Here’s a simple pleasure: a few words on what’s perhaps my favorite book of poetry from last year, Cecily Nicholson’s Triage (Talon Books 2011). And it’s a nice fit with this series of commentaries, as Cecil’s is perhaps the very embodiment and quintessential example of what I’m calling “neighbouring zones”—the sometimes overlapping, temporarily concatenated realms of art and activism, poetry and revolution. Long both a poet and an activist/community organizer, Nicholson’s poetry simmers up out of ten years of social work in Vancouver’s notoriously fraught Downtown East Side (“Canada’s poorest zip code,” as it’s often proclaimed).
Canada’s Tar Sands has a problem (irony alert: there are no end of problems with this nasty stuff)—it’s not easy to get out of the ground and out of the country to the “world market.” Right now, one major pipeline carries the goop to Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, where it is loaded onto supertankers tourists can wave at from scenic Stanley Park. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, south, to Texas, has been (temporarily, perhaps) blocked. So now there are plans for a “Northern Gateway” pipeline to carry massive amounts of crude over 1,170 kilometers of forested and river-crisscrossed Northern BC—to the still largely undeveloped coast of the Great Bear Rainforest. Charming.
Into the fray steps a poetry anthology—The Enpipe Line (Creekstone Press 2012)—edited by a diverse collective that includes poet/activist and project founder Christine Leclerc (full disclosure: I am a contributor). Originally conceived as a 1,170 kilometer long line of collaborative poetry (matching the proposed pipeline’s length), the project eventually grew to over 70,000km.