Making these texts was a means to practising breakage as a creative strategy. Interpretative commentary, translation, genre innovation: all three break away from an ‘original’. They perform separation in a way that discloses the inherent susceptibility of the original to breakage — Jacques Derrida already showed this many times over. But these three events also divulge separation’s generativity. Unfaithfulness: instigator of the messiest of break-ups, yet what an unreal catalyst for novelty. Where any of these instruments — commentary, translation, innovation — breaks a text open, a topos dilates. The refusal to be faithful draws up space within which more writing effloresces.

Breaking out consists of two series of creative works of very different kinds, though of a piece:

1. Khorographs

Eight mixed-media prints featuring eight found poems that break up and arrange a dialogue between:

1. The English translation of Derrida’s Glas (1974; trans. 1986);

2. A selection of the critical commentary around Glas, which incessantly credits the work with achieving an absolute break with all genre traditions; and

3. The Jean Genet essay on which Glas is, in turn, a commentary, ‘What remains of a Rembrandt torn into four equal pieces and flushed down the toilet’ (1958; trans. 1985).

In the science of map-making, ‘topography’ denotes a place; ‘chorography’ denotes partial places, elements separated out from but sharing in a topos. From the plateaus, you see how crammed all topos is with a tendency to fragment into parts, and how making a whole is enabled by fragmentation. ‘Chorography’ can also slide slyly into relating to khora, i.e. vis-à-vis Plato vis-à-vis Derrida, the substance that enables all being to spring from Being. If writing has a khora — an elemental potentiality prior to all figuration — it must be breakage.

1. A strange inner space (2017)

Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper

20 x 29.7 cm


Place poetics over her (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

2. Place poetics over her (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


3. I am to him all possible uses (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

3. I am to him all possible uses (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


4. It had the presence of a certainty (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

4. It had the presence of a certainty (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


5. The mass of flesh (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

5. The mass of flesh (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


6. Candour (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

6. Candour (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


7. I am seeking the good metaphor (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

7. I am seeking the good metaphor (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


8. Taffs, peals (2017) Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper 20 x 29.7 cm

8. Taffs, peals (2017)
Washi tape and inkjet on archival paper
20 x 29.7 cm


2. Rash translations

Eight narrative poems resulting from a writing strategy that tests unfaithfulness as generative conduct. Derrida’s Glas is already a columned text, but its English-language version is embedded with a further column: the translators have left a fistful of selected terms in the French, enclosing them within square brackets, as though suturing a rift that runs the page from top to bottom. What do the translators’ selections say about Glas? Do they instead say something more interesting about the translators? This was always going to be their bind: you translate and thus stray from the beloved original, or you instead refuse to be unfaithful to the French on this word and that and watch your choices run away with the interpretation that they can’t help but impose on the text.2. Rash translations

I made up a persona to translate those French terms into story with me – a persona who, like me, spoke little French, and who would, therefore, feel licensed to more carelessly open the square brackets on facing pages 204 and 205. We made from those terms a plateau upon which to fabricate a topos and shapeshifted as required to make it right.


I was deep into the summer of my

Seventieth year before I was at last

Able to become a Japanese novelist.

Before that time, I had made do

With other kinds of labour and was

Happy enough with it. I knew

From very early in my life that I

Would become involved with buildings

And I contrived to always work and live

Inside buildings large enough for

Atriums vaults stained-glass

Windows. I have loved more than

Anything in life the combination of airy

Space and glass, I can’t explain

Why it so captivated me but even

The French doors adjoining my

Mother’s bedroom leading to her

Balcony – this was the place

I would return to, home early

In the day from some school

Excursion while my mother was still

At work and I would lie there

My bag lumped under my dreamy head

To watch the absurd spindly trees making

Something of themselves in

The shadows on the glass. I had always

Loved watching the glass and

The light and its mindless

Play across my long legs and perceiving

How time opens and closes day

After day, a bright shaft strokes up

The eiderdown now my hands folded

Over my son’s gentle folded hands

Perfectly still and thoughts turning

More and more towards memory, sensory

Acuity. Towards love, rash deliberation

Movement, the dangerous dance.


