Winter, 2018

Over a month ago, I removed the last of Cecilie Jordheim‘s blank scores, each one of ten comprising a short movement, with a change each season. Winter seemed to be transitioning to spring, and yet we still had a few more wintery sputters of ice/sleet/snow/cold for a few weeks afterward. These overlaps, seasonal convergences, ‘shoulder’ seasons, seem (my observation) longer than when I first arrived in this region (nearly two decades ago).  As I took the pieces off of their placards in the black walnut grove, I happened to find numbers 1, 3, and 5 in the grass, left from fall planting; these had blown elsewhere into the field and had become snow-covered before I could re-cover them in late November or early December. During that time they weathered well, especially given that they were under snow and ice layers. The length of seasons, I’ve been thinking, have a conceptual relation to Jordheim’s scores — which align  an acoustic marking with visual progression; to date, the recordings of the site are unheard compositions rendered visually through the use of my camera. Rather fun.

The grove is part of a tract of land that has very recently been acquired by the municipality as a community asset. What that means in terms of how it, and the overall  space will continue, or be parcelled and managed, is unclear. Recently, reading Robert Moore’s On Trails (Simon and Schuster 2016), I was struck by (in a chapter focused on land based political/spatial-heritage advocacy) his point that in trying to conserve places, habitats, surrounds, a key motivator is the familiarity of those places; for community members to know of those places as not only experienced, but also as within the shifting forms and variations of community narratives.

Places (and ways to them) comprise a complex social network — an obvious point, but in terms of land ownership and appropriation (linguistic, cultural, socio-political), this has significant implications for interpreting/understanding a variety of histories of the land (as material, as ecological process, as territory ), as well as a variety of experiences that are more intensely sensory, felt, phenomenological, storied. What is recollected becomes partly community memory (if it is intact) and partly evidential knowledge via various forms of record-keeping (if records or the methodologies of recording have been kept and are also intact).

Cecilie Jordheim’s blank scores, their seasonal placings and subsequent renderings via the minutae of movements that occur in the grove, enable the consideration of these scores as a transitory record and collection alongside and within integral components of place-recognition. The irony here, of course, is that while once the black walnut grove might have been fairly well known, in more recent decades, as the community has developed a distance away and walking areas are designed and managed to provide accesses to subdivisions and spaces between subdivisions (smaller parks and forest areas), the black walnut grove is too far or too wild in a sense.

The recent change from railway bed to multi-use trail very close to it may create some exploration opportunities for some who cycle or walk long distances; the space itself, however, seems now to be something that might be hanging in the balance between viable development space and ‘left’ community asset. The trail users that I run into while walking or cycling do explore in this space; they live along the trail or are (through conversation, I’ve discovered) prone to going off trail. Over time, it has become clear that they have seen these pieces; they’ve left them alone and walked past them through the grove, taking Jordheim’s scores in stride, as part of the space, fluctuating with each seasonal change. Nobody actively has acknowledged the black walnut grove in casual conversation; however, our individual use of it over the course of the year has broken a path from the multi-use trail into the first set of pine trees, off trail; eventually that trail will entice others to follow it; it likely already has. Words, given that, haven’t really been needed; our trail is a clear marker of where we’ve been going. A trail, a score,  movement, blank and teeming.






Angles & over the bridge over the brook

I suspect that some of the planted poems have become unplanted. I won’t know for sure until full spring thaw. Hiking along trails in Limerick Forest (Scotch Line Road) toward the bog a few weekends ago, I should have passed Bob Hogg’s poem, “Circles”; farther along the trail, just past the picnic table, shot-up trail map, and old telephone poles, I should have seen Paul Hawkins‘ poem, “Drifting”, too. It could be that they’d fallen, become snow covered and trampled on by cavorting squirrels. Will have to wait and see for their possible emergence; I’ll try to check again soon for them, and other, poems.

Hiromi Suzuki’s poem, “A Swimmer” is still at the side loop of the Limerick trail; if you find her poem off the loop, you can can follow an old railway bed-track south. Theoretically. Most of the time, this trail is impassable by foot because it is filled with water — though you could wade along, which I’ve done elsewhere on the trail, if you don’t mind that sort of thing; however, I have followed it in the summer of a drought, and again this winter, when its surface was iced over. In an email conversation, Suzuki described developing her book, “Ms. Cried”, and tracing the remnants of a paved-over stream through Tokyo’s suburbs; her geological surveying paralleled considerations of folklore as methods of describing the spaces she was traversing, the spaces the stream encompassed, the layers of habitation.

