Australasian Journal of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology (AJE), Vol 3 (2013)

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What’s an Ecologically Sensitive Poetics? Song, Breath and Ecology in Southern Chile

Stuart Cooke


This essay explores the ecologically sensitive properties of oral poetics, or of written poetries with a close relationship to oral traditions. Looking in particular at the work of contemporary Mapuche poet Leonel Lienlaf (from southern Chile), I outline some of the important links between his written work and the Mapuche oral tradition. I then show how the proximity of Lienlaf's poems to songpoetry-and, by extension, to the voice and to the limits of breath-produces a highly ecologically sensitive poetic. Several parallels are drawn between properties of Mapuche songpoetry and of Aboriginal songpoetry, suggesting that a similar concern with ephemera, bodily location and movement can also be found in the work of some contemporary Aboriginal poets.

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