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The poem “Failure of Communication” is written by the Australian writer Judith Wright. The poem also has the alternative title “Failure of Communion”. The poem was first published in the poet’s poetry collection called “With Love and Fury” in 2006. The poem is a short poem which talks about the communication and language barrier in both the real world as well as the spiritual world. The poet talks about a dark and gloomy void where there is no light or comprehension. Due to this abyss and void in between, two people can never truly communicate with each other or be in complete harmony with each other.
About the poet
Judith Wright was born in 1915 in Australia. She was a poet, environment activist and an advocate for Aboriginal land rights. She was a critic as well but gained renown ace due to her poem. Her poems revolved around the themes of the Aboriginal identities and the relationship with the settlers. She received the Christopher Brennan Award for her writing. Some of her major works are “Woman to Man” and “The Moving Image”.
The poem is a short lyric poem. It consists of 3 stanzas. The first and the second stanzas are written in the form of a quatrain. The last stanza however is written in 5 lines, a quintain.
What is the space between, enclosing us in one united person, yet dividing each alone.
The speaker begins the poem by addressing the distance between her and the listener. She questions about the the space surrounding her and the other person. The speaker talks about how this space is enclosing them tighter in the same space and at the same it is keeping them apart. The space is uniting them together as well as dividing them.
The poet begins the first stanza with the use of a rhetorical question. She asks about the space between them but she does not expect an answer. Rather she asks the question merely to emphasize her point. She says that there is a space. This space surrounds them and at the same time is present in between them. The poet creates a paradox by talking about two completely opposite ideas of the space “enclosing” them and at the same time “dividing” them.
The “space” here is a metaphor for the lack of communication and understanding. This space is what makes them one as well as distinguishes them from each other.
Frail bridges cross from eye to eye, from flesh to flesh, from word to word: the net is gapped at every mesh,
The speaker says that the bridges between them are frail. The bridges are the intimate connection between the two souls. This bridge is present between the two eyes. It connects one flesh to the other flesh. The bridge is formed with every word that is exchanged between them yet the net surrounding the bridge is filled with gaps and holes. The net is filled with gaps at every joining point in the mesh. This shows that the connection too is not complete or concrete and is filled with holes and gaps that remain open.
The poet here makes use of a metaphor and compares communication between them to a bridge. She uses this metaphorical bridge to talk about the connections they form in order to communicate with each other. The communication is done with the use of eye gestures, words as well as physical touch. Weigh every eye contact made, every physical touch intimated and word exchanged they are forming a bridge and communicating.
But in the net of this bridge, the poet says that there are gaps and holes. These gaps in the mesh of the net stop them from ever fully communicating about their innermost and intimate thoughts.
and this each human knows: however close our touch or intimate our speech, silences, spaces reach most deep, and will not close.
The speaker calls out to the entire humanity and bears them as the witness to the failure in the communication. She says that each and every human being knows about this space, this gap and this failure while communicating. She says that no matter how hard one may try, they can never fill this space and complete the bridge. The increase in the proximity of their physical contact or intimate words can never fill the silence of the space. The space is deep, dark and will alway exist.
The poet in the last stanza highlights the awareness that the human beings possess about this unfillable void. She says that every human is aware of the space between them. They are also highly aware of the fact that this space will exist for all time to come. No matter how hard they try to make the communication successful, it will always fail.
The poet says that no amount of intimate physical contact or deep conversations will ever be enough to efficiently express our innermost self and our thoughts.