Charles Harpur



Reclaimed Land: Australian Urbanisation and Poetry

In the late 1850s, Charles Harpur composed the image of ‘a scanty vine,/ Trailing along some backyard wall’ (‘A Coast View’). It might be forgettable, save for its conspicuousness in Harpur’s bush-obsessed poetry. Whether purple ranges or groaning sea-cliffs, his poems cleave to a more-than-human continent. The scanty vine, however, clings to a different surface: human-made – the craft of a drystone wall, perhaps, or wire strung through posts like the twist of the poetic line – it signals domestic land division. Harpur’s vine of words trails along the vertical edifice of settlement.

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Australian Ecopoetics Past, Present, Future: What Do the Plants Say?

Like the country’s arid interior, contemporary Australian ecopoetics is vast and robust. The expressions of Australian ecopoetry are as varied as the antipodean landscape itself, underscoring the intricate connections between language and ecology in this part of the world. The Mediterranean climate of Western Australia’s southwest corner, the Red Centre of Uluru, the tropical rainforests of Queensland, the temperate Tasmanian old-growth forests and the alpine reaches of the Victorian High Country signify this: rather than a contiguous desert or a terra nullius (as some readers both inside and outside of Australia may still believe), the Australian environment is a mosaic of biota, climates, topographies and regions.

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