Professor Kevin Brophy lectures in the creative writing program at the University of Melbourne. He has had 11 books of poetry, fiction and essays published.

‘Some Place on this Earth’: Intimacy, Yearning, and the Strange Poetry of Witnessing

This paper argues that the work of writers is to witness. This requires a willingness to take up a state of mind somewhere between intimacy and yearning—a state conducive to producing ‘strange poetry’. Most importantly, it means resisting an expressed ethical stance in the face of extreme events. Primo Levi’s If this is a man (1947) and Denise Levertov’s final book of poetry, The great unknowing (1999) are taken as examples of writers doing the work of witnessing extreme events while (purposefully) falling short of taking an ethical stance.