Three Weeks to the Fest

This (A Poet’s Nanaimo) on the fest from Nanaimo poet Mary Ann Moore’s blog:

Wherever we let the land belongOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Old stone wall,
the house
at Indian Beach.
Village women,
another lifetime,
their voices,
and the drums.

There’s an old stone wall near Indian Beach at Neck Point Park in Nanaimo. It’s one of the few things that remains of the house that once stood on the property.

When I refer to the old stone wall in “Fragments,” my poem excerpted above, it’s that special place with its view of Shack Island, Washington’s Mt Baker, and the coastal mountains of the mainland, ancient memories of village women, “their voices and the drums”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe spiritual aspects of ceremonies and of this ancient place, generational identities and even sexual orientation blend together for me here in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Memories of travel, words from other poets, all define who I am here and help me describe “a poet’s Nanaimo”.

The land here – the river, estuary, harbour, island and ocean – is the basis of the traditions of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (The Great People). This land is also the source of their inspiration. The Snuneymuxw have lived here for over 5000 years.

Their winter village was Departure Bay where ferries now come and go. The Snuneymuxw know their village as Stlilup. Towards the present downtown, are sites of other ancient villages including along the banks of the Millstone River where the Howard Johnson Hotel is now located. And there were original village sites in the Nanaimo harbour, on the Nanaimo River and at False Narrows on Gabriola Island.

Robert Bringhurst, in his poem, “Stopping By,” writes:

Wherever we let the land belong
is called What Happened Here Before,
because what happened here before
is that the land learned how to be
What it became. That is to say,
it learned how to learn, day after day,
to belong where it is. That is the story
of each place that is a place and every
thing that is a thing. It is the only way
a being can become what being is.
It is the story of the riverbeds, the gravels,
bedrocks, mosses, Douglas firs,
the northern toads and black-tailed deer.

When he refers to “What Happened Here Before,” Robert is naming a poem by Gary Snyder whose poems and prose “explore many cultural and bio-regional dimensions of the whole West Coast.”  (Quote from Cascadia: The Life and Breath of the World edited by Frank Stewart and Trevor Carolan.)

Robert Bringhurst, poet, typographer, translator, cultural historian and linguist, is one of the presenters coming to the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Nanaimo April 30 to May 3, 2015.

Read more at Mary Ann’s blog here.


About Splabman

Poet & interviewer Paul E Nelson founded SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival. Since 1993, SPLAB has produced hundreds of poetry events & 600 hours of interview programming with legendary poets & whole systems activists including Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Diane di Prima, Daphne Marlatt, Nate Mackey, George Bowering, Barry McKinnon, José Kozer, Brenda Hillman & many others. Paul’s books include American Prophets (interviews 1994-2012) (2018) American Sentences (2015) A Time Before Slaughter (2009) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (2013). Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia (2015), 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards (2017) and Samthology: A Tribute to Sam Hamill (2019) Make it True meets Medusario (2019), he’s presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Nanaimo, Qinghai & Beijing, China, has had work translated into Spanish, Chinese & Portuguese & writes an American Sentence every day. Awarded a residency at The Lake, from the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, CA, he’s published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster, Hambone, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from The Capilano Review, he is engaged in a 20 year bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia and lives in Rainier Beach, in the Cascadia bioregion’s Cedar River watershed.
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