‘Permission to write’: Emilie Collyer Interviews Marion May Campbell

By and | 31 October 2021

I am dancing in my own field rather than striding into a foreign one. I know what the soil smells like here, something of the seasons, how crops are cultivated, the kinds of weird weeds and flowers that burst through, unexpected, how far the shade can seem when you’re stuck in the middle of the field in the mid-day mid-summer sun.


I only know the field from how my body encounters it.


It is worth spending time in this field trying to feel how it feels from another’s body.


To see something different about what the ‘field’ of ‘feminist creative practice’ is, has been, could be.


It remains alive and doesn’t get fixed or reduced.


Something of its place, role, and potency (or otherwise) may be known.


It is not a thing. It is many things. If I am in the field I might gather a few more senses.

How would I try and tell you this? The sort of quiet envy I have for your intellect. And the way you weave references to theory and philosophy in your conversation about writing and about being. How Wittgenstein will be uttered in the same breath as Wittig and how I feel so thick-tongued in your company. I am an unsophisticate. I come towards you and we murmur little enthusiastic murmurings about how writing that makes space for the reader is so much more exciting than writing that doesn’t. And how writers who experiment with placing the reader into different positions of being with text and who use difficult writing as a way to grapple with difficult things are … are … And you speak and read in more than one language. In French and (a little) in German. But you dismiss it and say well it’s not as if you are reading swathes of Asian literature. This enthusiasm and passion followed by swift deflections and deflations. There is something in that. In common. I am a bit of a sham when it comes to feminist writing the jigsaw (Dick’s sore) the mosaic I think it is partly because playwriting is so concrete you have to give the actors something to say and a reason for saying it. The reason doesn’t have to be narrative. But it is difficult for them if it is too abstract it must be able to come from their body in some real way. Is feminism abstraction? I thought it was very much about embodiment. Specificity. My definitions are breaking down.

MMC: theory of co-emergence. So, this co-emergence can apply to the reader’s subjectivity – When you get a text that performs a poetics of the fragments like this you see elements of an emergence coming through the scene of the writing. Then you can rehearse an emergence as a reader, as a reader who’s been through things as well.

EC: ? Yes. Yes. Yes. It gives you a frame through which to put your own experience.

MMC: And you can see it, this, this jigsaw that’s been scattered to the winds, this mosaic that’s been engulfed as in Pompeii. There are elements that you can dream back together again, if you, you know, keep at it, keep at it, keep it.

Which is so beautiful, isn’t it?

Just for a moment.

A breath.

To enjoy the excitement uttered here, about what is possible and how a poetic text, a feminist poetic text might function and might create a space. A way. To ‘dream back together’.

I try to articulate as we speak, the feeling I had when reading Marion’s book konkretion (2013).

EC: ‘Cause I felt like I was just, I love, I can’t even describe it. I don’t have the Um, language for it, but that, that sense of being, being within and alongside the, the, um, the narrator in that, in, in, in Konkretion and there’s just sort of, something really unusual I find in that, and beautiful happening.

I am not articulate.

EC: So I’m sort of not quite looking at her as, as an observer. I’m not quite inside her. I’m somewhere between those two things

MMC: That’s very interesting,

EC: which is kind of amazing and a very beautiful place to be a very sort of. Yeah, slippery kind of haunting, but it felt very, I felt very physically connected to her as I read.


Difficulty in.

We go on to talk about form and the appetite (or not) for openness and danger and violence in form, particularly when it comes to Australian industry and readership.

Tell me when you know, you, um, tell me when you want me to stop talking.

Dites-moi quand vous savez, vous, euh, dites-moi quand vous voulez que j’arrête de parler.

Tell me when you know, you, um, tell me when you want me to stop talking.

Marion tells me a story about a writer who she deeply admires, who wrote a book, a wonderful and difficult book by the Western Australian poet Morgan Yasbincek called liv (2000).

MMC: lowercase living, because [the dramatised narrator is …] barely alive from […] serial, [00:53:07] traumatising assaults on her being, sexual and ritual, performed by family members and so on. Um, but it is, uh, yeah, it’s a magnificent book and there are moments of beautiful humour that break through the grimness of it. […B]ut it’s not – it doesn’t obey any kind of chronology. That is, its chronology, […] – [00:53:34] its time, is the time of writing.

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