Ed Southorn is a Queensland writer interested in the anthropocene and social spatialisation. He has taught journalism at Griffith University and the University of Queensland since 2010. He was a newspaper reporter for thirty years. He has an MPhil in Creative Writing and a PhD in narrative journalism and sociology. He was first published as a poet in Neon Signs to the Mutes in 1977. His poems, short fiction, memoir and narrative journalism have appeared in The Small Press, Moveable Type, Ziriuz, Virgin Press, The Journal of Wild Culture, The Blue Nib and Meniscus.

Faces in Trees

Walking the dog with my smartphone led me to compile a series of photos of faces in trees over four years from 2016. These regular walks were the refresh I needed from my PhD research into property development pressures on Queensland’s Gold Coast. As I became adept at recognising faces in trees, I found my research veering toward consideration of ways of seeing culture in nature. In this personal essay, I contemplate frameworks for understanding how humans and trees might sense and communicate with each other. I draw on emotional geography, deep ecology and nature writing, responding to Robert Macfarlane’s exploration of landscape, Annie Dillard’s spiritual connection with trees and to poems and fiction in which trees are characters. The series of sixteen photos taken on the Gold Coast and in Canberra is a precursor to a poetical response to faces in trees.

Keywords: Trees; deep ecology; nature writing; emotional geography; visual poetics