Ash-Memory, (M)other Tongues and Spectral Poetics in Erín Moure's The Unmemntioable


  • Toyah Brooke Webb University of Auckland / University of Sydney


This paper presents a critical reading of Canadian poet Erín Moure’s The Unmemntiobale (House of Anansi Press, 2012). I employ a close-reading methodology to situate Moure’s text within its historical and geographical context, namely the Holocaust in western Ukraine. In The Unmemntioable, typographical markings map moments of dissonance where the book’s transhistorical and translingual ghosts interrupt and rub up against one another. This spectral poetics requires an engagement with differential reading forms, to elucidate the voices afloat in each sign. I propose the term ‘ash-memory’ to articulate Moure’s themes of language, violence, and cultural memory. Jacques Derrida’s writings on cinders and the shibboleth provide a further theoretical framework. I conclude that it is the spectral traces of the past that connect the body to place and place to language.


Key words: poetics, Holocaust, Ukraine, ash-memory, cinders, shibboleth, mother tongue

Author Biography

Toyah Brooke Webb, University of Auckland / University of Sydney

Toyah Webb is a Master of Arts student at the University of Sydney. She received her Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours from the University of Auckland. Her latest publications can be found in Whose Futures? (Economic and Social Research Aotearoa, 2020) and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook (Massey University Press, 2021).