Coordinates

I planted Mark Goodwin’s poem “Walk” (from Goodwin’s book Steps, published by Longbarrow Press), in mid May 2020 (early spring); roughly ten days earlier, Phil Hall, Ann Silversides and I planted Phil’s poem “Failure” (a version is also in Niagara & Government, published this fall by Pedlar Press). Both “Walk” and “Failure” were printed on seed paper.

Above the town of Gananoque, Ontario, the Cataraqui Conservation Authority manages an area called Marble Rock, which offers an 11 km-ish looped “S” and “N” trail of greater elevation than most areas in the region; the rock formations and small hanging valleys promote biota such as fungi, lichen, multiple fern and combinations of tree and plant species that do well in this environment. A winding creek, variable in flow depending on the season, acts as a catchment for water draining from the marshes. A look at a topological or satellite map shows the water bodies and systems that you can see or look toward from the N and S lookouts: Charleston Lake (beyond eye), Gananoque Lake, Gananoque River (74 km from Athens to Gananoque), Wiltse Creek and the Wiltse Marsh, South Lake and South Lake creek, plus tributaries that branch off and through the area.

The Marble Rock hike is labelled “medium to difficult” on the Cataraqui Conservation Area website, and this is likely aimed at the casual hiker. One reason for this is that the hike has steep and rocky slopes, as well as some narrow paths with roots and small rocks underfoot. The trails splits after the first km or so, and choosing the turnoff, rather than continuing straight along the trail, offers a gentler amble through woodland, field/marsh, and small pine stand (with a pause to look at the stone remains of an outbuilding of sorts). Over the few times I have gone this way in the past, there’s always a remnant in the pine stand — a squirrel cranium, this time, a shard or pile of feathers, another.

The trail then climbs up to a small lookout over farmland and marsh, before descending through the forest basin, climbing again through mixed hardwood forest (including a great stand of shagbark hickory), and then (alongside a winding creek), toward the split toward N loop. The N loop, which includes “No Name Lake”, leads toward an impressive rise from which you can look onto the significant swathe of St. Lawrence lowland marsh toward Wiltse Creek. From the lookout, the hike is a series of small rolling descents toward a beaver pond, and then gradual ascents to granite plateaus before slowly descending via an old track to trail through forest, to the S trail, from which one chooses direction, again.

“Walk” was planted on the North trail, tucked a bit past two loose, vertical, and potentially ephemeral stumps (landmark and guidepost). “Walk” is situated in a shallow crevice, with a small cairn at its base to hold it steady, backed by a small stand of sumac trees and, just beyond, a mixed hardwood forest in a dip. It had been quite a dry May; in the rock crevasses, here and there, corydalis’ were blooming (Corydalis sempervirens) — and it took me awhile to figure out what they were. Other than watching your footing and unexpected drops, there’s relatively smooth space to explore; the markers on the plateaus can be difficult to find because on rock, foot-trails aren’t evident.

Footing isn’t always a certainty. It makes a difference, in terrain like this, if your body is used to balancing while moving — if you are able to look and sense around you while in motion, not really thinking about, but aware of what’s underfoot (and all the variations of “footedness” apply here). It is possible to avoid some of the lookouts and stick to track, if that is preferred. In a similar way, the terrain of a poem can be uncertain, too.

Goodwin’s “Walk” — aptly the first poem in Steps — starts out without an invocation but, rather, an instigation that leads to more:

Put
a foot on a rock. Choose

one route through millions of pebbles. Follow
clearly seen, sometimes pain-filled paths, or abandon
people's spoor & artefact. Wander. Smell

peats' waters. Sniff

dry limestone's,
    rhyolite's, granite's, or grit's
                dusts as ground's scuffed. Inhale

subtle or pungent sap sprays as plants are squeezed. Flex...

("Walk" from Steps (Longbarrow Press)

One has to step, and one has to choose to start some/where, and one has to decide to follow the trail that may be already there, or not — “wander” with and through the features and elements of land/scape. “Walk” (and Steps) encompass the physical, kinesthetic elements of moving through felt geographical spaces. It incorporates the sensory impacts from what those spaces hold, both in the moments of stepping, the “to” of “here to there”, and in the sense of now to then, durational time. It allows a double imperative, both directional and an acknowledgement of potential or the lived experiences and leavings of others along those same paths, the actualities of what is under hand and under foot, the specifics of what is there: limestone, rhyolite, granite, and their mixed breakdown, grit.