Like Hawkins‘ poem, a rawlings‘ “I will not ruin the environment” (from work in progress, The Great Canadian)  is similarly missing from the track off Wood Road; this was the first poem that I planted in 2010/11 and has (up to now) weathered well. Again, the spring will tell if it is just covered or truly missing.

In 2012, Rob McLennan‘s poem, “Situated along various trails in a similar fashion”, was planted in the Marlborough Forest along the Cedar Grove loop (blue). The Cedar Grove follows Roger’s Pond; I always think of the pathway as a contour line. There is a section where it branches, heading roughly west; were one to follow the western path, it would eventually lead you to Linda Russo’s  poems; at one time, it would have then led you to a poem by derek beaulieu and a poem by Jamie Reid, or, as with all trails, vice versa (or as you get there).

McLennan’s poem has been moved. Initially planted on the spring side of a small footbridge, it was moved to the end of the bridge; as you step off the bridge, you might see it. Interestingly, on two different hikes, fairly recently, the two groupings of folks I was walking with did not notice the poem at all — or did not seem to notice it. An escapade, a surrounding, teeming with potential and missed returns. Until the next time, maybe.


Foraging, scraps

There are only a few of Sandra Ridley’s poems left in the grove; her poems were in the farthest row (west), tucked into nut bushes which I haven’t as yet identified. Some were more exposed, placed in empty placards which fronted absent trees or trees that were diminished somewhat by fungus or exposure or animal chews.

I found one of her poems windswept toward the last remaining poem of derek beaulieu‘s  here.

And I recently found another had been discovered, chewed, and, in another area, spit out. What remained formed another poem, quite lovely:


Jordheim – “Summer”

The black walnut grove, with its blank metal placards fronting rows of black walnut and other trees, has for several years now hosted a variety of poems by different poets. For the most part, the poems vanished — here and there I still find them, sometimes buried under leaf litter (Beaulieu, Reid) a few still in the placard (Ridley), or sometimes wind-tossed toward another poem (Ridley to Beaulieu). More recently, I found Ridley’s “In Praise of the Healer” chewed and spit out to create a found poem.

Cecilie Jordheim sent a series of 10 blank scores (‘movements’) last February. I placed  them in the placards that front the black walnut trees in the eastern row and monitored them for several months before packaging them and sending them back. Her blank scores offered a way to record the workings of the black walnut grove — the interactions occurring within and despite it, their sporadic measure — against the framework of “score”. Previously, poems had been laminated, offering a more gallery-type view within the setting of the black walnut grove. Jordheim’s “movements”, unlaminated, with hand-drawn horizontal lines in pencil, were exposed to the movements of the grove itself. Her 10 pieces were marked by wind, seed tracings, and species marks. They were situated in a verge season with late winter’s snow and ice and the frigidity of an Eastern Ontario climate. Seasons, while seemingly defined concretely, have flux to them. The movements were also exposed to melt-snow-melt as late winter transitioned toward early spring. In navigating the spaces of the grove to check on the poems, I encountered seasonal overlaps or unexpected emergences — a caterpillar one day, a milkweed beetle another; the tracks of a mouse on snow; an unusual bird call as a result of irruption.

As Jordheim notes,
My work often thematises the human need for systematisation and questions if there is a direct connection between language and the world; topography, typography, text, architecture, movement and sound. Where reading practices of geography generate musical and/or visual scores, the result is a verbalisation of geography.

The presence of these blank scores in the grove has some intrigue to them — we decided to continue and place another series,”Summer, L’estate”, there.

Geography often occurs out of a series of disruptions — it epitomizes conceptions of territory and boundary, conglomerations of habitats, and reverberates with emerging and concomitant conceptual, built, and ecological shifts. Scoring, or marking, can be considered a seasonal practice within geographies — a way of recording and sparking ecological or atmospheric activities, of identifying “here”, as well as ensuring future presences and interactions.Think of deer season, scrapes and hoof marks; flowers turned to seed and subsequent (temporally different) dispersal; nesting activities and migrations of multiple species. Sometimes these occur as mutually advantageous — an example would be the black walnuts dropped to the ground, the timing useful for small species that are readying themselves for hibernation; the structure of the black walnut handy for longer term caching by these same species.

Jordheim’s “Summer” movements, and the extension of this project into planting her scores seasonally, is a nod to musical legacies; they are also staccato verbalizations/visualizations (near ephemeral) dispersed by unscored, mostly unseen, species interacting within their particular locales, their geographies. Of particular interest is the impact of the microscopic and minuscule on Jordheim’s scores. The late summer/early fall transition has resulted in scores marked by multiple spores, seeds, and small species in a much more evident manner than the winter scores. Beneath them, I have placed sunpaper which is recording additional impressions, and at some point before the end of this ‘season’, will make a sound recording of the black walnut grove, the movements in/out/around/above it.

