‘Michel Foucault defined history as ‘the discourse of power’ (Society 68), arguing that the function of a ‘counter-history’ is ‘to show that laws deceive, that kings wear masks, that power creates illusions, and the historians tell lies’ (Bainbridge 58). Writing on the relationship of poetry to power, critic Simon Bainbridge argues, citing Byron’s Don Juan, that in ‘the face of a model of “History” which can only take “things in the gross”, Foucault offers a counter history which enables us to “know them in detail”’ (50). By disciplinary analogy, I will argue that the poetry of Indigenous Australian Tony Birch can best be read not only as a counter-history, but as a ‘counter-poetics’. However, I will also ask whether this notion of poetic ‘countering’ is inherently oxymoronic, given that poetry is highly performative, writerly and readerly; at its best always a self-questioning and critical art.’ (Author’s introduction p. 91)
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