Sometimes referred to as ecopoetry, poems that explore various aspects of the natural world can offer readers new perspectives of native wildlife and landscapes, and the way we as humans interact with them. Nature has always been a common theme of Australian poetry; words can describe the unique elements of our country’s environment in ways that other mediums cannot. Plumwood Mountain, the distinguished Australian ecopoetry journal, was named for the mountain from which Val Plumwood, one of our nation’s most renowned ecophilosophers and environmentalists, took her name. It is a publication worth reading for those wanting to learn more about ecopoetic wonderings.
Below, I have included a selection of Australian poets – some well-known, others not – with references to how their work inspires a connection to nature, and a perspective of Australian landscapes and wildlife. It is worth noting that living in such a multicultural nation, it is difficult to truly encapsulate the variety of artists who contribute to Australian poetry scenes. There is an immense diversity of poets who write and publish on the theme of nature, and it would not do to assume that the examples provided here are completely representative of every poetry community. There are so many poets out there to discover and appreciate, and forming a personal taste for certain structure and theme in poetry can be a joy for those just beginning to understand this incredible art form. Take my taste as an example, but by no means limit yourself – there is too much to miss out on if you do.
Formerly known as Kath Walker, Oodgeroo Noonuccal was a poet and political activist. Her poetry collection, We Are Going, was published in 1964 and sold more than 10,000 copies, making her the best-selling Australian poet since C.J. Dennis. Her work highlights the strong relationship between Indigenous people and their country, and the importance of native wildlife and landscapes in their everyday lives and culture. The poem ‘We Are Going’ – the piece the collection was named for – vividly describes the thoughts of Indigenous Australians as their land was being taken from them. Bringing together aspects of Indigenous rights and environmental protection, Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s work has been incredibly influential in the realms of poetry and social justice.
Responsible for producing one of the most renowned and oft-quoted poems in Australian history, ‘My Country’, Dorothea Mackellar and her work represent what many consider to be quintessential bush poetry, typical of many artists of late 19th to early 20th Century Australia. ‘My Country’ was written by a 22-year-old Mackellar whilst she was living in England, pining for the unique beauty of Australia, her home country. Mackellar’s famous piece provided a way for many to express their love of Australia’s unique landscape, and the often inexplicable sentiment that comes with calling Australia home. You can read ‘My Country’ in full as well as more of Mackellar’s works here.