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Content From Issue: Volume 7 Number 1 (March 2020)

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Editorial: Plant Poetics

by John Charles Ryan

Human memories of plants are a vital part of the landscape poetry tradition that underlies contemporary ecopoetics. Of course, Wordsworth famously recalled, ‘A host, of golden daffodils’ while Cullen Bryant later celebrated the yellow violet, ‘That made the woods of April bright’. But what would the violet have uttered to Bryant? And about what—or whom—did the daffodil reminisce?

It is a daunting and provocative time to be a phytopoet, one entrained to the cadences of the plant world and committed to botanical justice. Daunting because of the formidable scale of species loss the world over. Provocative because of the rise of vegetal cognition, critical plant studies and other fields transforming how we understand green being-in-the-world. Research, for instance, suggests the plants remember their environments in order to consolidate how they respond to imminent stress. Yet, in other situations, forgetfulness—or what scientists term ‘memory dissipation’—can protect future kin from the negative effects of intergenerational trauma.

It does seem that, in terms of vegetal intelligence, we are steadily drifting away from the domain of metaphor and anthropomorphism. But what does this drift entail? What does it mean to confer such capacities to plants? (And do we even need to make these kinds of human-to-plant transferences in the first place?)

Such questions of relations and ethics have inspired this issue of Plumwood Mountain on ‘plant poetics’. How does knowledge intersect with intuition, sensation and emotion to shape writings about plants? How might poetry trouble the dominant perceptions of flora as beautiful objects, pleasing scenery or exploitable resources? How can we learn to approach the biosphere from an emplanted perspective—one recognising plant wisdom—rather than consigning the botanical to the background?

The notion of ‘plant poetics’ (or ‘phytopoetics’) embraces the ancient grounding of poetry in poiesis—in the creative act of making, becoming, bringing-forth or emerging. The phytopoems compiled in this issue highlight the styles, forms and dispositions that put plants at the front and centre of poetic narratives. With language as the transformative medium, we might thus become more conscious of the shared florescence of plants, places, people and all else that exists.

In this issue, I aim to locate aesthetic responses to plants in relation to diverse conceptions of— and approaches to—the vegetal world. In my prompt for the issue, I pointed to poetry by Rumi, Erasmus Darwin, Jack Davis and Joy Harjo. In this vein, too, are botanically-focused works such as Wendy Burk’s Tree Talks (2016), Elisabeth Bletsoe’s Pharmacopœia (2010), Alice Oswald’s Weeds and Wild Flowers (2009), Pablo Antonio Cuadra’s Seven Trees Against the Dying Light (2007), Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris (1992) and many others from global literary traditions deserving mention. Published last year, Peter Larkin’s Trees Before Abstinent Ground contributes energetically to the idea of phytopoetics. I am pleased to include Larkin’s sequence ‘Given Trees Their Other Side of Nature’. Of note is also the botanical work of John Kinsella in Western Australia; his ‘Scarlet Runner Rhapsody Villanelle [a variation]’ concludes the issue.

The thirty-three poets brought together here address the complexities of plants in engrossing, confronting, experimental and idiosyncratic ways that resonate long after the poems are read. The issue features three commissioned works from Anita Patel, Michelle Cahill and Michelle Cahill. ‘Theories of Crown Shyness’ by Lim, for instance, lyricises the ecological phenomenon invoked in the poem’s title whereby trees create ‘fissures’ in their canopies in order to avoid touching one another and to enable light to penetrate the understory. To these poems are added another 34 from general submissions. As is to be expected, there were many well-crafted poems that I could not accommodate. In addition to the poetry, the issue includes an essay by ecocritic Warwick Mules, ‘Nobody’s Voice’, as well as my own phytopoetic meditation on the stunning yam paintings of Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

The opening poem, Jaime Luis Huenún’s ‘Ceremony of Love’, translated by Cynthia Steele, evokes the Indigenous Mapuche-Huilliche tradition of Chile. Steele’s is one of three translations I have included, the others being Tracy Ryan’s ‘Rose Interior’ from Rilke and Julia Anastasia Pelosi-Thorpe’s ‘Touching each another they think themselves old’ by contemporary Italian poet Maria Borio. Included also is Borio’s Italian original.

