Red Dada

Finally finished planting Nico Vassilakis‘ “Red Dada”, which, along with work by Paul Hawkins and Linda Russo, makes up a new round of rout/e pieces. Hawkins’ and Russo’s will be planted later this week, weather permitting.

“Red Dada” was planted in the section of Limerick Forest that is accessible via Craig Road – -across the bog, if you’d like, from Hiromi Suzuki’s “A Swimmer” and Bob Hogg’s “Circles”. It took me a while to figure out where to put Vassilakis’ work–and even as I slipped and crunched along one of the trails, I still hadn’t fully worked it out. It seemed fitting, this sliding kind of placement, a conceptual impermanence and siting occurring even before I’d planted the poem.

There was the lovely, rotting, maple tree covered in cascading fungal symmetry; their circling forms and spatial ephemerality seeming rather fitting. Nah. Farther along, a rather grand placement of really large boulders in threes–along a stone fence way marking previous property lines–seemed like a good place too, mainly because of the seeming intention of their placement, but I noticed the space between them, an obvious space twice the boulder’s width, did more to define the boulders than their shapes themselves. Thought about putting the poem right there, in between the series. Nah. How about the empty post right at bog, farther along and to the south? It would aim west-ish, in its way, cutting across chunks of boggy landmass and open (iced) water to what the eye can’t quite access. Nah. Of course, in another season, such observations might have led me to different options or decisions.

Limerick Forest is a managed forest made up of thirds–a third reforested coniferous plantations: managed swaths of red pine, scotch pine, jack pine, and spruce (1940’s reforestation program post abandoned farmland)–a third wetland, and a third mixed deciduous forest. As a result of the tree species, there’s a lot of squirrels.

Vassilakis’ “Red Dada” has been placed beside a rather immense squirrel midden. Slightly off trail, the midden is part stone–from stone castaways likely formed from foundations and stone fencing–infilled by squirrel chews and scrabbling bits of acorn, pine cone, needles, puffs of stuff. His is the first piece printed in colour in rout/e–in a glorious red with cuts and lines of a’s and d’s, perceptually in jumbled movement, given some depth; these accrued letters are a collection as much as a distraction of concept – and better to trace and leave behind a few than try to eye them all at once.

As it’s winter, the tree cover is minimal except for high up where pine branches host multiple cones for squirrels to drop and chew. There are a few tree species that will grow and leaf out in a few months around Red Dada, affecting how it looks (and one sees) in the space, as well as affecting the piece itself. Weather, too will have an effect on ink and form, as will random acts by walkers, should they see it off trail and venture there. Let’s see if the poem does anything.


A Swimmer – Suzuki

Somehow, nearly two years ago, I came across the work of Hiromi Suzuki and contacted her to see if she’d be interested in trading books – one of mine for her Ms. Cried: 77 poems (Kisaragi Publishing 2013). She was quite gracious and agreed; in mail-time, shortly afterward, her book arrived. Ms. Cried is an intriguing collection of poems in Japanese “kanji”, “kana” and “katakana”, and in English, accompanied by diverse b/w structural images and subtle fragmentations and suspensions (photos by ichigo yamamoto). Suzuki explained in an email that Ms. Cried is a compilation of her walking explorations of the springwater and creeks of Tokyo, and her research into the histories of its subterranean streams. Her poems borrow from Japanese folklore, as well as folklore from other cultures, to make connections between suburban modes and symbols of transportation (tramway, station), human movement (walking), and water (aqueducts, streams). For example, she connects the name of a nearby station to a giant in Japanese mythology “Daidarabotchi”, from whose footprints lakes and ponds were created. Ms. Cried‘s title is from the Japanese “水食らい土-mizukuraido”: “水” means water,  “土” means soil, and “食” means eating.

In a recent exchange, Suzuki explained that she wrote her poems in an orthodox Japanese style, but included some experiments, such as her box shaped poems (p. 17, 18, 19). When you navigate Suzuki’s site online, and view some of her work in online journals (BlazVox, Empty Mirror, h& (& recent interview by Ian Whistle’s “We Who Are About To Die” series in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter)), the versatility of her work is striking — gifs, visual pieces, poetry, book covers offer a glimpse into her skill as an illustrator and poet. Some of her work displays a kind of nostalgic lushness, combined with minimal text, filmic movement, in the vein of near conversations, or strayed thoughts, or cut offs. There is also humour and wit: Suzuki has an eye for incongruities and for leaving things out, her work erases the obvious.

I placed Suzuki’s poem, “A Swimmer”, beside a track going south on the Scotch Line Trail in Merrickville. This particular track is typically flooded, however, this summer was so hot that the marsh and track were dry for a couple of months mid-July to early September. It’s now flooded again, and to navigate it, you’d need boots or a small raft. A weekend or two ago, Grant Wilkins, known to the small press community in Ottawa for his lovely letterpress work and paper-making, among other things, joined me for a walk in Merrickville to check on some of the rout/e pieces, among them Suzuki’s. The track has re-flooded, but “A Swimmer” is in fine shape! Some of these images are from our walk; I’ve also included images from this year’s winter, spring, and summer seasons.


& then they weren’t there

This morning’s walk took me toward Christine LeClerc‘s rout/e piece, “Echoherence”, which I planted in Fall 2015. Over the last year or so, I’ve passed it fairly frequently during distance walks, woodsy explorations, and text embedding. Her piece is part of a fascinating collective glossary organized by the American poet Linda Russo called Place-Relation Ecopoetics: A Collective Glossary.

It is a bad year for deer ticks; the last few months I’ve not been walking that stretch as much. This morning, I thought I’d walk it again, see how the leaf litter was accumulating, take a look at the marsh and other things, and check on Christine’s piece.

It isn’t there.

Other rout/e participants have had poems moved or watched over or taken — not a lot of the latter, actually. But it happens.  I know that others who use the trail had been seeing and reading “Echoherence” because a small path, from the trail to the poem, had started to form. A desire path.

I did look to see if someone had replanted the poem or tossed it into the woods. Nothing so far. I haven’t gone into the marsh in my wading boots yet, so that should be fun. Perhaps someone tossed it there. Perhaps someone took it home, taken with what Christine wrote, and planted it. It’s a bit of a reversal when the poems disappear and then I seek them out…

  • echoherence: Logical or biological interconnection seen through a lens of ecological situatedness. Example: She leaned on a Larch and the shadow they cast was an echoherent.


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.