SOUTHERN // CROSS
Keywords:digital, sociality, lockdown, poetry
This poem was written for the University of Otago 2020 ‘Writer’ competition, and was awarded first place (Staff Poetry category) by judge Dr. Sue Wootten.
The poem responds to the competition prompt ‘Only Connect…’, which is the epigraph from E. M. Forster’s novel, Howards End (1910). Given this prompt, and given the timing of the competition (shortly after New Zealand’s major national COVID-19 lockdown), I aimed to use poetic language and metaphor to evoke some of the themes of my academic research around embodiment, affect, and intimacy in digital spaces.
The title of the poem refers to the Southern Cross Cable Network; commissioned in 2000 to become one of the major trans-Pacific communications networks, connecting Aotearoa New Zealand to the world, via a total of 28,900km of submarine and 1,600km of terrestrial fiber optic cables. The final line of the poem refers to the first words ever spoken on a telephone, in 1876, by Alexander Graham Bell speaking to his assistant Thomas Watson at a distance of 13 km.