Posted on behalf of Evelyn Schofield
On November 16 we gathered in the auditorium at FDU and online on Zoom to hear two poets, Stephen Collis and Garth Martens, who both powerfully communicate the dilemmas that baffle humankind in the 21st century, from personal as well as global perspectives. Some technical problems delayed the start, and we are grateful to both of our audiences for their patience as we get the hang of this hybrid thing. We finally got started with a lively open mic session, featuring poetry read by Isabella Wang, Peter Marcus, Paul Bennett, Helen Gowans, Nefertiti Morrison, and Angus Pratt. Their poems covered the whole gamut of human experience, sometimes raging, sometimes grateful, and sometimes just having a good laugh at it all.
Our first featured poet of the evening was Stephen Collis, who read new work in the form of two longer poems. The first, entitled “Blazing Space”, was begun a year ago, as a poetic conversation between Stephen and Isabella Wang, prompted by the deaths of three elder poets around the same time as the ‘atmospheric river’ brought torrential rains and floods to the west coast. It is a lamentation about loss, in poetry as well as in the natural world. Stephen continued the themes of climate, disaster and displacement in “A Poem for Osman”, written for a refugee friend. The poem vividly describes lavender plants which grow in East Africa where Osman came from, and how in the desert “you thirst for anything blue“. Osman journeyed, separated from his family for 10 years, and eventually found a new home in the UK: “Home is not where you were born / Home is where all your attempts to escape cease.”
Our second featured poet, Garth Martens, joined us on Zoom from Victoria. He began with three poems from Prologue for the Age of Consequence, which speaks with raw honesty about his experiences in the work camps of the tar sands projects in Alberta, where “men who have sailed every fjord or hunted every animal for a little pay have come … with their many languages” so that oil can be “dragged from the world’s navel”. He continued his reading with some new work, including “Doesn’t Look Far” a poem anticipating the birth of his son, taken from Palabra Flamenco, a project in which he collaborates with other artists to combine flamenco music and dance with English-language poetry and stories. He concluded with “Expiation” which speaks of a boy’s relationship with his troubled mother, and how years later “the boy won’t think of the North sober”, still “searching for someone’s anger and her love”.