Turn over

In Fall-Spring 2013-2014, I planted several poems by derek beaulieu, Sandra Ridley, and Monty Reid in a nut grove (primarily black walnut) at the Kemptville campus of the University of Guelph. Each poet was given a row, give or take (the rows were not entirely even). I’ve described the impetus for this on this site before, but, briefly, this grove seemed to be a space that community memory had lost (if it had even had it to begin with). The grove is located between cedar hedges; to one side of the cedar hedge is a field to the east and a sequence of pine plantations to the west. To the north, apple trees at the far end and poplars (now quite huge). To the south an highly resonant forest, rich in a sort of ponderous quiet, the kind of quiet ellipses suggest. Accompanied, of course, by rustlings, sharp bird cries and chatter, leaves, things that move.

The grove is full of long grass that gets blown over in wind, communities of milkweed, batches of ragweed, and patches where bird feathers make evident the presence of predatory birds.I found it through an exploratory walk one fall — and wondered about the trees and why the small metal placards in front of them were empty. Filling them with poems seemed both an interesting and humorous notion; over time, the poems might get taken or drift or simply erode.

It is now fall 2016, and of those poems there is only one left of derek beaulieu’s. There are two of Sandra Ridley’s poems. All of Monty Reid’s are gone. One of Sandra’s has wind-drifted from her row over to derek beaulieu’s row and sits in the tall grass facing his poem. Her other poem is tucked into the low branches of a bush that I have not as yet identified. It’s not a nut tree.

It is time for a new series of poems in the grove. There seems to be more foot traffic there,probably because the College has a visible security presence that shoos dog walkers away from the two elementary schools that have taken space and directs them toward the unknown: “Just go that way, through the gate and across the fields, there’s lots of space out there…”. There is, but it’s shared by many species, and some poems ~


the sky: frames ~ Magrane

Spring seems a bit slower this year; perhaps it seems so because of aridity, or temperature fluctuations, or any number of observations that include nothing in the realm of data collection. Perceptual, of course; many occurrences simultaneous and phased apart constitute a collection of seasonal markers named Spring; these seasonal markers are quick ways to give a nod to time, to allow for transition and seasonal alterations. For the most part, I’ve been enjoying measuring the timing of things by anecdote, (e.g the creek IS very low, and I haven’t seen some of the insects I’d normally see by now), chit chat by neighbours and friends. There are, of course, the scientists and data collectors among them, the experts who have years of measurement and experiment tucked into notebooks, analysed by software and human alike, to create a much more precise view on the multitudes of processes around us, with us.

There was a blast of heat for about a week followed by a good day or so of rain in early June, so I made my way to Baxter Conservation Area to check on Eric Magrane‘s poems. Baxter is one of my favourite places to visit and to plant poems – and the RVCA has been very friendly to the idea of poems or art emerging/re/versioning from the effect of natural conditions (I’m not really willing to call this erasure work).

Magrane’s poems were planted in the Filmore R. Park Nut Grove at Baxter; it is a bit of a treasure – especially since Baxter has a lot of unique features already. One of several public nut groves in the region, this one, planted in 1979, hosts 60-70 varieties of nut trees and is maintained by ECSONG (The Eastern Chapter of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers) and the RVCA (Rideau Valley Conservation Authority). ECSONG also host a very interesting  inventory (“inventree“) of nut species found in Ottawa and ‘outside’ Ottawa.

I planted Magrane’s “the sky: to a bird” and “the sky: frames” in the nut grove during the fall of 2015. They’re in good shape. Unlike previous rout/e poems, I printed “to a bird” on blue vellum-like paper. I planted two versions of “the sky: frames” — one on white paper  in the grove, and another on acetate in a hollow log away from the nut grove and closer to the Centre.  Magrane’s spacing of “the sky: frames” – its form – and the subsequent resonance of space with text worked well with the transparency of the acetate, opening the view to the plywood beneath (wood with grain), and to the log, decomposing.  A similar effect occurred with “to a bird”, printed on the blue vellum-like paper: one could see through the paper to the grain of the wood beneath, and the poem both reflected and refracted a changing sky, as well as anything above the poem (trees, movement). Over winter, however, the blue colour faded to a light blue, visible more as fine streaks, possibly leaching into the plywood below it.  I planted two versions of “the sky: frames” because the one in the hollow log, I figured, would be most noticeable by kids. They’re not always be able to walk as far as the nut grove, and tend to look down, or at different levels, than adults. Baxter is quiet, and I often don’t run into anyone while walking, however the beach is a big draw in the summertime, and it is a well-used conservation area.