Bringing the cultural and botanical into conversation, ‘Ceremony of Love’ reverberates with Huilliche terms like muday—a fermented drink made of macerated wheat—as well as plant names such as hualle, tineo and huinca. Scholar of Latin American literature Steven F. White has described ‘ethnobotanical poetry’ as that which narrativises cultural knowledge of plants. In this mode, Brenda Saunders’ ‘Black boys’ performs the literary and the biocultural at once in its narration of ‘the secret value of Gul-gad-ya’, the Gadigal word for the grass tree (Xanthorrhoea media). Acknowledging that traditional understandings of plants are gifted from generation to generation, Barry McDonald’s ‘Iwerre Atherre/Two Roads’ reminds us crucially that ‘“Plants have their stories too,” Auntie told me, “lots of them”’.

I am intrigued by the range of techniques and strategies adopted by contributors. Several poems invert the human-plant hierarchy with which Western societies have become so comfortable by narrating from a vegetal perspective. Such a deceptively simple move in fact constitutes a powerful means for reimagining relations between plants and people in an era of ecological collapse. In ‘Utterance’ by Basma Kavanagh, ‘we talk in flared flamenco gesture’ while in Carolyn Masel’s ludic ‘Plant Riddle #3’, ‘The little ‘o’ in the capsule / was all that was left of my voice’. Read in conjunction with poems such as ‘feral green marketing’ by Mark Roberts, Masel’s verse also points to the importance of humour, playfulness and parody in our dealings with flora and the worlds through which we pass together. Plants are beautiful, yes, but also quirky, perverse and historically hyper-sexualised.

Other poems celebrate the acoustic registers of plants vis-à-vis their ecologies. This is true of Susan Wardell’s onomatopoeic ‘Three songs to rain, translated by a kōwhai tree’ in which ‘Our thousand sides, wind-twilling, twist will un-tambourine’. Native to New Zealand, the kōwhai tree not only voices itself but also mediates between environmental elements, thus reconfiguring the very notion of translation. An unresolved longing for a common language characterises Magdalena Ball’s ‘Signals in the Wild’. However, it is inevitably the human tongue that is deficient in ‘the ability to detect / volatile compounds in the air’. Ball’s poem provokes us to rethink polylingualism in terms of the languages of plants expressed organically through electrical signals, volatiles, ‘heavy metals / pathogens, gravity, heat’. These poems and others indeed coincide with emerging scientific conceptions and therefore encourage a rapprochement between ways of knowing plants.

How does plant form engender poetic form? The symmetrical, ecosystemic, mirror-like structure of Michael Leach’s ‘West-East’ embodies Warwick Mules’ idea of a poem as a saying in its being seen. In Veronica Fibisan’s ‘Selfheal’, moreover, the layout of the text inscribes the distribution of the plant in the poet’s backyard as determined by a quadrat count, a sampling technique used commonly in the conservation sciences.

Of interest to me as well is the distinction between poems about specific plant kinds and personae in specific locales in comparison to those in which botanical life is apprehended as a whole (as a forest, system, landscape, history, idea). In the first mode, Glen Phillips attends to the wind-buffeted gimlet, Vanessa Page the silky oak and saw-tooth banksia, Catherine Wright the gorge edge-clinging kurrajong, Tracy Ryan the poisonous Herb-Robert and John Kinsella the brooding scarlet runner. By contrast, phenomenological perception of botanical wholes is explored meticulously by Stuart Cooke in lines like ‘Slowly, the forest expands into leaf-cumulus’ and in Kristen Lang’s narrative where ‘the twigs of the trees – stirrup  anvil  hammer – / feed their palms, their green tips, their breath’.

There are also those narratives that bring human-plant sensory entanglements to prominence. The sinuous composition of Ron Wilkins’ ‘Niche’ evokes the phenomenon of geotropism with which the speaker grapples. As studies suggest, plants are not merely the objects of our senses but exercise their own sensory faculties in negotiating particular ecological niches. The concluding image of a bean in the speaker’s mouth coalesces the human-plant interdependencies that are based in sensation, olfaction and gustation.

On a final note, I want to mention a cluster of four poems towards the middle of the issue—Brenda Saunders’ ‘Black boys’, Michelle Cahill’s ‘Le deuil, …. or what the Spinifex tells Orpheus’, Sophie Finlay’s ‘Floral Organs (A history of fire)’ and Jane Gibian’s ‘restless’—that prompts us to bear in mind the devastating impacts of the 2019–20 bushfire season on the human and more-than-human communities of Australia.

My sincere thanks to Anne Elvey, all the contributors and the journal’s supporters, as well as the University of New England and Southern Cross University, for making possible the publication of this issue of Plumwood Mountain on plant poetics.

Published: March 2020
John Charles Ryan

is Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Arts and Humanities at Southern Cross University. His interests include ecopoetics, critical plant studies and the environmental humanities. His poetry collection Seeing Trees: A Poetic Arboretum, co-authored with Glen Phillips, is forthcoming with Pinyon Publishing. In 2020, he will be Writer-in-Residence at Oak Spring Garden Foundation and Visiting Scholar at University of 17 Agustus 1945 in Surabaya, Indonesia.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Theories of Crown Shyness

by Debbie Lim

There are theories why we should not touch. They say

abrasion, sunlight, infestation — and we nod like sages,


our mouths full of leaves. Only in storms do we bend,

pendulous, sway cheek-to-cheek. Our aching arms


are bark-flensed, twig-lashed, their bashful growing tips

briefly forgotten. Sometimes a passion stirs within —


ticking beetle, petiole, rising sap. My anthers (they tell me)

are dorsifixed and dehiscing. To be direct, I am afraid


daily of the insect pilgrimage, the caravan of devastation

a single trespass brings. All summer long I grew tall


in heat and haze, lulled by your ether’s proximity.

Have you noticed lately all the ash? These mornings,


I wake frequently covered in dust. Yet remember that

other life when we lay on the forest floor, stippled,


dripping silence? Had we looked up, we’d have seen

how the canopies almost touched: their edges a jigsaw


of perfected cracks, sentenced in light.

Crown shyness: A naturally occurring phenomenon where trees of certain species grow such that they avoid touching, forming channel-like ‘cracks’ between their canopies.

Published: March 2020
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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Le deuil, …. or what the Spinifex tells Orpheus

by Michelle Cahill

Wild one, whipped by this southerly the marram grass burns, and I whisper

a ghostly sigh, too late

seed heads held in spiral flight, tumbling across acres of sands,

trusting the wind

to land

See, the xanthorrhoea charred after spot fires, the tide eructs its floating

embers, knee deep, in Hades

fire rinsed, waves splintering, scattering, boring out of fizzed driftwoods

the maze of a trail

going nowhere …


Ropes of marram grass thrash tongues, lunge in the briny air, and I am licking

the river’s skin, dry as Eurydice

tasting charcoal, strewn as black confetti, crimped, veined, simmered

whole trees taken out by the swell

a dark silk of memory, a counter being  –


So afternoon hurtles, impossibly, the marram self-immolates, chokes on eddies

turning, ill-timed as Orpheus

to our myth of technopoly, consumption, energy, of the gouged dunes

a very swollen heart, a wallaby

limping its way through dusk

Published: March 2020
Michelle Cahill

is an Australian novelist and  poet who lives in Sydney. Her poems have appeared in Meanjin, Southerly, The London Magazine, The Weekend Australian, The Kenyon Review, and The Forward Book of Poetry, 2018. The Herring Lass (Arc, UK) shortlisted in the Helen Anne Bell Poetry Prize. @theherringlass

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics


by Marybeth Hollemann


like rapunzel’s

cascades of blossom

(oh you’re just a legume!)

winding twining tightrope

walking (jesus)

across placid-eyed stream you

speak in flow



the spaces between

each                 word

as if to taste


its sweet nectar

before another word



(the how, now the what)

no trivialities. there are

no trivialities.

everything matters.

what i do, i do with my heart.

all of it.

there is nothing that does not matter.

each note

each bird.

that frog’s three croaks.

the trout just now touching

the surface:

see how the water dimples,

ripples, changes course?

petals falling from the tree,

crumbling Appian bridge,

and clematis, white,

billowing against the




time, says wisteria,

does not exist

Marybeth Hollemann


Giardino di Ninfa

Published: March 2020
Marybeth Hollemann

is author of The Heart of the Sound and Among Wolves, among others. Pushcart-prize nominee, she’s published in venues including Orion, Sierra, North American Review, ISLE/OUP, The Future of Nature, and on NPR. Raised in North Carolina’s Smokies, she transplanted to Alaska’s Chugach mountains.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics


by Michael Leach

Luscious                  Beautiful

blushing spider orchids                   kangaroo apples.          

  (Caladenia lorea)                   (Solanum aviculare)

 spread leggy pink petals                    bear purple flowers & red-

             on a Western Australian                    orange fruit amidst this east coast

sandplain.                   rainforest.


