Abstract: This essay traces what it sees as a geopoetic trope in Australian literature: the poetic verse-line as a boundary-fence. Basing itself on poems by John Kinsella, Judith Wright, Phillip Hodgins, Randolph Stow and Les Murray, the poem argues for a development of this trope in the context of the wider geopoetic endeavour in which Australian landscape poetry has been involved: of coming to terms with a new environment and the Aboriginal culture already geopoetically there. Following Tim Ingold’s reinterpretation of the line in human culture in Lines: A Brief History, it sees the line, rather than metrics or rhythm (or the line as a reflection of breaks in rhythm) as the defining characteristic of verse in an age of writing. The verse-line is how poetry spatially imprints the temporal order of a culture on a perceived world, but also how it reflects on that world within the space of a poem. Traditional European poetry measures the verse-line as a plough-furrow (the etymology of versus), a retracing of patterns, which the essay argues, New World postcolonial literatures de-measure: in Canadian landscape poetry the line becomes the overwhelming horizon; in Caribbean poetry the tidalectic wave; in Australian poetry the boundary fence, ambiguously demarcating what is inside and outside.
Keywords: Australian poetry, the verse-line, the line in human culture, boundary fence, geopoetics, parrots, literature and the environment, Judith Wright, Randolph Stow, Les Murray, Phillip Hodgins, John Kinsella
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