Originally from the UK, Mags Webster is currently a PhD candidate at Murdoch University, Western Australia. Her research is exploring ways in which poetry can come closer to expressing ‘the ineffable.’ She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry) from City University of Hong Kong, a BA with First Class Honours in English and Creative Writing from Murdoch University, and BA (Hons) in English and Drama from the University of Kent.  Her poetry collection The Weather of Tongues (Sunline Press) won the Anne Elder Award in 2011. 

Write into the Unsayable

Apophatic Strategy in Poetic Practice

Poet Alice Notley once remarked, ‘like many writers I feel ambivalent about words, I know they don't work, I know they aren't it’ (Notley 2010: n.pag.). Over centuries, in both East and West, poets, mystics, philosophers, and worshippers have developed a semantics of negation—apophasis—to deal with what lies beyond language, to draw closer to uttering what cannot be said. As part of my PhD research I am experimenting with apophasis as a poetic strategy, exploring representations (in both poetic form and content) of absence through space, silence, and denial. Taking Notley’s statement as a reference point, this paper contemplates, from a practitioner perspective and through examples of my creative work, the idea that every poem is an attempt to write into the unsayable.