Which to Become? Encountering Fungi in Australian Poetry
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
As a largely unexplored group of organisms, fungi are ecologically complex members of the Australian biota. Fungi represent non-human alterity and interstitiality-neither animal not plant, beautiful yet evanescent, slimy and lethal, and eliding scientific categorisations. Donna Haraway's notion of "companion species" and Anna Tsing's "arts of inclusion" remind us that sensory entanglements are intrinsic to human-fungi relations. Drawing conceptually from Haraway and Tsing, this paper will examine examples of poetry from John Shaw Neilson, Jan Owen, Douglas Stewart, Geoffrey Dutton, Caroline Caddy, Michael Dransfield, Philip Hodgins, Jaime Grant and John Kinsella that represent sensory involvements with fungi based in smell, sound, taste and touch. For Stewart, the crimson fungus is archetypal of danger, ontologically ambivalent and warranting physical distance. For Caddy and Dransfield, fungi are nutriment around which social and personal events transpire, whereas for Kinsella, fungi express concisely-as part of an ecological milieu-nature's dynamic alterity.