong’s Jindaola program, is based on a grounded Aboriginal framework of Country, Kinship, Culture, Journey and Connectedness. These five principles shape the students’ journey through the subject as they are prompted, through readings, lectures and writing exercises, to consider their own relationship with place, language, family, community and culture. Teaching poetry guided by this framework is one way of responding to Ali Cobby Eckermann’s call to not only listen to the work of First Nations poets, but also to act (2020, p. 147). Biographical notes: Christine Howe is a writer and academic who works across various genres – novels, poetry, microfictions and essays. Her first novel, Song in the Dark, was published by Penguin. Christine’s prose poetry has been included in a number of Spineless Wonders anthologies and her poetry, essays and scholarly works have been published in journals such as Griffith Review, Island, Cordite, TEXT and Law, Text, Culture. Jade Kennedy is a Yuin man from the Illawarra and South Coast of NSW. He has been privileged with the intimate Knowledges of his people’s customs, culture and Country, and for the past 20 years, Jade has worked within various roles, both professional and academic, at the University of Wollongong. Through his experiences and learnings, Jade has worked consistently to bring together these two worlds by focusing on building knowledge-based relationships between Aboriginal Knowledges and perspectives and tertiary education curriculum.
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Special Issue 64