My last visit to the grove followed a fierce rain and wind storm. I found several of the scores on the ground, some at a horizontal distance from their placard. This exposed the sun paper to greater amounts of light, as well as exposing the scores to ground moisture and leaf litter. I put them back in their placards.

Seasons result partially from the tilt of the earth’s axis and the earth’s rotation. The year, divided into 4 quarters –winter, spring, summer, fall — is a timing device that clues us in to things happening regularly, as if a pattern we can follow through the actions of species. And yet, this is primarily a large-visual form of attendance — were we to attend to other seasonal indicators — acoustic, or microscopically visual, would the seasons seem as clear cut — what sorts of variations does an acoustic focus produce? How does the articulation of geography, elements of geography, change? How are impacts recorded and composed, spoken?


sequences ~ frequencies

It has crossed my mind that coming across a poem on a trail, or even returning to it — the in/frequency of this — could be similar to the coming across/returning to poetry books, poems, on bookshelves. They, too, are placed somewhere until they are come-across (a-gaining), re-found, or remembered.

Recently, I planted a sequence of 5 poems by Linda Russo. This was a long overdue planting; they had overwintered in my garage as I dithered about where to plant them, what type of habitat, what sort of exposure (species, including human), in what season, how far away, among other things. I wondered whether I should spread them out along a trail or align them so that whatever encountered them could move easily from one poem to the other; or perhaps they should be dispersed in such a way to include singular encounters, or a sequence that came together if only by the happenstance of noticing or looking-and-finding — between trips, or between moments in the same journey.

Linda Russo’s poetry evolves out of a careful attention to her surroundings: what inhabitation “is” within communities, what resides in language and meaning-making that informs selves-in-place, the to-and-from which moves one/us.  The five pieces that she contributed to rout/e are from “Daynotes on Fields & Forms” (Flittings), published in Meaning to Go to the Origin in Some Way (Shearman Books, 2015). They are planted along the Earth Star Loop of the Rideau Trail, unordered, as one finds them. Katherine Forster  (Wild.Here) helped plant them – with thanks!

The Earth Star Loop of the Rideau Trail is a curvy section of the trail, seeming to twist nearly around on itself before returning to track. The nature of trails – their interruptions and reforming based on species use – underlies my planting of Russo’s poems here. Two tracks shadow each other: one is the Rideau Trail, and the other is an ATV trail that runs parallel to the RT at times, and at others, functions as a linear path behind the RT’s curves. It seems as if different routes have been created for different uses here, non-chronologically and also responsively (e.g. to habitat, season, access, predation); some put into place by human activity, others by the various species that inhabit and cross through these spaces, unimpeded (for the most part) by lot allocations, fence-lines, and Rideau Trail markers.



Poems to find in Ottawa (maybe)

A post ago, I mentioned the CSArt project and how rout/e has been incorporated into it as part of their 2016-2017 season: poems planted in urban Ottawa.

The poems are now in various spots in Ottawa, with grateful thanks to Katherine Forster of Wild. Here. and Grant Wilkins of The Grunge Papers for their help. Katherine Forster was instrumental in finding locations; she has done a lot of exploring of various Ottawa sites.

In no particular order:

Christine McNair: “advanced mourning” ~ Montfort Forest (est. 45.44784, -75.64031)

Shery Alexander Heinis: “Down that Hole” ~ Reid Park (est. 45.39828, -75.72374 )

vera wabegijig: “migration” ~ Andrew Haydon Park (est. 45.35189, -75.8186)

a.m. kozak: “AND THEN COMES THE STATIC” ~ Carlington (est. 45.37272, -75.74418)

Ian Martin: “deep dream” ~ Fairmont Park (est. 45.39899, -75.71906)

Jenn Baker: “unmoored” ~ Strathcona Park ( est. 45.42444, -75.6693)

Sarah MacDonell: “this tree belongs to the city (and that one too) ~ Uplands (est. 45.34989, -75.68857)

Enjoy finding the poems…and you may not find them, also. These sites were chosen for a variety of reasons: nearby communities, species interactions, elevations, geology, convenience, and fun. The poems, if they remain in their locations, will change over time.

CSArt Ottawa: rout/e

In and around a year ago, I was approached by CSArt Ottawa to curate the rout/e project in Ottawa as part of the CSArt Ottawa 2016-2017 season. CSArt Ottawa promotes local art through subscription; modelled on the agricultural CSA model, whereby produce is bought in advance by subscribers and then delivered to them through the growing season, CSArt Ottawa offers art experiences and/or pieces to subscribers throughout the year. rout/e is the final offering for 2017; to date, subscribers have participated in events offered by musicians The Peptides, theatre duo Thunk! Theatre, visual artist Mark B. Stephenson, and ceramicist and outdoor land art curator Susie Osler (who asked me to collaborate with her on her event, water~table). Details of what each of these artists have created for subscribers can be found on the CSArt blog.

I was able to see and meet most of the subscribers at an event in early April. Artists, writers, musicians, and actors don’t always have meaningful opportunity to meet the individuals who are interested in their work: paintings are sold; books are bought and handed around; concerts are attended or music is listened to in a variety of ways; participatory theatre (which Thunk! does engage in) offers some chances to meet, but then again, conversation might not be as possible. It was a pleasure to meet the subscribers — I got the sense that none of them would run screaming if they happened upon a chance poem….artworks offer contemplation, conversation, and experiences, and the CSArt project enables gatherings and conversation.

Yet, the notion of planting rout/e poems in Ottawa gave me a bit of pause a year ago, despite my “yes”. That pause came entirely from my own conceptions of the project and considerations of place and change. How would placing poems within urban spaces and landscapes affect the project, especially given that I normally work somewhat unobtrusively (some say evasively) on trails that are seasonally inaccessible, or have low human traffic. Would monitoring the Ottawa poems offer any difficulties? How would they last within urban density? Where the heck would I put the pieces? Who would I ask to participate? Is there a certain non-tolerance in urban spaces for things that erode or which, over time, alter enough to destroy the initial aesthetic or (in the case of words) readability/acoustic elements? With greater population density, is there an expectation for explanation, tags, signage? & etc.

Of course, all of these questions are somewhat moot, given that change and unknowns underpin rout/e. It’s part of the fun of it. However, there could be intriguing differences in how the poems are approached by members of an urban population, accessed by walkers, bus riders, cyclists and taxi-cab clients as opposed to the folks who cross rural space by hiking, ATV, snowmobile, and skiing (and the occasional 4×4 and tractor). There could be differences in recognition of poets — quite a few of rout/e participants have been from Ottawa, but their poems planted rurally, on trails 70km+ away. Trail travellers may not know them. It could be that in an urban space, some of the poets are recognized more easily through their readings, attendance at literary events, or accessibility of their chap/books at urban outlets. This may affect the longevity of the poem where it is planted.

rout/e is a collaborative process — formerly mainly between the poets, myself, and then the folks who come across the pieces. This time around, the collaboration has expanded in a lovely way to include an individual with expertise in Ottawa “wild” places, an individual with paper making and letterpress knowledge and skills, poets and participants who recommended the seven poets whose work will be planted in Ottawa, and the CSArt ‘gang’ who somehow found rout/e, back when.

Katherine Forster, who runs, a blog space for places, spaces, and natural movements within Ottawa, has extensive knowledge of unknown trails and pockets within Ottawa, as well as the more travelled-to areas. In early May, she and I will be zipping around Ottawa to plant the poems. Katherine led me to Petrie Island, several years ago, co-curating the rout/e plantings in her role as a volunteer coordinator there. I’m quite grateful for her knowledge and enthusiasm. The subscribers will receive a map of where the poems are located, so that they can find them. Normally, I don’t give much information in the way of location, other than descriptors or road names, leaving trail goers to figure things out from there, or to come upon the poems by happenstance. I’m hoping subscribers will take pictures or read the poems out loud, posting them…there is a soundcloud site for rout/e, in case this ever occurred to folks who come across poems.

I am grateful to Grant Wilkins (The Grunge Papers) for the hand-made paper he’s made and for compiling the chapbooks. As part of their subscription, subscribers  (so limited edition to subscribers, the poets, and the folks who recommended the poets) will receive a chapbook of poems by these seven poets. The poems will sit within an outer cover of hand-made paper crafted and letterpressed by Grant. He’s been hard at work making paper for his own projects, as well as this one. It’s been great collaborating with him on the design of the chapbook.

The work of choosing the poets would have been much more difficult without the generosity of some of the previous participants of rout/e: rob mclennan, Amanda Earl, Pearl Pirie, Sandra Ridley and Jason Christie. As I am rarely in Ottawa, and, quite frankly, can’t keep up with what is a burgeoning, healthy, scene, I thought it’d be neat to have an informal group of recommenders. They quite helpfully suggested some poets, based on their knowledge of rout/e and its workings.

The poets are:

a.m. kozak, Vera Wabegjig, Sarah MacDonnell, Christine McNair, Ian Martin, Shery Alexander Heinis, and Jenn Baker.