  Bristling                   Flamboyant

red toothbrushes                    firewheel trees. 

(Grevillea hookeriana)                   (Stenocarpus sinuatus)

    brush passers-by                   boast scarlet spokes

     in the depths of a dry                   in the heart of the humid

summer.                   tropics.   


Upstanding                     Elegant.            

scarlet banksias                     bleeding-heart trees

      (Banksia coccinea)                     (Homalanthus populifolius)

raise up squat, cylindrical                      warmly welcome weekend.    

pincushions in a native                      visitors in a native.               

backyard.                     front yard.      


Hardy                    Hardy        

tubada plants                    burrawang plants.

(Melaleuca phonicea)                    (Macrozamia communis).    

grow green-blue leaves & red-                    grow green fern-like leaves.            

   purple bottlebrush flowers                     & cantaloupe-coloured, pineapple-

           beside this west coast                     shaped cones amidst this east coast

watercourse.                    rainforest.             


Fiery                     A rosy        

lemon-scented myrtle                     Sydney rose                         

responding to its                    responding to its            

botanical name – Darwinia                     botanical name – Boronia                

citriodora – is just as lemony                    serrulata – is just as sweet.                

and significantly more                     and dramatically more             

taxonomic.                     taxonomic.            


The red-and-green kangaroo paw                     The New South Wales waratah                 

(Anigozanthos manglesii)                     (Telopea speciosissima)                

is blossoming with long, curved                     is blossoming with a fluoro red              

mammalian fingers, its morphology                     flower arrangement, its morphology            

singularly spectacular                      singularly spectacular             


& emblematic.          

Published: March 2020
Michael Leach

is Bendigo-based poet, statistician, and researcher who enjoys combining science with art. His poems have appeared in Cordite, Meniscus, the Medical Journal of Australia, the Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, New Shoots Garden of Poems, and elsewhere. Michael’s debut poetry collection – a chapbook – is forthcoming from Melbourne Poets Union.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Waraburra and Wattle

by Anita Patel

How the waraburra presses its passionate purple

purpose against the wattle’s golden blaze—

whispering darkly into all that yellowness…

How it twines its pea-petalled tendrils through fragrant

inflorescence, twisting and turning in the downy sweetness

of those steady arms…

and the acacia bending slightly—yields her bright branches

to the ardent knot and tangle of this demanding wanderer…


Waraburra is the Aboriginal name for Hardenbergia violacea also known as Happy Wanderer. It derives from the Dharug and D’harawal languages of the Wa’ran (Sydney) region. (

Published: March 2020
Anita Patel

Anita Patel’s collection of poetry, A Common Garment (Recent Work Press), was published in 2019. Her poem ‘Women’s Talk’ won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004 and her poetry was selected for and published in Australian Book Review’s States of Poetry ACT, 2018. She was the guest editor for Issue 2 of Not Very Quiet Journal.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

The Trees

by Stuart Cooke

are probably the largest selves in the forest


but they are also the most obvious:

forthright, upright, they accord immediately

with the human vertical; as they grow

they wrinkle;

when cut, they bleed.

They could be frozen versions

of our ideal selves: grander,

slower, wiser.


Look at them gathered, their patient multitudes.

Beneath tinnitus, beneath breathing,

their song’s a dark web through the earth.

The highway whines; the trees dispel, gently as sunset.


You can walk among them, you can touch

or talk to them, they won’t run.

Some you can even climb, but others

will tremble with your weight—then,

as their limbs give way, the sound’s

of frozen muscle ripped apart.


Slowly they slip behind each other.

Slowly, the forest folds and unfolds.


Knowledge congealed again and

again into the singular.


Can you see their stripes? Gnarled ridges of space,

wound cables of time.

They yearn for the steps to Being.

Their greatest, collective achievement: the shape of gravity.

‘Commitment’ is meaningless: they might waver, but they’d sooner die than depart.


Reaching, shedding their becoming,

climbing the tower of Being.


Slowly, the forest expands into leaf-cumulus;

in its crannies and billows it creates universes.

Here are the trees, guardians of dimensions.


Through the crystal lattice of time, light cracks.

