English Seminar: ‘The Dingo’s Noctuary’ – School of Art Communication and English English Seminar: ‘The Dingo’s Noctuary’ – School of Art Communication and English

English Seminar: ‘The Dingo’s Noctuary’

‘The Dingo’s Noctuary’

Presenter: Judith Nangala Crispin


In this talk I’ll present images and texts from my half-finished book, ‘The Dingo’s Noctuary’, the major component of a practice-led Doctor of Arts project. I’ll also speak about the structural planning that governs the creation of a large-scale work with many disparate parts– as well as extensive field work in a remote desert location, more than 22 hours North-West of Alice Springs by car, if the weather’s kind. The Dingo’s Noctuary is a non-fiction illustrated verse novel combining texts across the spectrum of poetry, prose, poetic-prose and prose-poetry, with hand drawn land maps and star maps, pressed plants from remote desert sites, and specialised prints. The latter, which I call ‘Lumachrome Glass Prints’, are made with a process I’ve invented for this project. This book has its origins in long-term relationships with Warlpiri people in the central desert and the search for my family’s Bpangerang-Gunaikurnai ancestry.

In researching this book, I’ve generated new resources including a complete accurate map of Warlpiri lands in the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts and herbarium samples of rare plants. I’ve ventured over the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts thirty-six times to date. Sometimes with others, but more often alone. I’ve driven four to six days by car, or a week by motorcycle, with the dog on the back. All photographs, drawings, plant pressings, maps and notes were created on Warlpiri lands, in community or outstations–or often in a swag somewhere along a 300km stretches of linear dunes. I’ve built a custom plant-press, carried in the back of a 4×4, large enough to press whole branches of trees. I’ve had a custom roll-cage welded and mounted to the motorcycle so I can bring my dingo-dog Moon, born on Warlpiri lane, with me as security against snakes and other dangers.

Today I know my ancestry is Bpangerang-Gunailurnai– but in 2010, when the Warlpiri befriended me in 2010, I had considered my ancestry lost. Lajamanu community stepped into the gap in my ancestry. I was formally adopted as the Granddaughter of lawman Jerry Jangala and began learning language. Three to four journeys a year since that time, over Warlpiri Country with kirda (owners) and kurdlungulu (police) mean it’s probable I have a greater knowledge of that Country now than any other living non-Warlpiri poet.

Projects generated on Country create logistical challenges for a poet. Having Bpangerang-Gunaikurnai ancestry does not give me licence to write freely about Warlpiri lands. For this book I’ve followed Warlpiri cultural law as closely as possible–even asking lawman Steve Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick to function as kurdlungulu for the project to make sure I don’t overstep. But some transgressions are difficult to guard against, particularly those around kumanjayi laws, restricting naming or depicting those who have passed away. Another significant challenge is presented by the task of writing about a land stained by past massacres and not so past murders. It is no longer possible to speak on Aboriginal land without addressing genocide.

The uniqueness of this project lies in the fact that it has its roots in relationships with Warlpiri people and place, but I am not seeking to relay, document or explain their stories. I am speaking instead of the possibility of new and independent relationships with land, outside cultural inheritance and white colonial guilt. And while these stories were sparked on Country, in conversation with desert people, I am not restating those insights. Instead, I’m speaking of a kind of metanoia, a change of thinking, of seeing, facilitated by land, by relationship with Country. And I’m not hiding behind any kind of security or cultural authority, neither of which I possess, but speaking only as someone who walked out into the desert a decade ago and walked out changed.

Judith Nangala Crispin is a poet and visual artist living on unceded Ngunnawal and Ngambri land, near Lake George in the Southern Tablelands. She has a PhD in music and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Arts in poetry. Judith has written three books, two volumes of poetry and one scholarly book on music that almost nobody has read. She is a full-time artist –a creature rarely seen in the wild, at least in this country– as well as a volunteer firefighter, grandmother and adventure motorcyclist. Judith won the 2020 Blake Prize for a poem written as part of her project at the University of Sydney.


This event will be held online via Zoom only.

Note: The presentations this semester are either ‘Zoom only’ (with no meeting in the Woolley Building) or ‘Woolley Common Room and Zoom’ (which is a live presentation in Woolley that is simultaneously available on Zoom). When we are in Woolley we do encourage you to join us in person if you are well and feel safe to do so. Do bring a mask. If you’d prefer not to be there physically, please attend via Zoom.

Contact: Liam Semler (liam.semler@sydney.edu.au).


English Research Seminars in Semester 1

30 March

Woolley Common Room and Zoom

Judith Nangala Crispin, ‘The Dingo’s Noctuary.’
13 April

Woolley Common Room and Zoom

Robert Bolton, ‘France, England and Rejection in Austin Dobson’s Verse.’


Hannah Roux, ‘“That Way We Shall Remain Human”: C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and the New Humanism (1932-1943).’

11 May

Zoom only

Marc Mierowsky (UMelb), ‘Daniel Defoe on Naturalization.’
18 May

Zoom only

Claire Hansen (ANU) and Bríd Phillips (ECU), ‘“Wilt break my heart?” Manifestations of Broken Heart Syndrome in Shakespeare and Early Modern England.’
25 May

Zoom only


Tom Sykes (University of Portsmouth, UK), ‘Pearl of the Orientalists: Western Writers and Reporters on Manila from the Spanish Colonial Era to the Contemporary “Drug War.”’


Co-hosted by Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and the English Department.

1 June

Woolley Common Room and Zoom

Julia Cooper Clark, ‘Porous Bodies and Fluid Subjectivity in the Poetry of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Natalie Diaz.’
29 June

Woolley Common Room and Zoom

Freya MacDonald, ‘Species extinction, vanishing limbs, Instagram, and Bushfires: an ecocritical reading of existentialism in the Anthropocene in Richard Flanagan’s The Living Sea of Waking Dreams.’


Kira Legaan, ‘The Body and the Page: The Challenge of Adaptation.’


Mar 30 2022


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

More Info

Join via Zoom


Via Zoom

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