“Walk” evokes the relationship between the physiology of the body-in-movement and the physical features of landscape, a sort of synchronicity from moment to moment that doesn’t constitute reflective thinking, so much, as, through the body, grasping/intuiting what is already there and taking in — a coordination (in text, aided by the stylistic use of enjambment):

                     ....Leap
from friction-patch to
     friction-patch amongst algae-coated boulders rounded

by mountain's blood. Step

and step in time to flow

vibrant meat-encased bone over
soil and stone. Without knowing

know

("Walk" from Steps (Longbarrow Press)

Here, there are parallels and inversions of visceral, actual entities: “algae-coated boulders” shaped by the flow of water (“mountain’s blood”) and the flow of movement by the body over earth (“vibrant meat-encased bone”). The rock, obscured by algae, is described in a way counter to the body, which is described through pure function: energy (“vibrant”) and mechanics (“meat-encased bone”). Movement does comprise a situational “Not knowing/know” dynamic; this last paired line similar to taking a step into, the physical gap, the kinetic motion, between footfalls. And, perhaps, the body “knows” before the mind’s knowing is actualized…and we are landed, balanced for a moment, on “know”, with a space above, and that space below, before maybe we decide, again, to “Put/a foot on rock…”

Along some parts of the trail, there are bits of tin and iron, tires, wheel tracks, and other forms of land shaping that point to prior farm activity and perhaps more recent dumping. Many trails in this region run through present day agricultural landscapes: landowners give access to hikers and walkers through organizations like the Cataraqui Conservation Authority or the Rideau Conservation Authority (who helped, here, with trail development and marking), or the land is bought by conservation authorities (in some cases, it is given as a charitable gift). As a result, these remnants are fairly common, pointing to tool obsolescence and, depending on the remnant, resource use. Why pieces are piled or dropped where they are found (or uncovered) can sometimes emerge from conversations with older generations or just remain as gaps within rural versions of settler, familial, micro place-based histories.

Remnants also present themselves, more elusively, in the lines of geology and altered landscape that abut forms of economy and industry: forests become agricultural fields, built toward drainage, generally shaped for efficiency and allotment. Rock mounds at the edge of fields or tree islands that the farmer tills and harvests around are indicative that such plans as property designation are human constructs. Dams, put in place for greater power, augmenting an already visible flow from a creek or river because of an expectation (or actuality) of increased supply and demand, are another form of remnant — evocative, in days of climate change, of a kind of loose fulcrum on which seasonality balances. The rough rock dams along the trail, overflow from small and larger wetlands, are further bolstered by beavers and, possibly, conservation area management, in the form of lengths of maple and ash, laid haphazardly (against the pattern of rock), pushed against by leaves and the water itself over time. Is it possible that the cement structures that make up some dams will serve one day to remind of drainage basins and creek patterns, or, alternatively, become overwhelmed with the challenge of water; future changes in climate steering agricultural fields, and water, toward other or hybrid forms of production.

Remnants in the form of cultural impact are found in language: early French traders and settlers to Ontario created the words “Cataraqui” and “Gananoque” as place names or descriptors that they adapted from Iroquoian language. The terms “Algonquin” and “Mississauga” are similarly mis-adaptations of the languages that the French heard spoken and then applied, through the filters of the ear and language.

Of resonance and importance are indigenous life, lands, history, languages and nationhood. Marble Rock was part of landspace within the territory and interconnected knowledges of the St. Lawrence Iroquois, who settled along the St. Lawrence lowlands and river. After contact with the French, British and Dutch, the Mohawk, (eastern members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) moved into the areas occupied by the St. Lawrence Iroquois, who had dispersed – possibly through migration, conflict, and dwindling numbers. By the late 1700’s, the traditional territories and grounds of the Omamìwìnini (Algonquin) and Misi-zaagiing (Mississauga) peoples, within the Anishinaabeg family, was north, west and east from Mohawk territories along the St. Lawrence, to the Ottawa river. The “Crawford Purchase” (1783), loosely describes through letters (the record lacks sequentially clear documentation) a series of negotiations between the British, Mohawk and Misi-zaagiing for land in this region. After losing the War of Independence, the British wanted to reward loyalty with land and settlement in Canada; lands that traditionally belonged to the Omamìwìnini were included in the negotiations with the Misi-zaagiing without consultation with the Omamìwìnini. With British settlement came a British notion of land title, ownership, governance, industry and defence in this area. The past history and contemporary realities of land, settler acknowledgement and treaty negotiations (still ongoing) in Ontario and Canada as a whole is complex and tied deeply to reconciliation.