Published: March 2020
Stuart Cooke

Stuart Cooke’s latest poetry collection is Lyre (UWAP, 2019). In early 2020 he was the BR Whiting Fellow in Rome, Italy. He lectures in creative writing and literary studies at Griffith University.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics


by Basma Kavanagh

with long felted throats but lacking tongues,

we talk in flared flamenco gesture,

the swirl of spun-skirts that flounce

to the syncopated claps of poplar leaves.

speech is for animals. we dance, mine meaning

and secret, flex ruffled flesh to test

coiled tendrils of air. we raise black wings

and flap, stamp damp leaves, shiver tempo

down to listening roots, the rapt hyphae,

delve into the seeping cracks between realms.

we twirl in slow motion, snap

with electricity, whip spores over acres

of thrumming forest, deliver our fierce piece

with pieces of ourselves.

Published: March 2020
Basma Kavanagh

is a poet, visual artist, and letterpress printer who lives and works in Nova Scotia, in Mi’kma’ki. She has published two collections of poetry, Distillō (Gaspereau, 2012), and Niche (Frontenac, 2015), and a book-length poem, Ruba’iyat for the Time of Apricots (Frontenac 2018).

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Three songs to rain, translated by a kōwhai tree

by Susan Wardell



Our thousand sides, wind-twilling, twist will un-tambourine

the sun-press, sky-willing, with whissssh

to shushle your air-roaring, cloud crickle, pick up the fierce

passing, rasp-dancing our free slim hustle

wind-rub on web tendrils and the world rolls, word-hushhhh, we roar

the fixed measure of storm shoulder, un-set the sung-form of low waters

and the wet soles of our many tongues and curl of under-youngs

will whet their whistles, as air thick ushle gives over, whole willing





De-rip, and pling, we flow-over, and upside send, down

one shot after another, the fine art, of plim and maid in water-ring

gloss-shine, the sleek rind of the welcome-ing, our wax

too full to sip, sheds water-skin to let fall up and ripple

the circle-arts of earth pools, one after another, sing, sing to over

flowing, flaw-less run, the excess free for silver-ing





Under, erred our earth-eyes blind and finger-deep death truly

mother limb lies down to un-beget, her edges umber to the eek, as were

our own un-learning to touch, her dark

undoes all the mouths own ends be-neath, oh wet

the grown down tender, rills to break our own knot, knot

un-making in soft tremble, in in-stilling rumble, rough rush o’er

the rich be-drawing, come come sluice

of glisten-dark, spore-hustle, and mush-hungry

coo the death death woodly, rebegin

Published: March 2020
Susan Wardell

is from Dunedin, New Zealand, where she lectures in Social Anthropology, while raising two small humans and a modest indoor jungle. Her poetry has been published in a variety of journals throughout Australasia. In 2019 she placed second in the NZPS International Poetry Competition, and first in the International ‘Micro-madness’ competition.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