I eat with my children, I eat

What they eat. We had a home but lived

More often than not on the verandahs

Of the community centre which were shaded

Broad and dark and overrun

With mice, some rabbit hutches. We all

Ate together. Afterwards

While the children sweated with other

People’s children in twilight game after

Game I would rock on the verandah with

Other children’s parents, swinging

In found furniture hearing the green

Garbage trucks vectoring the distant streets

Mechanisms winching musically,

Sadly – and I would watch the sky syphon off

Over the plaza. What is beauty when

It’s enough? The blue of the sky

Was a hyperobject, a combustion, it

Darkened in knots above us. Then as now

The shadows were bodies

Contorting the children’s ambit

into permitted zones and boundaries

The dark would round on them

Rounding them up closer. The lovely

Bodies turning inside the body

Of the knot, turning a great

Number of times inside the body

Of the knot. I needed them always

Closer and so I was pleased with night-time

Then as I am pleased

Now with the food they bring

With which to fill our night, eating with me

In the old place listening

Through flashing incisors

Of rabbits and rodents. We have

Enough. What is enough.


I am only a fifteen-year-old student at

The Methodist College for Ladies, but even so

It is to me that my parents turn

For advice on nurturing the diminishing assembly

Of our indoor potted plants. We haven’t always

Nurtured indoor potted plants. At first

when my third-newest brother

Was born I spent time in the garden

With the outdoor-planted plants listening

To the noises from the Conservatorium

Next door and the noises

Must have planted a seed of their own

Because I predicted at that time

That I would go on to become

A prolific young conductor and later

In my middle age a tutor of classical woodwind

In a backyard lean-to that I would

Renovate for the purpose. And I was

Right. Now I find I can recall at will

The names and faces of particular pupils

Whose profound dedication brought me

A happiness both

Lasting and deep. I expected fulfilment

In life but not that it would come

So easily; nor now so reliably

From the arrival of a particular scent

That blows off the street below my window

At which time I step out onto my

Fourth-floor landing taking with me

The hot tea I always have ready

For the arrival of these very moments

In which I pause to make myself

An infinite present.


At the beginning of every dry season

When my children were

Still young enough to be made to

Make time for it yet old enough

To derive from revenge

More pleasure than pity

I would take them in a silver car

Whose metal sides glinted like

Fish in the breeze as we wound our way

Down the mountainside from the little house in which

We lived like kings among the cathedral-

Like arches of the forest canopy,

Down to sit cross-legged before the

Salmon-coloured adobe building

In which I had given birth to and

Devotedly raised each of them

Despite the dreariness of the food

Shortages and erratic plumbing and

The fitful seaside stench, and

Where my then-lover had

For the first time – and many times thereafter

until the day of his untimely death

By the hand of a woman driven by tedium to

Madness – closed the glass doors of

The darkened living room behind

His retreating back and the

Retreating back of a woman who

Notwithstanding the dwindling food

Supplies and the faltering hot water

Had said tenderly in his ear that

She would remain with him and for his

Sake nurture a love of the fitful

Sea if only he would drive us out, out, out.

The heat on the crowns of our heads and

Heat on our legs as we picnicked on

The front lawn, rolling in the heat.


It will appear strange to you that

In my part of the world we still

Have book-binding by hand as a

Common profession but less strange

Once you grasp that my part of the world

Is the mid-fifteenth century. You may even

Have heard already that my son became

A key figure in the development

Of the matrice denteé, a tool used

To impress leaves of vellum and,

Increasingly, sinuous paper. Credit goes

Partially to me – I pressed his clothes

(And washed, and repaired)

Obsessively even after the

Recession progressed into

Depression and there was no money

For washing powder or sewing

Supplies. He, resplendent and

Practically levitating in full-blown

Youth, would return from his entry-

Level white-collar day job to find me

Alone in the house affixing a shirt sleeve

Or embroidering a gym short, weeping

Into the fabric. But then

He would have to leave for his night job

Servicing other white-collar workers

And their friends in the red-light district

And I did not agree with it and I felt my mind

Falling out in pieces, my womb

Gritting, receding in step with the

Failed bureaucratic structures that

Regulated my part of the world, talking

with inscrutable agenda to outcasts

On trams, you, strangers.


