The Role of Poetry in Industrial Development

I showed you some beautiful patterns that poetry was able to read from natural processes. Here are some further patterns, that extend them into useful manipulations. Notice that these, too, are not metaphors.

The water that falls in winter

floods in the spring

and is absent in the summer.



Look to the bunchgrass. It passes excess snow down to its nearest neighbour downslope. What they cannot melt, they pass on again.

Look to moss. It can do much the same on a vertical slope, actually filling the flows, bulbs and drops of water with life. They catch a good percentage of it.

All together now. Look to my neighbour’s roof. Moss has grown along the wet, bottom edges of the shingles. In turn, it catches the snow, just as the bunchgrass does, and releases it slowly. When it runs too quickly, it is caught by a gutter and removed.

Look to the fence further up the road. In this case, lichen has collected on the rough grain of the cedar, mining water in much the same way as the moss on the roof above. The water is passed along from lichen to lichen down the gravity slope of the fence. Any that reaches the bottom is picked up by grasses and chicory and sent in a controlled, living splash up into the air.  There is, effectively, no flood.


Water that flows off the roof collection plane

and is gathered into a stream system

is effectively a flood.



No panic. The water that is guttered off of the collection plate of my neighbour’s roof does not have to be a spring flood stream in the valley bottom. Look again to the bunchgrass.

Not only is it a river system of cold, slow-moving water, or multiple river systems, but its large root systems are big sponges that touch between plants. They have made the slope into a series of wells. Effectively, it is a lake. They stabilize this lake on the slop by using the power of the sun to take off the excess pressure as life. Every clump of bunchgrass is a fountain.


Now, look to what happens when we cut into this water system. First, my neighbour’s roof again. Notice how the vertical edges of the shingles have cut the flow of water, which is effectively a broad river flowing downslope.

Look what happens below the volcanic boulder covered in moss I showed you earlier. Water has come out of the flow across the face of the rock, much like on the shingles above. Instead of becoming moss, it becomes free water. Here it is frozen in the winter. In the summer, it would flow immediately into this loose gravel.

The effect is a variation on the moss-growing roof, which then works as a dam for snow. Have a look at another version of the same effect:

Notice how if you cut a dry slope, and then provide a small depression, the valley-bottom wetland will be high up on the hill. This is effectively what bunchgrass does, clump by clump by clump. The limitation here, if it is a limitation, is that the water does not flow freely and remains unavailable to colonial agriculture. It is still, however, productive. The cattail pool above, for instance, can be farmed for food itself, or can be used to support a tree. No expensive water-pumping technology required. And no flood.


Turning the living land

into an industrial water-storage facility

is death.


Not to panic. We can combine systems. Here is a tall cutback in a failed residential development, which has been shored up by cages of wire. Notice how this wall has duplicated the effect of the moss on the volcanic rock I showed you above, but using bunchgrass.

Here’s a closer look. These spaces could be farmed for spinach. Or lettuce. Or millet. Or amaranth. Small technical adjustments could make them humanly accessible. Something self-seeding might be best.

We can figure this out.

Notice that these are not metaphors. They are, however, poetic and aesthetic effects written on the land as a living human space. They do not, however, tend towards privatization and monopolization of that land or its water. Current poetic technologies, which support isolating humans from writing on the land except through channels of industry and capital do. They require human contact to be channelled through expensive systems. As the images above have shown, however, the systems are superfluous. One exciting thing about these observations is that they free poets from bondage to a world of secondary effects, including emotional nuance and protest, with the worlds of industry and capital reserving the primary effects. They have not, in the main, shown themselves up to the responsibility, without the guidance and weaving of poets and artists.  British Columbia’s Site C Dam and Alberta’s oil pipeline projects are art installations. We are not helpless against them. We have choices.


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