Taking Care of Water: Katherena Vermette’s river woman and Rita Wong’s undercurrent
Keywords:Canadian and Métis poetry, ethics of care, feminist ecologies, Indigenous environmental ethics, water
This article examines water as a central poetic trope for the resistance to environmental and colonial damage in the poetry of Métis author Katherena Vermette and Chinese-Canadian activist Rita Wong. It situates the poetic analysis within the critical context of ecological criticism and, in particular, Indigenous environmental ethics, material feminisms and the feminist ethics of care. The very articulation of water’s particularities, irreducibility, autonomy, agency and mode of human and nonhuman kinship is shown to constitute the micro-poetics of Vermette’s river woman and Wong’s undercurrent, which is the crux of the care ethics advocated by both poetry collections and their emphasis on ecological interdependency. The analysis leads to a concluding argument about the usefulness of the nomenclature of feminist ecologies, to denote the environmental care ethics developed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous feminists who adopt an intersectional and decolonial lens for identifying the differential power dynamics and ecological and social costs of environmental exploitation.