Colin Browne’s exciting new work Ground Water received a glowing review in The Georgia Straight (June 6-13, 2002 issue). In all map making, one begins with the representation of ‘ground’ and ‘water,’ and what grows or is constructed on these representations is rendered by a series of conventional symbols-the ‘elements of topography.’ This book of poems is an investigation of the elements of the spiritual topography of the 20th century, and a close examination of the conventional symbology passed on to the poet/map-maker by his ancestors-his father and mother, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles. It is a paralysing inheritance which is rendered here-an entire century, not begun with ‘the war to end all wars,’ but a century through which that great calamity of mechanized and mass-produced misunderstandings was perpetually reproduced.
These ancestors have abetted suffering they could never have imagined. Accessories to crimes against whole populations that made possible their pleasures and their grace, they’re humiliated and ashamed, mortified by themselves, by their indignity and complicity. Incapable of reversing the inhumanity of what they have created, they have left the traces of their deeds on the landscape, fragments of correspondence for their sons and daughters to decipher.
Within this wilderness of the 20th century, the green flame of life continually presents itself in these poems as an emergency-an emergence, a coming-out, a flower, a bloom of identity, shape and form, requiring immediate attention and action, asserting itself as mimesis, and constituting a disruption of the conventional representations of the symbolic.
Colin Browne has published five volumes of poetry. His most recent publications are Entering Time: The Fungus Man Platters of Charles Edenshaw (Talonbooks, 2016) and The Hatch: Poems and Conversations (Talonbooks, 2015). His books have been nominated for a Governor General’s Award and the Dorothy Livesay Award / B.C. Poetry Prize. He is a celebrated filmmaker; his experimental documentary White Lake was nominated for a Genie Award for Best Feature Documentary. His recent exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I Had an Interesting French Artist to See Me This Summer: Emily Carr and Wolfgang Paalen in British Columbia (2016), explored the brief encounter between these two Modernist artists in Victoria, B.C., in August 1939, and presented the first extensive exhibition of Paalen’s work in Canada. His collaboration with composer Alfredo Santa Ana, Music for a Night in May, was presented at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in May 2018. Recent essays exploring the links between Surrealism and the art of the Northwest Coast have appeared in exhibition catalogues in the U.S. and Europe. He is currently working on new curatorial projects and preparing a collection of essays for publication. Until recently, he taught in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, where he is Professor Emeritus.