Positioned within current ecocritical scholarship, this volume is the first book-length study of the representations of plants in contemporary American, English, and Australian poetry. Through readings of botanically-minded writers including Les Murray, Louise Gluck, and Alice Oswald, it addresses the relationship between language and the subjectivity, agency, sentience, consciousness, and intelligence of vegetal life. Scientific, philosophical, and literary frameworks enable the author to develop an interdisciplinary approach to examining the role of plants in poetry. Drawing from recent plant science and contributing to the exciting new field of critical plant studies, the author develops a methodology he calls "botanical criticism" that aims to redress the lack of emphasis on plant life in studies of poetry. As a subset of ecocriticism, botanical criticism investigates how poets engage with plants literally and figuratively, materially and symbolically, in their works.
Key themes covered in Plants in Contemporary Poetry include plants as invasives and weeds in human settings; as sources of physical and spiritual nourishment; as signifiers of region, home, and identity; as objects of aesthetics and objectivism; and, crucially, as beings with their own perspectives, voices, and modes of dialogue. Ryan demonstrates that poetic imagination is as essential as scientific rationality to elucidating and appreciating the mysteries of plant-being. Plants in Contemporary Poetry will appeal to a multidisciplinary readership in the fields of ecocriticism, ecopoetry, environmental humanities, and ecocultural studies, and will be of interest to researchers in the emerging area of critical plant studies.
Chapter 1. Introduction: The Botanical Imagination
Chapter 2. Sacred Ecologies of Plants: The Vegetative Soul in Les Murray’s Poetry
Chapter 3. That Porous Line: Mary Oliver and the Intercorporeality of the Vegetal Body
Chapter 4. It Healeth Inward Wounds: Bioempathic Emplacement and the Radical Vegetal Poetics of Elisabeth Bletsoe
Chapter 5. From Stinking Goose-foot to Bastard Toadflax: Botanical Humor in Alice Oswald’s Weeds and Wild Flowers
Chapter 6. Consciousness Buried in Earth: Vegetal Memory in Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris
Chapter 7. That Seed Sets Time Ablaze: Judith Wright and the Temporality of Plants
Chapter 8. On the Death of Plants: John Kinsella’s Radical Pastoralism and the Weight of Botanical Melancholia
Chapter 9. Every Leaf Imagined With Us: Vegetal Hope and the Love of Flora in Joy Harjo’s Poetry
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John Charles Ryan is a poet and scholar who holds appointments as Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Arts at the University of New England in Australia and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Western Australia. His teaching and research cross between the environmental and digital humanities. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of several research books, including the Bloomsbury title Digital Arts (2014, as co-author), The Language of Plants (University of Minnesota Press, 2017, as co-editor and contributor), and Southeast Asian Ecocriticism (Lexington Books, 2017, as editor and contributor). His poetry works include Katoomba Incantation (Cyberwit, 2011), Two With Nature (Fremantle Press, 2012) and No Requiem for the Forest (Hallowell Press, 2018).