“‘Narratives from Another Creek’: Judith Wright and the Poetics of Water in Australia”

Stephen Harris

Abstract


The recent dramatic evidence that Australia’s largest river system is severely stressed to the point of imminent collapse compels Australians to face the critical challenge of fostering and developing a new way of understanding their relationship to water in Australia, and by extension, the intricately dynamic natural world upon which, or, rather, in and by which, they subsist. The change of preposition reflects the prevailing mentality: that humans hold dominion over the land and its bounty, a persistent presumption of command and control which, in itself, points to the scale of the contest we face—the need to radically change, at the most fundamental level, long-held attitudes towards the earth and its “bounty.” Affronted and alarmed by the degradation of the natural environment in Australia, Judith Wright, renowned poet and environmental activist, challenged prevailing attitudes and practices, finding in and through poetry an effective means of envisioning new forms of awareness. A pioneering environmentalist, Wright’s concerns over the environment align directly with the now-established ecological, eco-feminist and postcolonial critiques. In reading Wright’s poem, “Unknown Water,” this paper offers a reappraisal of her ideas and work as both poet and political activist so that Wright’s “ecopoetics” can be seen as both a guide to, and affirmation of the need for, a celebratory poetics of water in Australia and beyond.

Keywords


Judith Wright; Australian poetry; water politics; ecopiety

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549