Black Walnut Grove – Jordheim’s The Four Seasons

Between 2017-2018, Norwegian artist and composer Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim sent me sets of hand-drawn scored notecards in packets of 10, each season, to be planted in a black walnut grove at the former Kemptville campus in eastern Ontario. It was the start of a project that acted as a nod to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, but that also became a visual and, more recently, sonic notation of the grove itself, monitored and recorded in increments. Some of the visual components from each season, and Jordheim’s work, has been written about in rout/e here, and here, here and here. Additional images from the black walnut grove have been added to this post.

In the spring of 2020, over a seven week period, Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim and I each audio-recorded the black walnut grove and Jordheim’s daily activities, in synchrony, taking into account time differences between Ontario, Canada and Oslo, Norway.

The Learned Pig has published our essay about this project and our subsequent observations about duration, sonic diaries, ecological and atmospheric interventions, and place.


There isn’t any defined pattern to rout/e, in terms of how many poems are planted a year, or whether I return to (and document) the poems regularly, or what the poem and the poem-on-its-stand experiences, loosely considered as what/who interacts ‘with’ the poem, via its outdoor location. During this past year, given constraints related to CV19, trails and ‘desire’ paths have been explored and created by people much more intensely than I’ve ever seen — evidenced by a deepening of the surface of the trails, trees marked with flagging tape (I can presume for trails or off-trail exploration), and in a anecdotal sort of way locally, more talk of place and maps and trails than I’ve heard before. I don’t know if there has been an increase in folks stopping to read the poems (or passing by and seeing the poem as an object) as some are a bit off the trails, to the side, or obscured seasonally by various elements like snow, foliage, downed trees, etc.

I wouldn’t claim that placing poems on a trail changes the environment — environment being more a concept, a system for categorizing, than a specific method of expressing how all biotic/abiotic species respond to geography, locale, natural features, and each other while developing their own methods of surviving and adapting, in long or short term ways. There are many elements that I find intriguing about rout/e, such as seeming responses to the poems — others moving them or removing them, or physical or conceptual consumption of the poem, and by extension, the myriad things that disrupt, re-signify, and fracture any attempt at a directed gaze; the effects to the page that shift the writing and the poet’s initial work –an increasing transparency of the paper over time, language obliteration and fragmentation through atmospheric and other impacts (what I like to call ’emergence’ (not erasure)), and reflection and glare from the nearby materials and forms; a compelling emphasis on duration, interval, lingering and return within the physical and conceptual spaces of the environment — what lasts and how is it lasting? We receive and attend to information within outdoor environments in vastly different ways than how we receive information digitally. One could take the poem-on-its-stand as another kind of screen — although “filter” works better.

rout/e as a project, and the planted poems of various contributors, is the focus of in a creative essay I contributed to Geopoetics in Practice: edited by Eric Magrane, Linda Russo, Sarah de Leeuw, and Craig Santos Perez (Routledge 2019). From the editor’s introduction:

This collection approaches geopoetics as a practice by bringing together contemporary geographers, poets, and artists who contribute their research, methodologies, and creative writing. The 24 chapters, divided into the sections “Documenting,” “Reading,” and “Intervening,” poetically engage discourses about space, power, difference, and landscape, as well as about human, non-human, and more-than-human relationships with Earth. Key explorations of this edited volume include how poets engage with geographical phenomena through poetry and how geographers use creativity to explore space, place, and environment.

The essays in this collection have accompanied me quite a bit this year, as I consider rout/e, the poems that various poets have contributed (which, as far as I knew or imagined, were/could be still standing), and future plantings. On this website, there are earlier posts about each; this is by way of an update:

rob mclennan‘s poem, “Situated along various trails in a similar fashion,”, planted in 2011, has been moved three times and seems to be permanently embedded in a cedar tree above a footbridge in the Marlborough Forest. The poem was planted along a fairly well used path to begin with, but over the last year, even over this winter (if tracks in snow are anything to go by), there is an increase in the number of folks using the trail. Someone has scattered bird seed along the footbridge which, while it likely has had the effect of more obvious chickadee and nuthatch gatherings near the poem, may also result in one seeking the bridge as a destination and a place to pause. If one pauses, one tends to attend to other sensory aspects: breath, sound, visual components, temperature, even one’s own thoughts. The poem is still quite readable, with moisture providing patterns that language doesn’t mimic well, and the physical presence of a sun-mark mid-page is ever present. The sound of the creek varies depending on the season.

