Positioned within current ecocritical scholarship, this volume is the first book-length study of the representations of plants in contemporary American, English, and Australian poetry. Through readings of botanically-minded writers including Les Murray, Louise Glück, and Alice Oswald, it addresses the relationship between language and the subjectivity, agency, sentience, consciousness, and intelligence of vegetal life. Scientific, philosophical, and literary frameworks enable the author to develop an interdisciplinary approach to examining the role of plants in poetry. Drawing from recent plant science and contributing to the exciting new field of critical plant studies, the author develops a methodology he calls "botanical criticism" that aims to redress the lack of emphasis on plant life in studies of poetry. As a subset of ecocriticism, botanical criticism investigates how poets engage with plants literally and figuratively, materially and symbolically, in their works. Key themes covered in this volume include plants as invasives and weeds in human settings; as sources of physical and spiritual nourishment; as signifiers of region, home, and identity; as objects of aesthetics and objectivism; and, crucially, as beings with their own perspectives, voices, and modes of dialogue. Ryan demonstrates that poetic imagination is as essential as scientific rationality to elucidating and appreciating the mysteries of plant-being. This book will appeal to a multidisciplinary readership in the fields of ecocriticism, ecopoetry, environmental humanities, and ecocultural studies, and will be of interest to researchers in the emerging area of critical plant studies.

chapter 1|26 pages


The Botanical Imagination

chapter 2|26 pages

Sacred Ecologies of Plants

The Vegetative Soul in Les Murray’s Poetry

chapter 3|28 pages

That Porous Line

Mary Oliver and the Intercorporeality of the Vegetal Body

chapter 4|26 pages

It Healeth Inward Wounds

Bioempathic Emplacement and the Radical Vegetal Poetics of Elisabeth Bletsoe

chapter 5|27 pages

From Stinking Goose-foot to Bastard Toadflax

Botanical Humor in Alice Oswald’s Weeds and Wild Flowers

chapter 6|28 pages

Consciousness Buried in Earth

Vegetal Memory in Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris

chapter 7|27 pages

That Seed Sets Time Ablaze

Judith Wright and the Temporality of Plants

chapter 8|24 pages

On the Death of Plants

John Kinsella’s Radical Pastoralism and the Weight of Botanical Melancholia

chapter 9|27 pages

Every Leaf Imagined With Us

Vegetal Hope and the Love of Flora in Joy Harjo’s Poetry