The spin of leaves

by Kristen Lang

1. shade

under tree fern – this light, hairy hide, neck of a grass-eater

reaching with its beard of moss and filmy ferns, how it

sways, wobbles under her palm, as wide

as her body, in the lively air – leaf glow

under sassafras, the greening of the sun, canopy

of lime, wrapped roots, mottled bones,

wind lending the girl all

of their fingers – fronds under branch


2. mountain

old gums thin     as saplings,    crammed

with mountain wind,     all-this-place

in their arms,     in root-stone and air-bark,

in the leaf-light, all     their skins, their greens

and pinks and browns,      made of silver


3. song

the twigs of the trees – stirrup  anvil  hammer

feed their palms, their green tips, their breath – we try but

cannot mimic them – into the sounds

of the light’s chorus


4. of an age

down the mid-trunk, how the bark and wood curls

in and apart, like lips, the mouth

opening, the old, old tongues breaking into buried

psalms, into rot, into hollows – possum nest,

bird home – the tree turning its core

into a part of the weather…   caw, says the raven

caw   caw, then silence, beak

in the crumbling, through the soft-bodied grubs


5. spent

all gap now   yearning     desertsoil andtoomuch     sky        greensong

stripped and broken       inhispalm     myrtle burl     step and   step

the coupe   deepcut     this     branchthis    trunk discarded      inhis

palm  he can sell     saladspoons    letterholders


6. tree talk

the woman   straying into the forest feels her feet

on the roots and soil like wings    in air currents    the trees

handing her one to the other   brushed   airy

in their whispers

the child is branch   slotted

into this    trunk like    clay joined

as an afterthought      child’s

talk    in the breeze

leaf-cry       eyes that are

pieces of sky


7. door jamb

the shrub’s tips and branch stubs bashed, whipped on the gum’s

heavy trunk – wind scars, tender on the thick-haired bark, the shrub

wiry in its count of storms… wrapped in the tree’s circles


8 lingering

in the crowd of the forest there are gums

white against the sky, not dead but

clinging – this one branch dripping emerald,

new wood nudged around the old,

greens and smears of red leaching

from a tendril of root,

earth-soaked, the sky, again,

through the dust of stones

Published: March 2020
Kristen Lang

Kristen Lang’s The Weight of Light (Five Islands Press) and SkinNotes (Walleah Press) were published in 2017. She won the ACU Poetry Prize in 2015 and was short-listed for the 2019 Dorothy Hewett Award. The Weight of Light was longlisted for the 2019 Margaret Scott Prize.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

summer time

by Tim Heffernan

(for samar)



there is a retirement expo

at kembla grange


but only yesterday

i learned that you had gone

too far


in my garden

are some plants i am trying

to keep alive


i thought the native pea

was dead in its pot

but there are a few


new shoots

and the transplanted

tree fern still has


promise in an

uncurling frond

i am sorry that


i could not


your watering

Published: March 2020
Tim Heffernan

was awarded the 2016 joanne burns prize for his prose poem ‘barunga conversations’ and shortlisted in 2015 for ‘butterflies in iraq’. He is co-editor of Verity La’s, ‘Clozapine Clinic – The Frater Project.’ Tim has enjoyed exploring ‘mad poetry’ both in print and as spoken word at recent Queensland and Wollongong Writers Festivals.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics


by Veronica Fibisan


Stages and rationale of Selfheal


The layout of the text corresponds to the distribution of selfheal, Prunella vulgaris in a quadrat count in my back garden in Sheffield. Most gardens in this city are still laid to lawn, despite it not being the most effective way to encourage wildlife. Selfheal can be a common sight amongst the grass blades, particularly on low-mowed lawns, where it can form carpets.

I conducted a quadrat count in a random section in my garden (0.5 x 0.5m) of the selfheal plant population with particular emphasis on the pattern within each of the squares in the quadrat. Due to the compact nature of the carpet, the basal rosettes were included in the pattern recordings. The data collected was added to a digital table, and after several stages the text was added to the cells to match the distribution of selfheal to the letter in the area surveyed.

Prunella vulgaris can be considered an invasive species despite its qualities, both aspects being explored in my poem. The riddle of reading the broken-up text mirrors the process of the quadrat count, during which particular attention was paid to the placement of individual specimens in order to establish the pattern with the greatest accuracy.


Published: March 2020
Veronica Fibisan

is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Sheffield and ASLE-UKI Postgraduate Representative. Her areas of interest include ecocriticism, ecofeminism, coastal radical landscape poetry and blue humanities. Her research is a practice-based creative and critical project that focuses on key locations on the UK shoreline. She has published poetry notably in The Sheffield Anthology (Smith/ Doorstop, 2012), Cast: The Poetry Business Book of New Contemporary Poets (Smith/ Doorstop, 2014), Plumwood Mountain Journal (4.1), the Wretched Strangers Anthology (Boiler House Press, 2018), and PAN (2019).

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics


by Jane Gibian

from nowhere                               oversized leaves shoot

roundness against charred ground                     coal-black


that blackness                a ceremonial mourning for the death


of the glacier                 a dark patch of density

like ground glass            in the lungs


a day warms, loosens                            plaits untwisting

around the shoulders


almost hand-sized                    leaves of lucid green

emerge            from burnt trunks


sandpaper on one side             the other velutinous

claret shine of miniature shoots

amongst monsters


enlarged:           daylight, termite mound, birdsong


compressed:                coolness, moisture, twilight


plants gather clues

that augur combat


the day warms, loosens


disappearing                            in the restless mosaic

of eucalypt canopy


each leaf extant

holding fast

Published: March 2020
Jane Gibian

is a poet and librarian whose work has been anthologised most recently in Contemporary Australian Poetry (Puncher and Wattman) and Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry (Hunter). Her publications include tidemark (Vagabond Press Rare Object series) and Ardent (Giramondo). In 2020 she will be undertaking a Varuna Residency Fellowship.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Scarlet Runner Rhapsody Villanelle [a variation]

by John Kinsella

We wait for the storm, constraining our moods,

those unnameable clouds’ inspissation over the hills

while in the darkening valley Scarlet Runner buds.


