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"A coat of ashes" and "Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics". Jackson's doctoral thesis is online.
This thesis explores how poetry might bring together spiritual and scientific discourses, focusing primarily on philosophical Daoism (Taoism) and contemporary physics. Systems theory (the science of complex and self-organising systems) is a secondary focus of the creative work and is used metaphorically in theorising the writing process. The thesis contributes a substantial number of poems to the small corpus of Daoist-influenced poetry in English and adds to the larger corpus of poetry engaging with the sciences. The poems are offset by a metafictional narrative, “The Dream”, which may be read as an allegory of the writing journey and the struggle to combine discourses.The thesis discusses the influence of physics on poetry, and examines figurative representations of physics concepts in poems by Rebecca Elson, Cilla McQueen and Frederick Seidel. It discusses existing Daoist poetry criticism and considers Daoist influences in the poetry of Ursula K. Le Guin, Randolph Stow and Judith Wright. It reflects on the process of writing poetry, using examples from “A coat of ashes” to construct a theoretical synthesis based on Daoism, systems theory and contemporary poetics. It proposes a novel way to characterise the nature and emergence of the hard-to-define quality that makes a poem a poem.