It was a pretty quiet day at Baxter – though I did see an Eastern Tent Caterpillar; the osprey, too, circling and returning to its nest (did an Olson there!) box.








logistics & river

bruno neiva’s poem, “logistics” was planted in the fall of 2015, to the side of a path that runs from the Merrickville Bridge down through “The Ruins”. For a variety of reasons, this seemed to be a good spot for neiva’s poem – there are artefacts on this site that, for reason of their contrasts, and what, individually, they reference, offer parallels and counterpoints to his deft and precise poetry and visual work. A little farther east-ish along the trail, just before its endpoint, is Jason Christie’s poem – placed in the same general area for completely different reasons, some of which I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post. There, Jason’s poem leans against a tree, in the presence of objects such as a stone campfire, a log bench with a cigarette holder, and, across the narrow channel, a marina. To the south the water trickles or roars over limestone, depending on whether the dam has been opened or not.

This trail isn’t particularly remote – it’s easily accessible, visually interesting, and cuts through multiple areas that would make for great picnics. It’s also semi-groomed. Someone cuts the grass here. The notion of the picnic, given bruno’s work and Jason’s, is both ironic and a respite.

The spaces around bruno’s poem teem with river movements, architectural remnants, red phone booths, rusty corrugated rooftops, sharply white-grey limestone rock, dam movements, and curious urban noises mixed with the clear calls of catbirds, chickadees and a variety of warblers.  A turbine, enclosed in a metal fence, is (as if the ruins and the dam in the background aren’t enough) a gigantic reminder that this space is an industrial memory garden. Since winter, bruno’s poem has sprouted a seed or two; it offers a surface for the passings of birds and other species to mark.

bruno has a number of projects on the go, many of which are accessible through his website, particularly his highly interesting Museum of Boughs. He discusses some of the elements of his work, and collaborations, here.

Walks, melt, poems

In the fall, I placed a poem by Bob Hogg in a spot near a fenceline along the Scotch Line trail that runs between Kemptville and Merrickville. The poem sits near an extended patch of dolomite limestone and edges a fence line with oak, scrub, and hawthorne. It’s about 1 km past the info cairn on the Merrickville side. About a month or so ago, after a few days of mild winter weather, I accessed the trail from Donahue Road — it’s about an 8-10 km hike. I’d walked some of it the weekend earlier from the Merrickville side, when everything was frozen. This time, those puddles were now in a state of slush or soft enough to crack if I walked on them. I was curious to see how the poem, “Circles”, had fared over the winter.

There’s a large tract of land that encloses the trail — in the 1980’s Limerick Forest, a managed forest (and hunting) area, was created from abandoned farms and homesteads. It is now quite a large tract of land that includes a variety of wetlands, and the railway cuts through part of it. A train did come through carrying freight and blowing its whistle; its movement and sound blocked my ability to listen for or to anything else for about 10 minutes. It was very disconcerting to not be able to hear a thing but for the whistle and sound of wheels on track. It was a quiet day for sound, otherwise, most of what I heard before and after the train were chipmunks or chickadees. I could hear activity from woodpeckers (likely downy and/or hairy), and I startled a ruffed grouse. Visually, I was also following animal tracks that paralleled the trail — deer and coyote. There is talk of the Eastern Cougar inhabiting the area, some say yes, others, no — regardless, I’d prefer not to run into one of those or have one follow me.

It’s a lovely walk — there are side paths that lead toward the Wolford Bog, once you’re over the tracks; large erratics; evidence of homesteads through either the landscape formation, remains of foundations, or piled stone.  Bob’s a well-known poet who lives in the general area, however, he’s also well known for his organic farming/milling and wholesale organics business (which he still has a hand in but has retired from). His poems are sensitive to felt spaces, or work within/alongside felt spaces; they are carefully crafted, often having an inherent rhythm and an accessible narrative core that transition into singular or particular concepts. His critical eye is very reliable and his stylistic sense wide-ranging. above/ground press recently re-issued his chapbook Lamentations; he has several books that are worthwhile finding.

I had to cross a section of trail that runs between a marsh that, forming a creek on the other side, runs into another marsh. It was flooded, so I sloshed across, quite pleased at the rate of water flow  into the small creek, as well as the sound of it. Once I’d crossed this section, I ran into people — small groups of families, teens, walkers with dogs. The creek was the natural border that the walkers did not cross. From nobody to about 20 — this section of trail probably has the most regular walkers in relation to the other trails that host footpress poems. “Circles” was still there, too —when I first planted it, I wasn’t able to embed it too deeply into soil because of the rock beneath. It is held securely by a pile of stones, shallowly piled, around the base. The poem seems planted securely enough, but it seems as though the sheet of plywood and plexi has been twisted a bit, has loosened. The poem, however, is in good shape, regardless.


