A powerful book-length poem on environmental destruction and the violences of colonial nation-states from the acclaimed author of Settler Education.
Here is a lament for places in flux, where industrial, commercial, or suburban development encroaches or invades. From Highway 401 to Refinery Row east of Edmonton, from Lake Ontario to the Fraser River, this long poem takes aim at the structures that support ecological injustice and attempts new forms of expression grounded in respect for flora, fauna, water, land, and air. It also wrestles with the impossibility of speaking ethically about “the environment” as a settler living within and benefiting from the will to destroy that so often doubles as nationalism.
Following physical routes and terrains, Fast Commute exists both within and outside the dissociative registers of colonialism and capitalism. This deeply engaging book offers a way to see, learn about, and live in relationship with other-than-human life, and to begin dealing with loss on a grand scale.
About the author
Laurie D Graham grew up in Sherwood Park, Alberta, and now lives in Toronto, where she is assistant editor for Brick, A Literary Journal and an instructor at Humber College. Her poems have been published in Carousel, CV2, Event, FreeFall, The Malahat Review, Room, Other Voices and subTerrain.
Excerpt: Fast Commute: A Poem (by (author) Laurie D. Graham)
Aggregate conveyor pokes above the treeline at sunrise.
Silhouettes of crows perched in the silhouettes of trees,
fires not yet ripped through here. Sun orange and correctly
ascending over new mountains of developers’ slag—
all the For Lease signs along the artery, all the Styrofoam castles
forming in the boonies. The signs won’t stay up in the wind.
School buses bumping down the highway like apocalypse.
Earth mounded up, garbage gathering at the stumps of hills,
a canal of it grazing the houses’ foundations.
Brownfield and a flash of fresh woodchips. Blue branches
and red ones and yellow ones in the sea of greys,
winter unending but constantly interrupted.
To cross this high over a creek, to stay that far away
and claim to live here. I had a dream about a return
of warmth, sudden and lively. Scratching a dog’s ears
and getting a nuzzle in return. People gathered beside water.
A big five-armed birch. I woke to maples
bleeding sap on the sidewalks. I woke trying to tally
the loss in a clearcut, all that intelligence wiped out
for parcels of capitalist language. How I might also be
a tree ripped out, and the machinery, interrupting
any chance to dig in, to know somewhere.
The fury that builds whenever we pull up stakes.
And the need to do it, to follow the money. The relief I feel.
Praise for Laurie D. Graham and Fast Commute
"The incantatory verses in Fast Commute cast a circle of heightened attention, in which it is safe to confront all that we avoid in our distracted lives. It is made of scenes and fragments that at first throb with alienation and grief for all we have done to harm the more-than-human world, until the steady accretion of images and language conjures a spell calling us to right relationship and protecting us from the acedia that comes with living in colonized landscapes. Those who are comfortable in the world, will be disturbed by these verses; those already disturbed will take comfort in them." --Trevor Herriot, author of Islands of Grass
“Graham has set herself a vital moral task: actually to see the fantastic violence of resourcist culture, its appalling and unremitting abuse of the land, and to name the cultural forces that render that vast degradation almost invisible, reduce it to a blur on the edge of our fast commute. She has produced a work of unflinching, articulate witness. A keening, at once precise and profound.” —Jan Zwicky