We have always used ‘the weather’ to shape our forms,

extracting plasma in our star-gazing parallax seasonals,

so we wait for the storm, constraining our moods.


As kids we skirted the dry places and followed

tendrils of ‘Running Postman’ as it delivered redwax seals,

while in the darkening valley Scarlet Runner buds.


And while such a cold-low plant will warm in its seed-memory of flame,

auguries of cellulose and sap, linalool and ocimene, pigment-wink survival,

and so we wait for the storm, restraining our moods.


All these plant connotations of behaviour and words,

all the reforms and plots of restoration held prostrate as squalls

entangle the darkening valley and Scarlet Runner blooms.


These snaps of insight these visages knowing how to reform

and attract, to defy and not deify narratives of quietus and Fall;

we wait for the storm, constraining our moods,

while in the darkening valley scarlet runner broods.

Published: March 2020
John Kinsella

John Kinsella’s most recent works include the poetry volumes Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) and Open Door (UWAP, 2018), the story collections Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge 2015) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017), and the critical volume Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017).  He often works in collaboration with other poets, artists, musicians, and activists. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University, Western Australia. He lives on Ballardong Noongar land at Jam Tree Gully in the Western Australian wheatbelt, and has also lived in the USA, UK and Ireland.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Quaking Aspens, Utah

by Penelope Layland

Whispers lap, layered as a waterfall

even in breeze so low it can scarcely be called so,

rising to ring out in higher winds like

the clash of minted coins falling.


We have come to lie at feet that are not feet

any more than branches are limbs

—but we can only call things by words we know,

and what grows below the skin of earth

is below our thinking,

as what goes on inside our lying skin

is below an aspen’s thinking, I think.


The whispers we have come to hear

say nothing— are just fancies, like those breakers

that crash from an empty conch.

The aspen’s whispers are simply, strictly,

struck by the wind’s thumb that is not a thumb

—and say nothing.


What sense is spoken is spoken underground—

along shallow, sunless roots that reach and knit

and where coded messages run—

the monologue of a monstrous clone

communing with its forty thousand selves,

each saying what is already known,

laid down in its horny fossil of memory


—how to embrace stasis before snow

then how to wake again— and speaking

as a heart speaks with a head on matters more immediate:

where to sucker next; what ageing self to sacrifice;

where pine and goat and fire have encroached;

on which hillside sun will shine.

Published: March 2020
Penelope Layland

Penelope Layland’s most recent book, Things I’ve thought to tell you since I saw you last (Recent Work Press 2018) won an ACT Writing and Publishing Award and was shortlisted for both the Kenneth Slessor Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and the ACT Book of the Year.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Poetry of a Bottlebrush

by EA Gleeson

Come October. The bright flush

streaks nature strips. Vivid blobs

dot neighbourhoods. Dazzling blooms

take me back thirty years to you,

harnessed in your pusher, face upturned,

eyes focussed on streets of flitting trees,

branches buzzing, oozing pollen, dripping

clusters of red, bright as blood.


Grabbing at a branch, you held

the filaments of colour so gently

it might have been a small creature.

Stamens stroked your palm, brushed

your cheek. A red bottlebrush

calling us to witness – a callistemon

and a child demonstrating the value

of show don’t tell.

Published: March 2020
EA Gleeson

is currently working on two projects: a poetry collection based on the experience of Estonian people during WWII and a memoir of her sister. She has published three collections of poetry with Interactive Press and presented her work in Ireland, Estonia, the USA and most states of Australia.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Plant Riddle #3

by Carolyn Masel

They told us all about the insect

who will come when the time is ripe;

every night I dream of him – his magic feet

on the anther, his tongue tickling the pistil.

But no insect came for me. I felt

a little off, a little too warm and dry,

oh, I was parched –

and I could tell I was out of shape

when suddenly my cap burst off

and spores flew out so fast

they made a vacuum and a tiny mushroom cloud.

Oh, they were higher and faster than mushrooms’,

and the wind carried them away like a stork.

Talk to me in Latin, baby! I wanted to say

to myself. But I could not speak.

The little ‘o’ in the capsule

was all that was left of my voice.

Published: March 2020
Carolyn Masel

is a Melbourne poet. Her first chapbook, A Book of Hours, imagines the voices of some of inhabitants of inner Melbourne (Ginninderra Press, 2017), and her first full-length collection, Moorings, includes poems about social issues as well as autobiographical subjects (Ginninderra Press, 2019).

