As an arts-based research approach, poetic enquiry has been theorised and applied recently in the social sciences and in education. In this article, I extend its usage to eco-critical studies of Australian flora and fauna. The Southwest corner of Western Australia affords opportunities to deploy arts-based methodologies, including field poetry, for celebrating the natural heritage of a region of distinguished biodiversity. I suggest that lyric practices in places such as Lesueur National Park and Anstey-Keane Damplands in southern Perth can catalyse embodied engagements with flora. The outcome of these practices is the invocation of the multiple senses— including the proximities of touch and taste—towards senses of place involving physical interactions with plants and their habitats. I will discuss poetic enquiry in relation to the limitations of landscape aesthetics. Visual aesthetic modes tend to frame botanical environments as a succession of images. In contrast, an embodied aesthetics closes visual distance towards sensory intimacies and experiences of ecological processes as sensations. Throughout the article, I use an interlude structure that shifts between theoretical elaborations, narrative vignettes that contextualise the poetic practice, and the poems themselves initiated in the field. A continuum between visuality and multi-sensoriality emerges and potentially deepens human appreciation of flora. Poetic enquiry into flora is a means for exploring this continuum towards an understanding of what intimacy with plants in a place entails.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_ryan/12/