Scrub Bird

On flying to Australia to see the last Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat…

The extraordinary poetic collaboration Dialogue between the body and the soul by John Kinsella and Melanie Challenger is reaching a kind of crescendo. It’s a work exploring our reluctance to face the consequences of our lifestyles – in particular the consequences of air travel.

The poets are using what turns out to be a very ancient poetic form to explore that modern theme; that of a dialogue between the body and the soul – two elements that are close-cousins but often in direct opposition to each other. So in this work the voice of “Body” can be that element which leads us to consume our planet,while “Soul” is our own spiritual response.

If I haven’t wrecked the depth of these poems through that cack-handed explanation, this is a verse titled “Body” which starts as an apparently well-meaning litany of endangered species – before it twists the knife.

Noisy Scrub Bird; Yangtze River Dolphin; Seychelles
Sheath-tailed Bat; Madagascar Pochard; Northern Hairy-
nosed Wombat; Javan Rhino, Iberian Lynx; Dwarf Blue Sheep;
Hispid Hare; Abington Island Giant Tortoise; Californian Condor;
stretch soul stretch — eco-tourist sales pitch — fly in fly out witness;
short-necked tortoises in ephemeral swamps around Perth.

WordPress seems to have killed the formatting of the poem; read the whole thing as it should be on the RSA Arts & Ecology site.

Illustration: Surrogate (for the Northern Hairynosed Wombat) 2005 by Patricia Piccinini. Piccinini, whose work often concerns bioethics She created this creature as an imagined surrogate for the threatened Northern Hairynosed Wombat as part of her series Nature’s Little Helpers. Piccinini writes:

The sculptures present a series of creatures that I have designed to ‘assist’ a series of the endangered Australian animals. In the photographs, we follow more closely one of these creatures, ‘The Bodyguard (for the Golden Helmeted Honeyeater)’. It is very seductive to think that we could find a simple technological solution to complex ecological problems such as extinction. It is far more exciting to talk about genetic engineering than to designate a large area of habitat/real estate as national park so that dozens or even hundreds of native species might be given a better chance of survival.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology