An excerpt from “Reading Wordsworth in the Tar Sands” by Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis’s latest collection of poetry is nominated for the 2017 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Once in Blockadia rethinks the relationship between human beings and the natural world and searches for ways we can continue to resist. Today on Meta-Talon, we offer a section from “Reading Wordsworth in the Tar Sands,” the second long poem in Once in Blockadia (from page 65).


Dear Imagination – lighten up!
Your part is human protest
But there are no visionary scenes
Of lofty beauties uplifting to see
No picturesque prospects
Even if Burtynsky might
Shoot them from the air chromatic as
Abstract patterns of chemical dirt
No matter! – When in service
Of monetary gain and increasing
Industries of land liquidation
This world is anvil entertainment
Bashed First Peoples’ flat land home
Still springing up thrust midst the
Fossilized dead on whose ancestral
Heat we strange grammar feed
As strange accumulations folk
Pummel pores and veins of
Saturated soils coiled up in the
Barrage we make making roads
And the slow bombardment
Of never-ending development

Tell me I’m preaching to the choir
I’ll tell you I cannot live
Without the choir’s solidarity

Tell me I’m flogging a dead horse
I’ll tell you I feel every lash
Landing on this galloping land