The Ecological Poetics of Deborah Bird Rose: Analysis and Application


  • Stuart Cooke



In the essay that follows I outline and then respond to the poetic qualities of Deborah Bird Rose’s thinking. Trained as an anthropologist, Rose was a highly original scholar. She pioneered ecological ethnography by focusing on the links between social and ecological justice, in particular with the Yarralin and Lingarra communities in the Northern Territory, and she is a founding figure in the environmental humanities, multispecies studies and extinction studies. Her sustained interest in poetry and the poetic imagination made her ever aware of the power of ‘deep stories’; Rose wanted always to be close to ‘the cadences of the[ir] poetry’ (Wild Dog 16). Unlike many scholars in the humanities, for whom writing and reading are dominated by genres of prose, references to poetry and to contemporary poets are common in Rose’s work, and her writing regularly gestures towards the poetic. Rose’s work is vital for ecological criticism that attempts to grapple with the drastic cultural and climactic changes of this century, particularly for criticism with decolonising ambitions.