Deirdre Byrne (PhD) is a full Professor of English Studies at the University of South Africa (Unisa). She is one of the co-editors of Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa, and has guest edited two special issues of Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics. She has published research on the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as on women’s poetry, and poetry in education. She is the Director of ZAPP (the South African Poetry Project).
“The weaving of hidden dimensions / through ours”: Jane Hirshfield’s Poetry about More-than-human Nature and Amanda Lee Koe’s Eco-stories
Abstract: The celebrated American poet, Jane Hirshfield, and Singaporean author, Amanda Lee Koe, are both keenly interested in more-than-human nature. Hirshfield does not write from an explicitly ecofeminist perspective, but many of her poems recognize the link between women’s experiences and the encounter with more-than-human nature. This paper compares Hirshfield’s poems about the environment in Ledger (2020) with Koe’s deployment of the more-than-human Singaporean biome as both setting and character in her stories in Ministry of Moral Panic (2013). While Hirshfield insists on the preciousness of what humanity has destroyed and is destroying, in terms that we would do well to heed, Amanda Lee Koe’s collection of short stories, Ministry of Moral Panic takes a more skeptical, even postmodern approach to the more-than-human world. For Koe, the entanglement of human and more-than-human provides the setting for the interpersonal, cross-gender, and interspecies relationships that she investigates in her stories, such as “Every Park on this Island” and “Siren”, which engage with the more-than-human Singaporean biome as well as its irreducible cultural hybridity. By setting these two contemporary authors in dialogue with each other, this paper suggests that the Anthropocene has become a feature of culture that we can no longer ignore.
Keywords: Jane Hirshfield, Amanda Lee Koe, environmental writing, ecopoetics, ecofeminism, Zen Buddhism, Singapore