George Bowering sent a fairly direct poem, “A Little Montreal Sonnet”, a decade ago. I placed it at the Ferguson Forest Centre, and then it was moved. I refound it, placed on the other side of a narrow bridge, on the marsh side of the trail, facing an easterly direction. Trees obscured it some of the year; in winter, it cast a good shadow and was much more clearly visible. This trail was not well used; the rickety bridge and the overgrown path of cattails and ragweed/goldenrod acted as a deterrent for most walkers, and a decade ago, the housing development across the road was a nascent build; its main perk being the golf course that was built to abut the development. But now…well, the bridge has been replaced, stone has helped foster a built culvert from marsh to slow creek; the trail has been cut back and chips distributed. Via this trail, you could connect to another trail that runs in an E/W direction. It used to be near impassable at one time, but now is easily accessible to the subdivision folks across the road.

One morning this fall, I found the poem uprooted and laying along the trail. As I was with a friend, I walked by it and went back later to scoop it up and replant it elsewhere. I don’t usually do this…but I felt that Bowering’s poem would do just fine in a new location in the FFC — this time, it’s facing S, toward the St. Lawrence and onward past this fluid border-non-border to the USA. The St. Lawrence is another kind of trail. This winter, snow shoes made the most obvious tracking toward the poem. Behind it is the remnant of, possibly, a tree blind. The remnant could be used as a small, rickety bench; as such, it leans up against a red pine as if there’s a ball dugout, or perhaps it’s the bench for an outdoor reading.

Linda Russo‘s poems, “Daynotes on Fields & Forms (Flittings)”, planted in 2016, are spread out along the Earth Star Loop in the Marlborough Forest as a sequence of five poems. They are resonant pieces that acknowledge human observations of species (incl. human) relationships and they anticipate, in their pacing and layout, the processes involved in pausing and attending. Two of Russo’s poems continue to be eaten, and, when I saw them last, deer tracks circled one of the poems, which had been planted on a rise amongst junipers and birch trees.

Phil Hall’s poems, planted last spring along a section of the Rideau Trail, near Perth, were missing from the trail on my last hike in that area. The remnants of stoves and other farm implements were clearly evident, even if mostly covered by snow…and there were more people on the trail than I’ve ever encountered. During the hunting season, the trail is closed to walkers, and I didn’t get back to it until recently. In that time period, the poems were uprooted and placed in a careful group, at a wire gate that fronts the trail. Clearly, someone felt that someone else would come and collect them… They’re currently hanging out in the garage — there are plans afoot for another planting or variation thereof.

Eric Magrane’s poetry was planted at Baxter Conservation Area in 2015 as a series of 3 poems. They were were spread out — placed along one of the trails and also into the nut grove that appends, across a small bridge, the Conservation Area. Looking at photos reminds me that I experimented a bit with these pieces and used transparencies and, for one poem, a curious blue vellum. What remains is his poem “the sky frames” — at the edge of the nut grove, toward a small mixed forest, toward river edge. Caught beneath the plexi is a hemipteran, as suggests the entomologist (not me). The font? Well —

Hiromi Suzuki sent me “A Swimmer” in 2015. Earlier this winter, as ice had formed solidly enough that one could walk the track S between the marsh, I ventured out for both a hike and a check on her poem. The long anticipated housing development (evidenced by a decade of survey, “for sale” and pipe-infrastructure) is built. But the track that goes south, and much of the Scotch line that goes west, are mostly unaffected, for now. The approach has certainly altered; the scrub, marsh, and limestone could make for some interesting pooling, perhaps, down the road. Her poem was gone, except for a piece of plexiglass and the stake, which endures. Another kind of survey mark.

Vassilakis & Hill

I have a map for the local forest (FFC), which I downloaded several years ago. The FFC is a managed forest and nursery, it hosts a number of tree species common to the region, as well as species common to eastern forests. It’s open to the public and is a considerable community resource. A “Friends” component assists with community access, trail maintenance, and community liaisoning/networking. That map has been extremely useful, over the years — but it is no longer available online (or it’s been moved and renamed). A satellite version with brightly marked, colour coded trails is now available for download instead, and the satellite version is what you’d see in the forest itself — placed along various trails, usually at entrance points and intersections.

I prefer the map I downloaded because it shows all the trails as a topo map, not as a satellite map. However you hike or move through outdoor spaces, you’ll know what I mean. It shows the trails that may have been animal paths but were converted because they make sense. The access trails that would be useful for forest maintenance and emergencies. The trails that become truncated or, until recently, were a bit overgrown and very few people accessed them. The trails that wind around and through the other trails. And the trails-not-trails that aren’t on any map — the map I have suggests these because it shows various landscape features that one could follow, and what they parallel or lead toward/from/out-of and in-to.

Over this last year, there has been an increased use of the forest. Trails that were primarily unused (as they’re not outlined in colour on the satellite map) have become known. I’ll assume that there’s an increased number of people following the tracks of other people, or following people, generally. It’s more difficult to assume this in summer and fall, but in winter the tracks that people make are visibly evident. In addition, the trails themselves have been cleaned up— probably part of a management plan— and access isn’t as hidden by overgrowth. These mostly-unused trails are visible on the satellite map in the form of clear lines (aerial view) through forest canopy, but most eyes, I think, likely gravitate to what’s clearly delineated and made official: the red, yellow, orange lines and markers that visually emphasize a route to follow: “folks go here”.