Roughly sixty to seventy km NW of Marble Rock is Perth, Ontario, roughly an hour’s drive by car, depending on the route. Local historian Ken W. Watson’s research and writing about early colonists’ roadwork and mapping from Brockville to Perth (in 1816) is a good starting point for matching maps to transportation routes for non-indigenous settlers (note: Gananoque (Marble Rock) is W of Brockville (early maps, Elizabethtown)). Today, a person could take a few days to walk the roadway from Gananoque to Perth — or devise a way by combining roadway, trail networks and paddling routes (also see Ken. W. Watson’s tracing of indigenous paddling routes and the building of the Rideau Canal).

Perth was built (as were other Eastern Ontario communities) as a Loyalist inland defense against American invasion. Record (writing, drawings, surveys) indicates that for the settlers, the heavily forested landscape was physically and conceptually overwhelming and difficult — it was labour intensive (tame the woods) to design it into surveyed plots, to work toward industry through extraction of natural resources, refashion water transportation routes (Rideau Canal) and, through logging, advance development toward agriculture and farm/homesteads. There were medical, cultural and philosophical precedents in landscape reform; this contributed to the biases that screened out the longstanding impacts of settlement on the indigenous peoples already present with their own culture, traditions, and relationships to the land and each other.

Phil Hall’s poem, “Failure”, published in Niagara & Gov’t (Pedlar Press, 2020), is a few kilometres SE of Perth on a section of the Rideau Trail that follows Ferrier Road E. and ventures into a field-to-mixed forest bounded by creek and wetland to the south. After a skip over a small creek, there’s a small rise and entrance to Ferrier Road (W). A short walk of about 200m and a clamber over a stile continues the trail — a hike into field, marsh, and woods, with hills between, toward McLaren’s Point, and onward.

The topo map for the area shows that there is a continuous road that runs through a shallow lake/marsh — this, then, is Ferrier Road proper; it is this wetland that necessitates the division of Ferrier into “E” and “W” segments. If one had an ATV or snowmobile (or liked walking through water), there would be no need to duck into the woods — one would simply carry on straight through it….maybe.

In spring, “Failure” was planted along the section of track that veers off of Ferrier E. In Niagara & Gov’t, “Failure” is typeset with circular, infilled dingbats that separate the poem into sections. In this landscape, however, topography segments “Failure” into five planted stands along different parts of the trail. Printed on seed paper, the poems are affected by airborne microorganisms, humidity, the presence of metals and forms of fungi in a different way than standard paper; the print is more obviously impacted by “foxing” (Phil Hall introduced me to this term), spores, and the outline of seeds themselves. The words are slowly being blotted out by the mould spores and the orange-brown contour-like lines: “Failure” may become obliterated (see etymology); its language a remnant.

“Failure” is a nod to writing unbounded by technology, or the impossibility of this, to the extent of language itself:

 I should print out my new book
scatter its pages in the maple bush   & let it go at that

 but I won't   I'll publish it    if I can

I'll proliferate   by articulate stratagems   the pretense
 of sniff & growl

Hall considers various forms of artefact toward an ironic take on lines and ordering them that exist alongside strategies of marking/making space (“sniff and growl”):

...
my book   will be a creature's denial  of crookedness
 though it parade   as a celebration   of crookedness

living in Mondrian   I would Pollock

“Failure” is planted within parcels of land that initially would have been surveyed and logged to fit a shape toward agricultural production, despite other landforms also present. To some degree, earlier land uses have made way for others, as people moved or forms of work and industry changed. In addition, species tend not to pay attention to property lines — tracks ease through marsh and forest, birds migrate, and on that first planting, a barred owl watched us from a pine tree while to blue jays harassed it. While walking, we passed (and checked out) discrete piles of iron woodstoves, barrel rings, can piles, fallen cedar or wire fences, and metal sheeting just off trail. In writing, the page is bound by margins, the type set by a series of conventions, the book printed and sent out — Hall notes that the impulse to scatter the pages “in the wet bush”, outside the book form, is a concession to geometry, the form of the page or, in this case, the stand too, and yet there is the possibility of geometry “failing” and an unique result:

