Literature and the environment Essay Example

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2Zeller and Wright’s Nature Poems

Zeller’s Analysis of Judith Wright’s Nature Poems – A glimpse of Wright’s Transition

Robert Zeller analyses the transition of Judith Wright from the conventions of a nature poet who experiences Nature through a sense of ‘otherness’ to a poet who realizes the inadequacy of language, words to fully describe Nature. The evolution of this inner transition is visible in Wright’s poems and Zeller argues that Wright’s involvement in environmental issues made her evolve from a nature poet who connects the exterior and her audience to one who looks inwards to search for meanings connecting in her interiors with the cosmos.


Zeller (1998) examines in his essay titled “Judith Wright’s Nature Poetry – The Problem of Living “through a web of language”” to point out her dilemma of describing Nature and her inner communion with the Nature (pp. 21-25). This essay shall briefly argue that Zeller has portrayed the elements of transition from romanticism to metaphysical transcendentalism through the examination of her dilemma, deftly. It shall conclude that such analysis is useful to examine the underlying perspectives of Nature literature in future.

Zeller’s Analysis of Wright’s Transition

Nela Bureu observes that, “for Judith Wright, poetry is both an inward journey and a social activity and this blend of classicism and romanticism pervades all the stages into which her poetic development may be divided” (1). Zeller cites Scott Slovic’s on the dilemma within all nature poets, which is the “problem of representation of duality” (22). He points to the similarities in works of poets like Keats and Wright’s to point to a sense of awareness of the environment. Wright’s poems like “The Maker» and “Flame tree in a Quarry” are examples.

The meta-physical elements in Judith Wright’s poetry has been described by poet A. D. Hope as “an attempt to open a door into another dimension altogether” (21). Wright’s change into the metaphysical realm of transcendentalism is traceable in her later poems like “Nameless Flower” and “Gum trees Stripping” wherein the problem is resolved as arising in the “language itself, along with the desire to name and to understand, that makes true knowing impossible” (Zeller 22). Human beings fail to understand the true meaning of Nature/ “Being” as, “We have not asked the meaning, but the use” (Gum trees Stripping, line 27). This aspect is similar to Emily Dickenson’s view of Nature. Indeed by her keen observation of subtle wisdom of life in “the landscape of Australia, the poet transcends the geographical territory and reaches a space where the earthly manifestations do not matter at all” (Amutha 29) and it pains the environmentalist Wright to see destruction.

Wright’s next stage of transition is seen in her gaze from the ‘exterior landscape’ to the ‘interior landscape’ (Lopez 65) within her on a journey inwards. Wright’s “Flame tree in a Quarry” and “Summer” show the external appearance of the landscape “with fire”, and the inner struggle of the surroundings to “heal itself” respectively in the two poems (Wright cited in Zeller 24) like Thoreau’s concept of the turmoil of the world in The Maine Woods.


Examining Wright as a nature poet through the premise of a dilemma between two worlds, Zeller has been able to illustrate the transition of the poet with romantic tilts in the beginning to her transcendentalist leanings in the end. A similar mode of analysis will prove to be useful for studying other nature poems too, through the relationships and the perspectives through which they view Nature.

List of Works Cited

Amutha, M. “Judith Wright’s poems – Paradigms of Ecosophy” Asian Journal of English and Linguistics
Vol 1, No 1 (2013). ISSN: 2347 — 2383.

Bureu, Nela. «The Poetry of Judith Wright: Inventing Australia.» Web. 22 August, 2014.

Hope, A.D. Judith Wright, Oxford University Press, 1975 p. 21.

Lopez, Barry. “Landscape and Narrative”. PI Crossing Open Ground. New York: Random House, 1989. P.65.

Thoreau, David. The Maine Woods Ktaadn (1864). Web. 22 August, 2014.

Zeller, Robert. “Judith Wright’s Nature PoetryThe Problem of Living «through a web of language”. Antipodes. 12: 1 (1998). Pp. 21-25.