These are observations, not complaints.

The map makes sense only within this forest. I can look at it and ‘see’ the overall space laid out spatially in my head and navigate, while there, or use it as a prompt when I think about various trails and locations within the forest. There are other forests around here that I am still trying to wrap my head around: the trails intersecting and winding without seeming structure. The beauty of the trails in the other forests are that they are, simply, desire paths made by dirt bikes and cyclists — made for challenge, not linearity: to make difficult/fun a certain kind of movement through the forest. The consistent use of these desire paths have padded down the terrain and established trails. Eventually, someone gave the paths numbers (which are not grid-sequential), and then someone made a map. For me, it’s easier to ‘see’ in my head the grid; the squiggly, curving, overlapping lines of the other map are delightful, but more difficult for me to see and travel along without rechecking the map itself. But, with exposure and over time, the eyes, the brain, the body adjust to the networking of trails, in whatever form.

The other week, I trundled my way through the community forest, along a once not-so-used path (it’s still not used as much as others). As I passed the remnants of a deer blind, my dog and I noticed rather large raccoon tracks on the trail. There were other tracks criss-crossing, too— porcupine, snowshoe hare, squirrel, fox, maybe coyote (old tracks) — but the raccoon stuck to the trail, so we followed both trail and tracks. They passed by Nico Vassilakis and Crag Hill’s visual poems, which I’d installed the day before.

The visual poems are hung between the rungs of a mostly functional deer blind. The blind is situated about 30 metres off-trail in, frankly, a brilliant location, should one hunt or just want to observe the forest or, across the trail, the emergent swamp (emergent based on season/weather). The deer blind hasn’t been used for years, but is well built. Its upper pieces (a small sitting bench) has fallen down, but the ladder and flat platform are solid. It’s the 7th blind I’ve found throughout the forest, most in various states of disrepair (for the function) or decomposition (for the material).

The blind is not immediately noticeable, partially because some of it it is obscured by the branches of a young tree from one angle as one navigates the trail, and partially because a variety of tree species, deadfall, ground cedar, twigs, grass bits, lightfall, etc. create visual gaps and solids between it and the trail. In winter, it’s just as easy to look right through the rungs and not see the blind for the forest and its species. Or to see it, but incorporate it into extended and cascading visual contexts and their movements. Seeing, here, constitutes a form of hedging in terms of the eyes seeing, and the brain processing, variables; you’d catch the poems, perhaps, out of the corner of your eye as you move alongside or in passing. Unless you stop and look into the woods (likely because something else has caught your eyes or ears, or perhaps an impending sense of), you probably won’t notice them. Noticing is different from seeing. Kids are the most likely to both notice and see the poems; both poems are at a good height for kids and placed in a contraption meant for climbing.

Vassilakis’ piece is printed on 9×12 vinyl and placed on 9X12 plexiglass in portrait orientation between two rungs of the blind’s ladder. It’s not central; it’s right justified, if you want to think of a page, and abuts the right support of the ladder. The piece is vibrant with colours, composed symmetrically with seemingly repetitive visual information and shapes that are offset by our own asymmetries and behaviors— how the eyes moves, how a thing might be “read”. What is symmetry when one is looking ‘at’ or ‘through’ something? What happens to one’s range of vision and the mind’s taking in/interpreting? Language is material and spatial; seeing colour and shapes and associating meaning is a product of physiological interpretation.

Hill’s piece is situated between the rungs of the ladder immediately below Vassilakis’. It is printed on 15.5×11 vinyl, in landscape format, and placed on 17×13 plexiglass. The plexi acts as a frame and filter. The rungs themselves are also frames: a visual stuttering of what is alongside, before, after, behind, in front of, and from the point of trail and the point of ladder.

Hill’s work is also vibrant; the piece as a whole is illuminated by continuous and truncated colours from purple to pink, offset by the shade of black. It makes for a sort of light show, and as in all things, can be looked at and through, there’s depth and variation between the shape of the lines, their colours, and the oscillation between line continuity and discontinuity ‘within’ the total absorption that the black shade offers. But your eyes and mind should try to get around the poem, past it and its multiplied framing. Vassilakis’ stands out, Hill’s takes in, among the wholes that the eyes see, or think to see. In this season, or in this moment or that.

The poems are likely to outlast the blind.



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:

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):

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


("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….


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.



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


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; 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:



jwcurry: “Kamloops Test Target”
Riverside Park, Kemptville

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”


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.


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”

George Bowering: “A Little Montreal Sonnet”
Chickadee Trail, Ferguson Forest Centre 

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

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.


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

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


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: