In this series 'critics, essayists, poets, artists and scholars to reflect on nature in the twenty-first century and to grapple with the literary conventions of writing nature. '
'In 2015, Richie Benaud hosted an ‘Australia Day’ barbeque, a pantheon of colonial historical figures on his invite list. Benaud gathered the English navigator, Captain James Cook, who remapped and renamed the east coast of this continent in 1770, and Burke and Wills, whose agonising deaths at Coopers Creek in 1861 were possibly in part the result of them coming to rely on the seeds of an aquatic fern, nardoo (Marsilea drummondii), for nutrition.' (Introduction)
'In some parts of Russia and Finland, a superstition once prevailed in the homes of the wealthy that cockroaches must be allowed to roam indoors and breed. To attract good fortune, newlyweds brought roaches into their houses. It was bad luck to kill the insect, especially by tossing it into a fire. About the same time, during the nineteenth century, in the American state of Maryland, it was believed that illness or death would follow if a cockroach flew into you. Another bad omen: seeing a roach crawl across the threshold of a room.' (Introduction)
Has history another places, we’ll see OK.
— Lionel Fogarty, ‘1788 to the Gates of 2028s’
'My father’s love of snorkelling began at a place called Erewhon. Or perhaps it began with a book. It’s more than sixty years ago now, so details can be hard to pin down.' (Introduction)
'I am on a crowded bus heading into the wilds of China. It’s ten degrees Celsius. The driver is swerving all over the place, seemingly for his own entertainment. I feel more than a little travel-sick. As I stare out the window to steady my stomach, I catch a glimpse of a disturbing scene unfolding by the roadside – a cobra is in the process of swallowing a large toad. The toad’s hind legs hang limply from the snake’s jaws. It is finally too much for me. Overcome with nausea, I throw up all over the shrivelled woman on my right, who has been plucking a live chicken on her lap. She and the bird look at me with disgust.' (Introduction)
'From shell to kernel and kernel to shell: poetry of this guise is not referential toward or unto an external event because the poem itself is an event. Internal meaning plus intrinsic structure: whether much or nothing "happens" in a poem is of secondary concern. If nothing seems to be happening, critics may pay close attention. How extrinsic reversals occur in rhythm and rhythmic concepts of the poem is how outscape moves to outstress.' (Publication abstract)
'The light on Solway Firth is silver, slung low across the water. Although it’s mid-morning, within a few hours the sun will slip beneath the horizon. Accustomed to the wide blue mouth of sky in Australia, I feel as though the earth has tilted. My friends and I scramble over rocks weathered by the wash of tides. I’m wearing thermals, two jumpers, a red beanie and a coat, but the wind flies from the sea through my layers. My teeth clatter. We clamber around a corner, where we can just see Scotland on the other side of the firth. I wonder if Georgiana Molloy, who became Western Australia’s first female scientist, ever stood where I am now before she left England in 1829. Would she have smelled brine sweeping from the sea, her gaze drifting east over the salt marshes green with flat sedge, channels of water running between them? If she lifted her eyes, would she have seen a flock of starlings spiralling?' (Introduction)
'I’m a local now. That’s what they tell me, now that I have someone in the ground. I watched my husband, my father, my brother, and my uncle, brace their feet at the grassy edge of the hole as they lowered my mother’s shrouded body in, straps under her neck, her waist, her knees; a corpse in a snug muslin bag, strewn with roses: the human-animal shape of her clear. She wobbled until she hit bottom, until the clay had her. We sent more roses in after her. Scattered soil on the petals, slowly at first. And then we picked up spades and shovelled it in. And now the same curve of earth that holds my home, holds her. When I sit at my desk to write, she is under the same ground that is beneath my feet. When I lie down in my bed at night, there are no human others between me and her, just forest and grass and rock and sky.' (Introduction)
'I’m walking to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in Sydney’s Domain at high tide, scanning the small bay in Woolloomooloo, as I always do, for fish or stingrays. There’s nothing to see in the flat green water nudging the sandstone cliffs of the tiny beach, or below the sea wall; I can’t even spot the usual mullet nosing around the floating walkways at the marina. A few years ago, I might have assumed the variation in numbers was seasonal, hoping for better luck next time. But since 2016, when the figures started to come through that we have lost around 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife over the last half-century—not only exotic animals but common creatures like giraffes, sparrows, and even insects—it’s hard not to see today’s emptiness as a sign of catastrophic absence.' (Introduction)