Not strictly a review of Robert Macfarlane’s new and invigorating book Underland – more an essay on differences between nature writing in different places and societies; and on writing in the Anthropocene. Read in Sydney Review of Books
Interview with Sydney painter McLean Edwards talking about his work … Artist Profile Issue 47
McLean Edwards said to writer Saskia Beudel, as they spoke in his studio, ‘We should be fearsome, us artists and writers. People should tremble when we enter the room.’ Few painters can claim to be an inspiration to their generation as Edwards can. (Kon Gouriotis)
Excited to receive this book in the mail – it includes my chapter on writer-activist Rachel Carson and her thoughts on science, wonder and activism.
‘This wonderful collection testifies to the ever-expanding transnational reach of environmental literature and other arts. The editors have compiled a vital volume of ecocritical thought, as their book brings into conversation an exciting array of new texts and new conceptual approaches.’ – Rob Nixon, Princeton University, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
‘This new anthology offers a brilliantly varied and international spectrum of perspectives on the overlapping concerns of ecocriticism and environmental communication, two areas of study that should have long been connected, but have rarely been considered together. A must-read for anyone interested in environmental storytelling and image-making, from news coverage to nonfiction, fiction, and film, and a gateway to exciting new paths of research in environmental expression and communication.’ – Usual K. Heise, UCLA, author of Imagining Extinction
It was a real pleasure to write this profile and to meet Amanda Marburg in her Hanging Rock studio. Many thanks to Kon Gouriotis for commissioning the essay. Amanda uses an intriguing working method – she models scenes and figures in plasticine, creating them in a deliberately clumsy style so they run no risk of resembling claymation, then uses them as a kind of still life for her paintings Artist Profile Issue 46
My book chapter ‘Science, wonder, and new nature writing: Rachel Carson’ will appear in the Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication in March 2019. The volume is edited by Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran who have been wonderful to work with. Many thanks to them for including my work in this exciting new collection…
This week Lucy Neave and I spoke about 'The Science of Writing' at the Woden Library. Thanks to a great audience for thoughtful questions, comments and responses.
Why do writers feel the need to write? What does science say about creativity? To what extent is writing a discovery process for authors? Join Lucy Neave and Saskia Beudel as they discuss these questions, and explore the art and science of writing creatively, The talk will be followed by a discussion with the audience.
Lucy Neave is the author of Who We Were, a novel published by Text (Melbourne, 2013), which was shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year Award in 2014. She has published in Best Australian Stories 2009 & 2014, and in Australian and American literary journals. Her scholarly essays are on fiction writing process, writers' practices and pedagogy. She is the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts grant, a Varuna Second Book Fellowship and is a former Fulbright scholar. She teaches creative writing at Australian National University.
Saskia Beudel is the author of three books including A Country in Mind(UWAP 2013), Curating Sydney: Imagining the City’s Future(with Jill Bennett, UNSWP 2014) and Borrowed Eyes(Picador 2002). Her books have been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Kibble-Dobbie Award and the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. Her essays appear in Best Australian Essays, The Conversationand a wide range of Australian and international literary journals. Her research interests encompass history of science, environmental writing, narrative nonfiction, life writing, and contemporary art. She teaches in the writing program at the University of Canberra.
For the past two years I have been volunteering for a citizen science project that monitors how frogs are dealing with a warming world. This essay explores the idea of climate change not as a remote event far into the future or at distant locations but right here at our own doorstep. It describes going out into the winter night, 13 year-old-daughter in tow, as a frog-watching volunteer.
In 2017 I interviewed scientist Pep Canadell, Director of the Global Carbon Project. The GCP is a core project of Future Earth and is housed at the CSIRO in Canberra. Transcripts of the interview will be published in the forthcoming article 'Science and stories offering hope for the climate' in Weber Fall 2018
It was a pleasure to co-convene the Environmental Writing symposium at the University of Melbourne, 7 June 2018. Amanda Johnson and I were thrilled to bring together such a wonderful group of presenters – Alexis Wright in conversation about the Swan Book with Hayley Singer; Tom Griffiths talking about the unique qualities of early Australian 'nature writing'; Tom Doig on activism, irony and the Hazelwood mine fire disaster; Suzy Freeman-Greene on green turtles of Heron Island, once killed for turtle soup now a major tourist attraction; A. Frances Johnson discussing poetry that challenges the comforts of pastoral and elegiac forms; Mireille Juchau on solastalgia and countering cataclysmic narratives laden with ‘messages’; Laura Jean McKay on nonhuman animal resistance in fiction; Cameron Muir showing the disastrous effects of plastic debris on birds of Lord Howe Island; Hayley Singer riffing on ‘fleischgeist’ meaning ‘flesh ghost’ or ‘meat spirit’; Wendy Somerville (with Bethaney Turner) on meeting Country on the Cullunghutti mountain; Lara Stevens performing her ecofeminist ‘SpiderActs’; and me on citizen science, frogwatching, and charting climate change’s impact in the here and now.
My review of Westerly Magazine 62.2 appears in TEXT. This Westerly issue contains two special features of Asian-Australian collaborative work – one from the Melbourne-Seoul Intercultural Poetry Exchange and one from the China-Australia Writing Centre.
Was delighted to have an Environmental Humanities visiting fellowship at the University of Edinburgh (March–April 2018). Fellows are based at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities in historic Hope Park Square buildings (where author Rebecca West once lived). While in Edinburgh, I gave a seminar on 'Narrative through interviews with environmental scientists'
Great to see Expeditionary Anthropology book now appears on Berghahn website. Edited by Martin Thomas and Amanda Harris. My article on Donald Thomson's mix of storytelling, biology and anthropology appears in this.
28 July 2017, Sydney Review of Books
Excerpt: "It is a tiny consolation that Australia may be the best place for writing about uncertainty and loss. Our colonial history means that our literature is already less comfortable than its northern hemisphere counterparts and more tuned to damage and survival. This is especially the case in writing about nature, which has never established itself as a stable commercial genre here but tends instead to emerge in feral form out of other genres, such as history and memoir. It almost always engages with the ongoing Indigenous knowledge of country. Books such as Bruce Pascoe’s galvanising Dark Emu, Kim Mahood’s Position Doubtful and Saskia Beudel’s walking memoir, A Country in Mind, are sceptical of any Romantic sense of boundless plenty and adept, in their different ways, at negotiating the rough terrain of broken country; none could be described as “nature writing” but each is tuned, as Beudel puts it beautifully, to the ‘off-key tone of colonised land’. One of the great strengths of such recent Australian writing is that it is never just about the present, but works its way back into the past to make us think hard about what we think we already know; and it gives us a more complex set of tools to think about the future. "