Taking Care of Water: Katherena Vermette’s river woman and Rita Wong’s undercurrent


  • Marie Carrière University of Alberta


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.

Author Biography

Marie Carrière, University of Alberta

Marie Carrière is a Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. Her recent published work includes the monograph, Cautiously Hopeful: Metafeminist Practices in Canada (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2020) and, with Kit Dobson and Ursula Mathis-Moser, the edited collection, All the Feels: Affect and Writing in Canada/Tous les sens: Affect et écriture au Canada (U Alberta P, 2020). Carrière is the author of several research articles and books, in English and in French, on Canadian, Indigenous and Québécois literatures, feminism, écritures migrantes, ethics and care. Her current research focuses on feminist ecologies in theory and literature.





Decolonial Ecocriticism Cluster