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Hā ki roto, hā ki waho. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s the simplest thing, the in- and outflow of breath that keeps us alive, so automatic that, most of the time, we hardly notice it. And yet we ignore breath at our peril in an era when the struggle to breathe has come to symbolize a series of ongoing catastrophes: medical, racial, and environmental. Next month, in my inaugural professorial lecture, I will explore how poets—who have always paid attention to breath—might help us find the resources to address these crises and, in so doing, to re-imagine literature and the world.

The statue of Captain John Hamilton is removed from Civic Square in Hamilton, 12 June 2020 (Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae)

The lecture addresses some suffocating aspects of our still largely Euro-centric academy and society and the resources that poets offer for imagining literature, literary studies and the world otherwise. It touches on the writings of, amongst others, Kamau Brathwaite, Ross Gay, Allen Ginsberg, Lu Xun, Osip Mandelstam, Sinead Overbye, NourbeSe Philip, Essa May Ranapiri, William Shakespeare, Pamela Sneed, Juliana Spahr, and Apirana Taylor—along with the removal of a statue and the cutting down of a flagpole or two…

I will be delivering the lecture from 5:30 to 7:00pm on Thursday 15 April in Archway 2 Lecture Theatre, Union St East, University of Otago, Dunedin. The lecture will also be live-streamed from 5:25pm Thursday 15 April 2021 (NZ time) at the following address:

For further details, see


Published by Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.

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