The Bathymetry of Lax Kwaxl is a loose corona of sonnets – 14 poems written after a kayaking trip to the Melville-Dundas group of islands off the coast of Prince Rupert. Lax Kwaxl is the Tsimshian term for those islands.
One week, one year, one lifetime of paddling
does not reveal the bathymetry of Lax Kwaxl.
Islands float and the ocean becomes dry land.
The minus tides slit the belly and stories spill
glistening out: a scuttling crab, the foot
of a moon snail sliding from its shell.
The collection was a runner-up the Malahat Review Long Poem contest in 2015.
The chapbook was published by Leaf Press in April 2016. It measures 5 x 7 inches and is 24 pages long. Its ISBN is 978-1-926655-96-3 and it costs $10.00. It can be ordered directly from Leaf Press. Shipping is free.
A deeper bathymetry
A good friend wrote me a letter after reading The Bathymetry of Lax Kwaxl.
Richard Overstall (see right) is a Smithers lawyer who has worked with the First Nations of BC’s northwest for close to 40 years. He’s a canny researcher with an amazing ability to make connections between all the rich stories each community has contributed to the history of this region, not just recent history, but the history of millennia. To read his letter, go here.
We had a wonderfully wild and windy day to launch Bathymetry. The morning started drizzly, but the wind whipped up in the afternoon and blew that rain right out of town. However, the trail to the launching spot beside the Bulkley River is like a bowling alley – a windstorm a few weeks earlier had knocked down several aspens and cottonwoods. With some trees bending almost double, we hustled right along that trail to get to the big gravel bar where the trees were not much more than shrubs. As we practiced folding paper boats and waited for our guests, a huge gust whirled upriver and we heard a telltale crraackk back along the trail followed by a very loud crash. Luckily, although folks had to clamber over the downed cottonwood to get to us, no one was killed in the launching of this book.
I told people where the poems came from – a fabulous kayak trip to the Melville-Dundas Islands (Lax Kwaxl) off the coast from Prince Rupert – and was pleased to have several fellow paddlers join us.
We took turns reading the fourteen sonnets in the collection.
Finally, we folded individual poems printed on pristine paper into an astonishing assortment of vessels – catamarans, canoes, kayaks, outriggers – and set them free into the river.
The next week, on a road trip to Prince Rupert, we watched for them all along the Skeena, right down to the estuary. No sign of them, but we hope they are being enjoyed by all the young salmon making their way to the ocean.