Yeasts are in the air, smelling

Beery. When I was a Qantas pilot

I quite easily caught some in

A jar and fed them daily with fresh water and flour

And thought nothing of it. In the second

Dream, I was a true graffiti artist on a

Council commission. I had a wall. The hardest

Part was that in two weeks’ time

I would have to paint the wall over

Again and that was the best

Part too. I drew a woman crouching

the back of her head and the back of her

Neck bent to fit below the roof

Her knees tucked asymmetrically

Into an armpit, almost dog-legging

Into her neck. By the time I finished

I had had the thought that

Because asymmetry is great on

The one hand and on the other not

Quite so much, you don’t too often see it

As a design principle in structures

Where leakage is a known

Threat. Ships, monuments, government

Buildings: none. Sea floors, rivers:

Plenty. Today I deposited in at least one bathroom

Of every state-sponsored cultural landmark

I visited in my role as dutiful cultural

Elite shreds and shreds of an

Unused ovum, each of which left me

Painfully but I acknowledge the relief

Of leakage after an intense spell

With rash. (My walk is now a habitual almost-crouch

Approximating a pseudo-scratch with the

Squeeze of one thigh against

The other. Even after antibiotics – two full

Courses – I can always feel when I stop

To think about it the furry creep of

Soft-headed bacteria butting from tip to tip

Of labia minora.) In the final dream

I moved into the council’s wall and it turned

Into the body of a child. I lived there for the rest

Of the time. Reaching my hands up

To where my hair should be I felt

Only gutter but I did very much like the mossy fuzz

On my fingertips. Whenever the gutter ran over

I delighted and laughed and whenever it was full

Like a river, I would play there with my boat.


I’m beginning to meet frustration. I scratch

At the surface only and settle too easily

For the remains. I, newly appointed

Jacques Saintes-Maries fellow in the micro-

Scopy of Atomically Thin Materials,

See the doors on my research closing up

Before me. Can an object comprehend

What it is the object of. I want

To respond – and yes – to this question.

But the apparatus doesn’t yield, cold atomic

Foam spouting from the specimen smear

On the slide. Habitual lateness

Overcomes me, I fumble at the lab door

Every morning for the keys

In my pocket – is every single one of my gestures

Condemned to becoming

Metaphorical, the mind, too, turning

More and more to my mother’s

Bedside where my mother turns

Like a sea turning to pull me in. I

Was a child once there, and loved and I loved

My mother’s bed. The bed is the subject,

Object, we shared in its pronoun: Me

Her collarbones held still, I park

Toy cars along them, along her as

Though they were my own. She reads.

Lifts my top, me her body, to scratch at

My heat rash, mine, as though I were

Her own. My rosy fluster, own rash-flashing

Fingers, hand opening – her book opening

Closing, turning as my own thin surface

Turns, the object of which I am reading,

the object of which I am, reading,


that of which I am the object.


Freud said latency but he

Didn’t mean this long. Swimming

Another lap along the protracted

Verge of reason, she turns her head

And asks, quoting, in mono-

Syllables, between breaths: In what

Do a body and its person

Share? But I’m out

Of the pool dripping into a puddle

At my feet before I’m ready to give

An answer. Sweetheart, the question

For me – and I ask it every time it’s safe

To not think of my mother, every time

She is safe from the persistence

Of being thought; the question asked from within layers

Of gauzy love, a post-partum length of it

Like a trembling fractal, a textile diffuse

As a spawning puff of air, as a

Yacht-puffed bay buffeting a perfect

Ambivalence, strong-arming on the side of

One alone but equally on the side of

Two please, oh please – the question

For me is: by how many persons

Can a body be shared? Our rubber shoes

Slap slap while the public square bakes,

A fragrant tongue of grass

In flower, looped with concrete.



Derrida, Jacques (1986). Glas, tr. Leavey Jr, John P. & Rand, Richard (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press)

Genet, Jean (1988). ‘What remains of a Rembrandt torn into four equal pieces and flushed down the toilet’, in What remains of a Rembrandt torn into four equal pieces and flushed down the toilet (Madras & New York: Hanuman Books) pp. 10-47