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Orchidaceaen Footholds

by Ben Walter




pencil shy faces on your buds,

these sweet small rosellas envy

fertile pods bound to the dirt;

blue and purple hair

with your freckles

and magnified names.


sleep through the night till

a steel wedge of sunlight

bares your bloom.






watchmakers, bird watchers,

dainty care to wings and bill,

keel and feet; a dry flock

of tiny paintings twitching

in the breeze.


metronomes of flight,

our applause finds no

echoes in wingbeats;

sing now silence

in the gasping gust.






such bristled wisdom;

this second birth founds

a face brimming with rings.

your mauve strands

(blotting senses)

see me clearly:

i am a toddler

fondling fur.






quiet midge with thread legs,

when the season sinks

your focus blurs, slapped

between hands and

crumpled in the air.






flowers, just flowers,

with two vain petals

adjusted like minutes;


whose presumption swells?

blossom, can I see

in you the earth?

Published: March 2020
Ben Walter

Ben Walter’s poetry, essays and short stories have appeared in Literary Hub, Meanjin, Overland and a wide variety of other publications. He is the fiction editor at Island magazine.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

One to a Vase

by Peter Ramm

Dahlias are shown three to a vase, except Show Dahlias, which are shown one to a vase.

A vase is any bottle or container suitable for showing Dahlias.

– Show guide for Cut Flower exhibitors


The wind blows away our footprints

– Charles Wright

My roots are a bone river system run dry,

Like an addict’s curse a thousand fingers

Lust for potash and manure, for a phosphorus

Opioid and leaves for caffeinated morning

Rays. I rise for you in the fleeting shade;

In those early breaths, when sparrows tip toe

Over westerlies. In the low light sins

Are easier to forgive and the lines

Of your face descend like rain down the shears.

Forget the lime-sulphur bruises you left,

We’re best in the clammy dawn when gardeners

Hunt the rows—ambition full in their eyes.

Buds litter the ground like plump grenades—

An innocent libation for Flora.

I ascend with petal tea-cups for the dew,

Florets painting a lilac azulejo.

Love formed in the centre and waited on the wind—

A pollen blush for the touch of time.

I remember when I was pared from mother

And planted with eyes to the sun. Outgrown,

Those sodden days fell into summer

And I wept as Icarus burned the sky—

non est ad astra mollis e terris via

How children never fully know their father.

There’s a coarseness to gloved hands and the broken

Knowledge of cut stems. When cell walls collapse

And I am no longer part of myself.

The display benches are a garden

of refugees—a hundred sunsets bound

like crucifixes along the Appian Way.

Published: March 2020
Peter Ramm

is a poet and gardener from Robertson in NSW. He has recently published poems with Eureka Street and the Red Room Company. As an emerging poet, Peter won the Red Room Company’s 2017 and 2019 Poetry Object competitions and was Highly Commended in the Henry Lawson Memorial and Literary Society competition. He finds inspiration in the landscape and people of South Eastern NSW.

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From: Vol.07 N.01 – Plant Poetics

Signals in the Wild

by Magdalena Ball

There was a running track inside

a guitar riff. It felt almost warm

too warm, flowing through

strained synapsis

forcing me out of my room.


I couldn’t become what I wanted

my body plump with humanity

not in a good way.


I was trying to listen

these big stupid ears

trained on the Kikuyu, the Ghost Gums

creaking, cracking ominously

a sound they never wanted to hear.


It wasn’t just the trees

speaking non words

showing off thorns, vibrating

waiting for the roar of fire

a wall of it, moving closer

the air was smoky.


Back when we kept bees

it was way of talking

not just the buzz

the way they inhabited one tree

sending out the alarm, a sudden increase

of sound, a warning scent

acetate, pheromones, the sharp sweet

sting of it, saying stop

back away now.


They were trying to communicate

in ultrasonic, long range frequencies

the danger coming

a drought alarm.


When it came, too late

we were not just blind

but also lacking

electrical signals

temperature sensors, the ability to detect

volatile compounds in the air

heavy metals

pathogens, gravity, heat.

Published: March 2020
Magdalena Ball

is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and is Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader.  She has been widely published in journals and anthologies and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, most recently High Wire Step (Flying Island), and Unreliable Narratives (Girls on Key).

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.