Gardening the Symbiocene: Andrea Zanzotto’s and Daria Menicanti’s Poetic Hospitability


  • Serena Ferrando Arizona State University



poetry, Zanzotto, Menicanti, vegetal, Symbiocene


This essay explores the weaving together of vegetal and elemental narratives through the poetry of Andrea Zanzotto and Daria Menicanti and shows how their experience of the landscape is punctuated by cross-species encounters, a radical openness to the world, the belief in the common roots of all life, and the embrace of vulnerability in interactions with others. Starting from the premise that these poets comprehend that an emphasis on verbality reflects the anthropic desire to translate life into a one-species code and constitutes an impediment to universal and meaningful communication, this essay argues that Zanzotto’s and Menicanti’s embrace of the nonverbality of plant communication becomes key in the process of meaning-making. A narration of and with plants is the antidote to what they understand as the ultimate malady of language that prevents it from grasping and conveying the richness of the world after it has supplanted the nonhuman domain. Through a close reading of four poems that illustrates how the poets embrace the eloquent silences, gaps, hesitations, and overabundance of meaning of the vegetal realm, this essay foregrounds the boundary-breaking quality of Zanzotto’s and Menicanti’s poetry as a space for rich human-nonhuman exchanges. Ultimately, this essay argues that by declining to place themselves above plants and exert power over them, Zanzotto and Menicanti usher in the Symbiocene, the era characterized by multispecies coexistence, mutual support, and interdependence. Their poetry creates spaces where the human can lean into the more-than-human and, for one brief instant, get a taste of existing in harmony with the life that pulsates all around.


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Author Biography

Serena Ferrando, Arizona State University

Serena Ferrando is Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities and Italian at Arizona State University. Her current book project, Channeling Nature: Water, Plants, and Animals in Italian Poetry is an eco-digital study of water and the nonhuman in contemporary poetry with a focus on the city of Milan. The book is a case study for the need to harness the enduring might of poetry to generate, sustain, and promote collective narratives for the protection of nonhuman environments in urban spaces. Dr. Ferrando directs a digital humanities project on Milan’s water canals called Navigli Project ( She also studies environmental and experimental noisescapes and develops multimedia projects that utilize sound mapping to create a multisensory experience of the world. Her work has appeared in ISLE Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Italian Culture, Italica, Humanist Studies & the Digital Age, and the volumes Italy and the Ecological Imagination. Ecocritical Theories and Practices and Landscapes, Natures, Ecologies. Italy and the Environmental Humanities.






Articles: Gardening (against) the Anthropocene