There’s a poem in Kootenay writer Art Joyce’s politically-charged new book The Price of Transcendence in which he describes his experiences working as a reporter during the aftermath of the 2013 Lemon Creek jet fuel spill.
Joyce was on-scene shortly after Slocan Valley announced a state of emergency and evacuated the area following a truck-toppling that resulted in 33,000 litres of fuel being introduced to the creek.
“When the recovery centre was set up in Winlaw, I was there reporting when one day this woman brought in a dead rufous hummingbird. They are very tiny, and the females have a shimmering green coat. She brought it in a Ziploc bag,” Joyce told the Star.
“There were people coming in needing advice, legal advice, clean drinking water. All these things were happening around me and then there she was saying ‘look, this is one of the effects of this spill. This is what it’s doing to our hummingbirds, our fish, the other creatures. They’re dying.’”
Joyce was haunted by the image, and ultimately explored his feelings through a piece called “Shimmer no more”.
That will be only one of the poems he will share with the Nelson community during his launch for Transcendence on Thursday, May 28 at Booksmyth on Baker Street.
Published by New Orphic Publishers, Joyce said his pieces are intended to encourage ecological consciousness. He takes his cues from Romantic poets such as Tennyson and Wordsworth.
“They were really trying to get people back to what they considered an innate intuitive spirituality and connection with the earth,” he said.
Joyce realizes romantic poetry isn’t currently in vogue, but doesn’t care.
“From an academic point of view, a romantic sensibility is considered retrograde. So I’m not making any points with the academics, but to me we’re at a critical point in our history where it’s all hands on deck. If we write poetry, if we work as reporters, whatever we can do to further ecological consciousness—I think we’re all under some obligation to do that.”
And the best way he’s found to do that is to study transcendence itself.
“In the English language that term has a very old provenance. We’re talking late Medieval or early Renaissance, and it has a lot of baggage, that word. When we think about transcendence we think of Western, Christian traditions—they believed the body is corrupt, we need to escape or transcend it.”
But that’s not what Joyce believes.
“People have for centuries been directed heavenward for transcendence, but actually the direction should be the other way around. We should be looking earthward. Transcendence can come from a connection with the planet.”
Joyce worked on his manuscript with Winlaw poet Tom Wayman, who helped him with editing. The collection is 80 pages, written in free verse.
Joyce’s launch will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 28.