Fens, Rivers, Droughts

  • John Kinsella
Part of the Cambridge Commonwealth Series book series (CAMCOM)


Blue Gum Swamp, Booragoon Lake and Bull Creek are remnants of the Swan River system or its surrounding wetlands in the Perth region of Western Australia. They are especially significant to me as a poet, for I grew up beside them and find myself constantly drawing on them for imagery and comparison. Likewise the wheatbelt area of the Avon Valley where my family worked the farm wheatlands over a number of generations, my cousins and uncle still maintaining an interest in the region. Living in Cambridge, I find my focus on the river and wetlands honing itself. I’m in an environment that has been entirely altered by humans — the great fens now prime farmland, pumps working almost continuously to keep this foodbowl of England functional. The draining of the water has led to a bounty, but also the loss of a culture, or even cultures, and ways of life. Similarly in Perth, around the Swan River, the draining of wetlands has led to a change in demographics, but even more is symptomatic of occupation and erasure of previous ‘ownership’.


Native Tribe Night Heron Drainage Engineer Field Maple Prime Farmland 
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  1. H.C. Darby, The Draining of the Fens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956; rep. 1968).Google Scholar
  2. C.T. Stannage, ed., A New History Of Western Australia (Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  3. Daisy Bates, The Native Tribes of Western Australia, ed. Isobel White (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1985).Google Scholar
  4. G. Deleuze and E Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  5. Rod Giblett, Postmodern Wetlands: Culture, History, Ecology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996). (Although not used as reading for the essay, this book is fascinating on the matter of fens and text.)Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • John Kinsella

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