What happens when

What happens to the poems in rout/e is somewhat unknown, once I’ve planted them along the trails. There have been times when they’ve been far enough away (or in a direction I don’t go very often) that I haven’t returned to them for a year or two. I’ve commented in a low-key way before about this. For the most part, the poems stand up very well in all types of weather, but the most predictable component of this footpress is the unpredictable. Kudos and appreciations to the poets who are willing to contribute a poem that might become destroyed or, with weathering and other conditions, change. Because each ‘planting’ is made up of 5-10 poems only, and they’re spread out on various trails, the readability of the poems is subject to the numbers of folks who use the trails – and, honestly, on some trails that won’t be a lot of folks. A few times, the poem has been destroyed or changed – by paintballs or removal – but a few other times, some unknown person has been a ‘caretaker’ for the poem. This has happened to angela rawlings’ “The Great Canadian”; Amanda Earl’s “until even now” and, more recently, Jason Christie’s “Trail”.

angela rawlings‘ “The Great Canadian” has been detailed in the link above – and recently was rendered into a incredibly lovely chapbook by Michael Flatt of Low Frequency Press. Amanda Earl‘s “until even now” was placed beside a beaver pond in Marlborough Forest, surrounded by wild strawberries and a fringe of trees. When I walked by it in the fall, the stake for the poem was absent and someone had placed her poem in a tree, visible, but safe. Amanda and I have collaborated on a video-poem, which is available on Vimeo, using an image or two of her poem, as well as open source images and clips.

Jason Christie‘s contribution, “Trail”, was placed in Merrickville, Ontario in fall of 2015. A few weekends ago I walked along a corduroy road/track from Scotch Line to Merrickville, passing by rout/e contributions by Bob Hogg and bruno neiva, respectively (more on those in another post soon), and came upon Christie’s poem. It had been moved from its former site, which would have just edged the flood zone in spring melt. I found it on higher ground, lying  near a tree on higher ground. It had not been damaged; it could not have been planted because the ground was frozen, so someone had placed “Trail”on the ground with its plexi-face facing down. I stood the poem upright again against the tree – and, because I think there might be an Easter gathering somewhere near that point this year, wonder what will happen next. Attached to the poem via a q-code is a link to this: https://jasonchristie.bandcamp.com/album/trailing. For a couple of years now, some of the poems have been accompanied by a q-code that links to a sonic piece of the poet’s choice. Christie’s poetry is enjoyable to read –  carefully crafted with a clear line of wit. above/ground press recently published his chapbook, The Charm.


I placed Christine LeClerc’s “echoherence” in the fall, slightly off the track that used to lead to a  train station on Bedell Road; the track cuts west-ish through carefully cultivated agricultural lands from the Kemptville Agricultural College and then runs south, edging the margin of forest and a small wetland that I haven’t yet explored. On walks through this area, at dusk, I have been sure I’ve heard the sound of dogs barking off in an rural estate style development, but after stopping to think about it, have recognized the sounds as that of owls, and not that far off. Acoustically, this section is quite rich a variety of calls in different seasons, or the sounds of wind or water movements. Often, especially in winter, footprints indicate that deer cross the track, entering in and out of the wetland and other places; this winter I saw mink and squirrel prints that crossed each other. Possibly there are bears somewhere in this section too, though they have rather vast ranges; there are certainly fox and coyote. The area hosts some rather large coyotes with whom I’ve crossed paths a few times now, either when riding my bike or on foot — once, a coyote paused, sitting, watching to see what I’d do, and another time a coyote crossed my path about five feet ahead of me with a long loping stride. I imagined, that time, that he/she had been sitting in the railway bed, blending in, the way a coyote will do. Rarely do I see others folks walking, although the track is well used; at times I use it to walk to Oxford Mills.

At the end of this track used to be a train station that would take folks from the area into Prescott or Ottawa. Friends who grew up in the area tell me that they used to take it when younger; at other points along the way you could apparently wait with your hankie and wave the train down.

Christine LeClerc’s contribution to rout/e comes from a collective glossary of ecological terms, edited by Linda Russo. Given the wendings of rout/e, I was appreciative of both Christine LeClerc’s contribution, and Russo’s overall project. Below is Russo’s introduction to her “Place-relation ecopoetics: A collective glossary”:

To be local is to be emplaced, to pertain to a particular site, to have spatial form. To “be a local” is to be from a here, but to be “local to” is to create a relation to a place, to create a notable here anywhere. “Local” from the Latin locus, meaning “place.” What lines of thought does poetry course along when written through/as relation(s) to place? How do poems articulate (conceive of, imagine, recreate) place as a site of relations? What forms of “local” do poems take?

Much of what might be gathered under the unfurled and unfurling banners of ‘ecopoetics’ expresses the complexity of speaking of (from/with) the human impacts on our (our/their) un/natural environments/ecologies. I’m interested in the gestures that relate poetries to places, and in how poets can help us comprehend and redefine our placed-ness and place-making practices. This commentary will index and explore more-or-less contemporary instances of emplaced poesis – of poetry as a form of inhabitance. (Russo: from the online contemporary poetics journal Jacket2).





trail markers and looking ahead

I’ve changed the site a wee bit – see Then another footprint

Poems by Christine LeClerc, Robert Hogg, Jordan Abel, Eric Magrane, Hiromi Suzuki, bruno neiva, Jason Christie, Steven Ward, and Jamie Reid are now posted!

There is a videopoem of Jamie Reid’s “Homage to Paul Éluard”.

Low Frequency Press published a lovely chapbook combining arawlings’ “The Great Canadian” and pieces from her forthcoming echolology with rout/e images.

& onward to 2016…