 Even to use a printer   to copy pages
for scattering   in the wet bush

would be a concession to geometry   over windfalls

Flaubert's costume   Craft
is technology's costume   Folio

but where geometry fails   scribble here

 we might still find   oval aberrations

& an uncaulked   illiterate horizon

 its pulse

In all, there is a failure of process in the act of writing, too, a result of language, an “unboiled calligraphy”, that’s evaporated, changed from its initial form. It’s not just the lines but the depths of trying to tap language, amid shifts in language-use and the technologies used for production. Hall leaves the poem in suspension, with attempts and failure of fact, a remnant all the same — a folktale “about a claw-hold”:

The actual sap   not syrup    is clear yet sodden
it tastes of an ancient    cold    language   pre-process
 my poems   bow & scrape   for lack of
pretend to know   but can't

 that unboiled calligraphy   I keep trying for
is only a folk  tale   about a claw hold
(Niagara & Gov't : Pedlar Press, 84-85)

Still standing

Often, when I’m out hiking or cycling familiar trails, or moving through landscapes that are as yet unzoned for residential or other use, I look for landmarks that I learned the last time — trees, rock shapes, an unusual curve or landscape feature, a nest or two, ephemeral ponds… — and check along the way to see if they remain. As of 2019,  the poems that remain are those by Linda Russo, rob mclennan, George Bowering, Hiromi Suzuki (now in two pieces, both stake and poem), and Eric Magrane. The collaboration with Cecilie Jordheim, whereby her scores were planted each season between 2017-2018 in the black walnut grove, ended last winter. What remained of the scores for that season (as some vanished, wind-blown or chewed or buried under leaf litter, perhaps), were returned. Cecilie exhibited some of this work as part of Radical Landscapesa group show curated by Camilla Nelson at The Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington (UK), in March/April 2019.

This year has been spent checking on the poems and exploring other possible trails for planting. 2020 starts off with some work by Phil Hall and also Mark Goodwin…and some newly found (or returned to) spaces.

Textures: Suzuki’s “A Swimmer”

The Scotch Line trail that leads into Limerick Forest N used to be mostly track with a short roadway of about 200 m to park along. A large trail sign offered a satellite map of different routes, and online material is now ubiquitous enough that you could take your device or print a map before heading off for a hike.

In the winter months, snowmobilers use Scotch Line between Merrickville and the outskirts of Kemptville, as do x-country skiers, hikers, and snowshoers, and anyone else who wants to access the forest in winter. In the fall and summer months, it’s quite a lovely flat trek; there are side-trails in rough rectangles, so you can dip south and return north to the east/west trail. One spur leads to a bog, which has a lookout area; it’s quite a vibrant spot in any season.

To access the section of trail where Hiromi Suzuki’s poem, “A Swimmer” is situated, you’d have taken a side path SE-ish from the main trail and meandered your way through a lovely woodland before arriving a T-junction. At the T-junction, there are different objects each time, buried under leaf litter or exposed on the ground. The embers from a small campfire, cigarette or joint butts, a metal washing bin, beer cans (typically Canadian or Molson), a single sock, oddly familiar on hikes, curled over, a gritty haven for insects.

You’d then walk S-ish to the point at which (if it was full of water), you’d walk no more and see Suzuki’s poem to one side of the track. The track is flooded throughout the year, unless there’s drought or the water is frozen.

The track is lower than the marsh. “A Swimmer” was planted in 2015 on marsh-edge above the track. It seemed fitting to place it edging a landform which is shaped by biological forces and has fluid, transitional properties. Marsh, like most wetlands, is a cryptic space for species of all types. Hiromi’s substantial collage and other work makes use of physical forms, or evokes them, to create visual transitions toward movement — thinking here of her recent collage work, Andante (AngelHouse 2019)and Suzuki’s conceptual use of the roundabout as a point of intersection toward patterned directions: teared edges, letters, wave forms and netting, seasonal gatherings and forms of precipitation, crowd symmetry, train infrastructure, and interior/exterior dwellings uniquely counter static (pedestrian) impressions. Perhaps one of the neat things about the collage technique is that it disrupts habit, or the overexposure and dulling of routine experiences as to render them invisible or muted. Transitions, in this way, are quite important. Language in Andante, for example, comes around.

When I last headed to Scotch Line,  I encountered the development of housing in the works there.  The short road had become a long street with a wide turn toward a cul de sac just before the “trail”. The cairn marker, formerly about a 1km distance from the start of the trail, was now an established trailhead because of the road. Street lamps, fresh asphalt, and all the wiring necessary for utilities paralleled the road. Houses were coming into shape. Lots had been divided. Grass planted. I had half expected some form of built change for awhile, but also half expected it would never happen. There were, after all, lot signs for nearly a decade.

I walked up the new road to the side-trail that would take me to Suzuki’s poem. The side path was obstructed by a house and pile of dirt, and farther along, the edge of the cul-de-sac. Curious and feeling a bit disoriented, I carried onward, working my way past construction and the sounds of hammers. I walked partly through young forest and partly along bits of found trail, as its continuity was broken by a pile of dirt and a house or two. At the T-junction, I headed south, and looked for the poem. It’d come apart — the poem itself was in the marsh, the stake still planted. The plexiglass facing was cracked. The paper was a bit torn, and an insect was tucked into it. Language had come apart. At the midpoint of the flooded track, the water rippled, part of multiple other frequencies and textures, smooth and jagged. I moved the poem, placing it carefully to lean against the base of its stand and thought about walking the track to the southern end through the water. Another time.

With thanks…a list of rout/e contributors, their poems, & starting points ~

Thank you to all who have contributed/participated in rout/e so far ~ below is a list of contributors, poems, and starting points for possibly finding the poems on trails. Some other projects and collaborations evolved as a result of rout/e — these are also listed as *.

2019: soon, when unfrozen ground presents….

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Winter-Winter 2017-2018

Black Walnut Grove

Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim: Black Walnut Grove 

“Black Walnut Grove” (winter 2017)
“Primavera” (spring 2017)
“L’estate” (summer 2017)
“Autumno” (autumn 2017)
“Inverno” (winter 2018)

Scores planted within seasonal variability, as opposed to chronological markers.

* “L’estate” (summer) is on exhibit at the Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington, Devon UK, curated by Camilla Nelson as part of Radical Landscapes (23 March 2019-23 April 2019). Jordheim is exhibiting the actual scores as marked by the activities in the black walnut grove.

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2017:

Nico Vassilakis: “Red Dada”
Limerick Forest: Craig Road entrance

Paul Hawkins “Drifting”
Limerick Forest: Scotch Line

Linda Russo – sequence of 5 poems from “Daynotes from Field and Forms (Flittings)” in Meaning to Go to the Origin in Some Way (Shearsman: 2015).

sequence, re-ordered in place (using first lines without title):

“What writing is indigenous to a place”
“Flight call is a sharp distinctive plick”
“The call is”
“These small birds”
“Standing here, a kind of invitation”

Marlborough Forest Earth Star Loop

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CSArt (Community Supported Art) planting:

*commissioned by CSArt to plant rout/e poems as part of the CSArt subscription season. Included poetry walk and chapbook (planting locations and walk in collaboration with Katherine Forster, who runs wild.here; chapbook design and cover with hand-made paper by Grant Wilkins (Grunge Papers); chapbook inner pages printed at CoBa Studios, Merrickville. Poems solicited from Ottawa-based poets who had been recommended by past Ottawa-based rout/e participants.

Ottawa based locations:

Christine McNair: “advanced mourning”
Montfort Woods

Vera Wabegijig: “migration”
Andrew Haydon Park

Jenn Baker: “Unmoored”
Sandy Hill Bike Trail

Ian Martin: “deep dream”
Fairmont Park

Shery Alexander Heinis: “Down that Hole”
Reid Park

a.m. kozak: “& THEN COMES THE STATIC”
Carlington Heights Reservoir

Sarah MacDonell: “this tree belongs to the city (and that one too)”
Uplands Greenspace

*Katherine Forster returned to the sites to see if the poems were still there. Her blog includes wildlife and plant species, as well as poems, sighted/sited in each location:

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2016: 

jwcurry: “Kamloops Test Target”
Riverside Park, Kemptville

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CSArt broadside

*poems made into broadsides for launch of CSArt; a selection of poems from Ottawa based poets who have contributed to rout/e over the years.

Roland Prevost: “And So It Rose”
Blaine Marchand: “Leaves, Birds, Marigold, Sky”
Robert Hogg: “Saturday Afternoon in Kemptville”
Sandra Ridley: “Clasp”
Pearl Pirie: “to get all we desire”
Amanda Earl: “until even now”
Jason Christie: “Trailing”

2015

Robert Hogg: “Circles”
Limerick Forest: Scotch Line

Bruno Neiva “Logistics”
Merrickville Industrial Heritage Site, Merrickville

Eric Magrane: “the sky: frames”; “the sky: to a bird”; “reprise”
Baxter Conservation Area

Hiromi Suzuki: “A Swimmer”
Limerick Forest N: Scotch Line (side loop)

Jason Christie “Trail”
Merrickville Industrial Heritage Site, Merrickville

Jamie Reid: “Fake Poem”
Baxter Conservation Area

Christine LeClerc: “echoherence” (from Place-Relation Ecopoetics)
Track: south of Pebble Road, Kemptville Ontario

Jordan Abel: “Totem5”
Bascule Bridge, Smiths Falls

Steven Ward: “to do with this”
abandoned field/orchard former Kemptville campus University of Guelph

derek beaulieu: “Translating Translating Apollinaire”
replaced a solar panel, large installation
Baxter Conservation Area

*Low Frequency Press (Buffalo) published The Great Canadian, a chapbook that combines text from a rawlings’ echolology (ms in progress), including her piece in rout/e, “I will not ruin the environment”, with photographs by Chris Turnbull of “I will not ruin the environment” as installed and monitored over time in its plac(ings) on the Rideau Trail (Wood Road), Merrickville. Collaboration between publisher and poet Michael Flatt (Low Frequency Press: Buffalo), a rawlings, and Chris Turnbull.

*tribute videopoem to Jamie Reid, “Homage to Paul Éluard” with footage from rout/e.

*Amanda Earl’s “until even now” made into a videopoem.

2014:

planted along numerous intersecting trails at Petrie Island, in collaboration with Friends of Petrie Island, Katherine Forster (coordinator of Friends of Petrie Island), and Pearl Pirie, Roland Prevost, Sandra Ridley, and Janice Tokar.

David Groulx: “An Autumn Afternoon”
Blaine Marchand: “The point”
Pearl Pirie: “Friends”
Roland Prevost: “blister”
Sandra Ridley: from first line: “LoveRainHeavy”
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George Bowering: “A Little Montreal Sonnet”
Chickadee Trail, Ferguson Forest Centre 
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in collaboration with Prof. Shosh Ganz and her English Lit class at Memorial University, Grenville Campus in Cornerbrook Newfoundland – poems constructed in class and planted as part of a poetry walk along the Glynmill Pond section of the Cornerbrook Stream Trail. Participants included:

Adrian Fowler
Stephan Walke
Holly Pike
Beth Follett
Adam Beardsworth
Shosh Ganz
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2013-2014 from the Black Walnut Grove 

Monty Reid: “October”, “March” “April”, “December” (2013)
derek beaulieu: “Untitled 5”  (2014)
Sandra Ridley: “In Praise of the Healer” (2014) (from Silvja: BookThug 2016)

*a series of 5 printed and laminated poems for each poet, each poem placed in a 5 in x 7 empty metal placard already  fronting the trees. Each poet had a row, the poems were planted between late 2013 and fall 2014; poems were solicited in slow order.
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2012:

Amanda Earl: “until even now”
Cedar Loop, Marlborough Forest

rob mclennan: “situated along trails in a similar fashion”
Cedar Loop, Marlborough Forest

2011:

Monty Reid: from “El Gran Zoo” (after Nicholas Guillen)
Burritt’s Rapids, spit, Rideau River

Steven Ward: [untitled]
Tip to Trail, Burritt’s Rapids, Ontario

Jamie Reid: “Tribute to Paul Eluard”
Rideau Trail, Marlborough Forest (Dwyer Hill)

derek beaulieu: [untitled] 
Rideau Trail, Marlborough Forest (Dwyer Hill)

 a rawlings: “I will not ruin the environment” from echolology (ms in progress)
Rideau Trail, Wood Road entrance, Merrickville

 

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.