‘What would happen if Nature was given the chance to speak? How gentle would she really be?’ Sophie Finlay Interviews Megan Kaminski

By and | 1 February 2021

SF: Can you elaborate on some of the other projects you have been involved with such as field work in animal and plant studies, and how you have spent time with our Australian community of writers and artists?

MK: I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about plant and animal studies, and other texts around embodiment and experience in philosophy, botany, and history – as well as reading a whole ton of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in thinking towards my current projects. But I also do a lot of field work. There’s so much that we learn by encountering others, and in the case of my current project, more-than-human persons, face-to-face. I’m currently working on the Prairie Divination Deck, a collaborative project with Lesley Ann Wheeler that turns to the plants, animals, and geological features of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem as a source for knowledge and inspiration as to how to live in the world (and to re-align thinking towards kinship and sustainability). That project has involved many walks in the prairie, conversations with ethnobotanists, as well as getting to know prairie plants more closely through tending to them in my garden – I spent so much time out this past month talking with the asters and the bees and other pollinators that came to visit them!

My current book project, Withness, focuses on environmental crisis and our capacities for endurance, adaptation, and connection. That project explores interspecies alliances as the basis for an ethics of mutual understanding and care – and my research and writing towards it was jumpstarted by a visit to Australia two years ago. I was in Melbourne to present at the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Conference, and I stayed around after to explore Victoria a bit. My friend Ann Vickery, a wonderful Australian poet and scholar, took me for a visit to Wilsons Promontory. My interactions with a wombat there, in conversation with Ann’s son Ben, as well as an extended encounter with Ollie, an Eclectus parrot at the Healesville Animal Sanctuary, helped to make connections between theoretical concepts and my own embodied experience of interacting with animals as non-human persons. I’m interested in my poems serving as points of encounter that encourage further engagement with the more-than-human inhabitants (plants and animals) with which we share our lives. I’m interested in possibilities for future engagement and connection with others that come out of a deep listening, seeing, and being with – and perspectives that expand and complicate of our notions of the individual self. And, of course, I got to attend poetry readings and hang out with poets, too! In addition to Ann and Matthew Hall, who are old friends, I enjoyed beautiful poems from and conversations with Jill Jones, Rae White, Michael Farrell, and Melinda Bufton.

SF: It has been delightful to hear about your field projects within the ecosystem of the prairie, as well as your interaction with the wombat of Wilsons Promontory! Thank you for such an illuminating discussion of Gentlewomen and the poetic theory and practices informing your work. I take away with me words from your gentle poem ‘Instructions (how to hold the world)’ by carrying ‘one heart in another and another’, instructions I will endeavor to bring to my own practice. Thank you, Megan it’s been a true pleasure talking to you.

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