Friday, July 31, 2015

Bimblebox 153 Birds

In April, I saw an interesting call for submissions for poets and writers.

The Bimblebox Nature Reserve, a 8,000 hectare property in the Desert Uplands Bioregion of Central West Queensland, Australia, was facing mining development in and around the reserve.

All photos courtesy Bimblebox Art Project.
One of the projects they embarked on to help save the reserve was an art project where they looked for artist/poet/musicians to create artworks around each of the 153 species of birds that have been observed in the reserve.

While I'm not a birder or someone who writes deliberately about birds, some of the poems in my last book Stowaways, featured descriptions of birdsong as footnotes, mostly as a way to bring in more data about the world of the poem.

Intrigued, I had a look at the list of birds that hadn't yet been claimed. And they had a raptor left, the Brown Falcon (Falco berigora), which makes things much easier. I'm somehow not really a songbird person...
So I wrote/workshopped/recorded my poem and send it off, as did many other Canadian nature poets, including Yvonne Blomer, Jenna Butler, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Kerry Ryan, and Laura Lamont.

The project is now being exhibited at galleries all over Australia and project coordinator (and artist) Jill Sampson has posted some of the artworks to the Bimblebox website, with the following description.

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"153 Artists created 153 artworks. 153 writers created 153 poems & prose. 153 musicians interpreted the written onomatopoeia and mnemonic notations for these birds creating 153 bird calls. This is Bimblebox 153 Birds.

Bimblebox 153 Birds was exhibited at the Impress Printmakers Studio and Gallery, Brisbane in May 2015. It was astonishing to see so many species of birds filling the gallery. Audio of the writers poetry & prose mixed with the musicians' bird calls played into the gallery. A listening station provided the opportunity to choose to listen through headphones to any of the audios by the writers and musicians. Also provided in folders were printed copies of the bird inspired poetry and prose.

Bimblebox 153 Birds was officially opened by Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe AO. Ian gave an inspired, informative, and entertaining opening address. Ian spoke to us about the global, national, local and personal cost of developing more coal mines and in particular what we risk losing by destroying the Bimblebox Nature Refuge for coal mining. Ian reminded us with his compelling insight and all-encompasing science that Climate Change is the great challenge to ongoing life on planet Earth, our home. Ian spoke about the myriad forms of life that make up the incredible biodiversity of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge and finished his address with a poem penned especially for this occasion."

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My thanks to Jill Sampson for keeping all the artists and artworks untangled and to the members of the Electronic Garrett for their feedback.

Also useful was the internet, whose various birding sites helped me to 'see' the Brown Falcon.

Finally, here are the credits for the finished piece: "Brown Falcon, Poet Ariel Gordon, Musician Myf Turpin on piano. Compiled and mixed by Boyd."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Another season in the burn zone

The clearing created by an old fire twenty years ago, whose half-burned logs somehow kept out the trembling aspen and most other colonizers, is nearly gone now. A 2012 brushfire ignited by an out-of-control bonfire mostly finished the job. I liked this clearing. We saw a lost pair of moose there once. And I used to photograph a colony of pixie cups and other slow-growing teeny-tiny lichens on a log halfway in. I also liked it because it was noticeably different than the forest that surrounded it.

I've been photographing the clearing as it recovers from the fire, so I can keep track of how it's changed.

Yesterday, it was full of tall grasses and aspen seedlings and cattails.

Weedy tea

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The top photo is young Bee Balm, which apparently adds a bergamot flavour to tea. Though I mostly just appreciate their vivid and ragged purple. It "is common in moist open woods, along roadsides and in moist prairies."

The second is the flowering spikes of Common Burdock, which is often found growing "along river banks, disturbed habitats, roadsides, vacant lots, and fields." The young roots and purple/green stems can apparently be eaten and the leaves used to wrap food you want to cook in the coals of a fire, but mostly it's considered an invasive weed. The young plants are often mistaken for rhubarb, whose leaves are poisonous and whose red/green stems are delicious.


A wonderful lump

All photos Assiniboine Forest, Winnipeg, MB. July 24, 2015.
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I'm fairly certain that this mushroom is not a typical specimen. It looks more like a cancerous growth than a mushroom...

Which was sort of a theme for this hot buggy walk, which was flanked by garish lobster mushrooms (again, more like a tumour than anything else...) and featured moquitoes attempting every inch of exposed/covered skin. Which is to say: my hairline, the skin between my fingers, my shoulders, the backs of my knees.

I left the forest wearing a paste composed of sweat, mosquito spray, and sunscreen. My t-shirted shoulders and the legs of my shorts were festooned in mosquito carcasses and a few daubs of blood.

All of which sounds gross but it was glorious, even if the swarms of mosquitoes prevented me from taking very many photos.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In Conversation: GMB Chomichuk

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION

Friday, July 24, 2015

Talking Wild

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If you're in/around Rolla (or Dawson), BC, this looks like it will be a nifty event!

It will feature Art Napoleon, Melanie Siebert, Gillian Wigmore and me and will be at poet/Writing on the Ridge organizer Donna Kane's house.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


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So M, in his tradition of quietly supporting the people around him, has been scanning a selection of the girl's drawings and uploading them to his page on the Society 6 website.

Which means that you can get the girl's drawings of "Turtle on a Lemon" or "bob the Postman" on t-shirts and cushions and, well, shower curtains. If you want.

She's quietly thrilled.

And, also, wants to know when she gets her cut...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reprint: Write out of Wolseley

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So I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Meg Crane for The Leaf, whose slogan is "Serving Winnipeg's Wolseley Neighbourhood."

We met at the Neighbourhood Cafe, where I slurped on loose-leaf tea while chatting with Meg about Stowaways and the Manitoba Book Awards.

My thanks to Meg & the Leaf!