Delinquent, deliquescent

Some of the fun of rout/e is that many things are left unexplained. Elements of each planting remain to be seen. I do like an un-ending

But, lately, there is Cecilie Bjørgäs Jordheim’s enjoyable and intriguing “Black Walnut Grove” project — a series of blank, handwritten, scores (sheet music) — planted in late February at the black walnut grove (tucked within the acreage of the strangely perplexed and beautiful Kemptville campus of the old University of Guelph land). A query in late fall 2016 to derek beaulieu regarding replanting pieces at the black walnut grove to focus on the act(ings/ions) of conversation, resulted in his suggestion of Cecilie’s work; derek kindly acted as a liaison between us; she sent him her “Black Walnut Grove” pieces, and he forwarded them onward via snail mail (along with a lovely package of no press work by Jordan Abel and a few others). In 2014, I had used the black walnut grove to plant three separate rows of work by derek beaulieu, Monty Reid, and Sandra Ridley. On one of my recent ventures to the grove, I uncovered one of beaulieu’s pieces buried by leaf litter as I was kneeling to take a picture of one of Jordheim’s pieces; a few of Ridley’s are also still quite evident, in another row.

Jordheim’s hand-drawn pieces came in the form of ten, singular, beige notecards of slightly thicker stock, labelled “black walnut grove 1 movement” and onward, to 10. Jordheim’s scores, articulated as movements, fit perfectly into a site that is mostly abandoned by humans but is an access point by air, land and water for multiples of other species. While much of the focus could be on the physical movements and placings within this space, its abandoned nature, combined with the careful initial planning and placement of the nut grove between cedar hedges, makes it a conceptual and real auditorium for the variations of sound that can be heard here throughout the year.  Conversation is constant and unwritten.

Jordheim is a versatile artist with a concrete thoughtfulness behind her work. From her website (worthwhile to go through):

Through installations, visual scores and concrete poetry, Jordheim’s work springs from an interdisiplinary agenda; between genres, fields of art and medium, and the thesis that all visual has sound. Jordheim thematizes the human need for systematization and questions if there a direct connection between language and the world; topography, typography, text, architecture and sound/music. The scores are often frame work for a collaboration with musicians, where the outcome is in the translation between the visual and the musical improvisation.

It was advantageous, in retrospect, to plant these pieces in late February because the transition from winter to spring in this region of Ontario can be quite lengthy and dramatic. This year, we experienced multiple snow storms, accompanied by freezing rain and high winds, fluctuating rain storms, and days of increased heat that resulted in melt and run-off with little moisture absorption by the ground (which was still frozen). The effect on these pieces, not sheltered by laminate (as the previous plantings were), was extreme — some pieces were little changed, others became blanks with only Jordheim’s label evident (in faded form), others vanished, blown or eaten. To extend the notion of conversation and score, and to play a bit with the idea of “marking” sound with ephemeral components of physical entities (weather), as well as unknown markers (e.g. species), I added sheets of carbon paper to the back of each movement and placed them against cardboard squares. This created three layers: Jordheim’s movement, carbon paper, cardboard. The wind and rain, working against the surfaces of Jordheim’s work, marked vertical lines (bar-lines) of variable thickness and imprint on the cardboard. In one case, an animal got hold of one of the pieces of cardboard; I found the cardboard under a cedar hedge with a few holes and marks in it.

Each piece was planted in row one of the grove. Not all of the trees have a metal placard in front, the pieces are planted 1-6, then a two-tree “caesura” or break, followed by 7-10. Movements 7 and 10 have become lost; missing movements. Paperclips and double sided 3M tape were used to fasten the pieces to the metal placards; they needed to be stuck on and clipped because of the frigid winter temperatures.These pieces may be taken down in early May and/or another series may be added to them. In a lovely gesture of irony, the black walnut grove is one of several groves in the region planted by ECSONG, even if this one is largely forgotten, other than by locals.







“Drifting” at split rail fence

As I was walking along the Scotch Line trail (which I’ve mentioned before on this blog), snow falling fairly thickly, I was trying to remember where I first came upon Paul Hawkins’ writing. I think it was through Portuguese artist and writer, bruno neiva, who had been working with him on some collaborative pieces. Since Hawkins is in the UK, Google was a handy way to find his work; I bought a couple of his books, and generally have been following what he’s doing and writing since. His writing is consistently thoughtful; words work hard and with intent.

A predominant feature of the landscape is marsh; as you walk, it offers a non-linear boundary to the farmland that you pass by. A predominant human feature is a dry stone fence which eventually becomes a split rail fence along another section of the trail. There is a point at which you walk between marsh and fence (passing a well-shot at map, 911 messaging, and resting point). In winter, snowshoe hare, fox, and coyote tracks, among others, follow the trail and cross the marsh and fence-lines.

Hawkins’ poem “Drifting” sits along the split rail fence where ends of cedar cross, thus starting or ending a new section.  “Drifting” requires a shift in reading. Tight on specifics, the poem eludes the specifics of place; the poem points to routines and patterns but, in all, the individuals of the poem are unsettled, in drift, displaced.”Drifting” is a piece of Contumacy (published by Erbacce Press); the full collection, among many things, has strong place and place-making resonances.

I moved this poem. I planted it last week a section or two down the fence-line, but there was a poem-mishap, so I left the stake and took the poem home to fix the problem. I don’t think that this has happened before. Across the way a bit, plunked into the marsh, is an old telephone pole, still functional, if seeming obsolete in form. I replanted “Drifting” in a more diverse spot, along the same fence-line, still in view of the telephone pole, just past the 911 and map signage, and farther down, the foundations of a — what? — once farmhouse, storage shed, outbuilding, in ruins. On the way back, a lean snowshoe hare leapt across the trail and vanished, its colouration masking its direction.

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.