Once in Blockadia
In this collection of long and serial poems, Stephen Collis returns to the commons, and to his ongoing argument with romantic poet William Wordsworth, to rethink the relationship between human beings and the natural world in the Anthropocene. Collis circumambulates Tar Sands tailings ponds and English lakes—and stands in the path of pipelines, where on Burnaby Mountain in 2014 he was sued for $5.6 million dollars by energy giant Kinder Morgan, whose lawyers glossed Collis’s writing in court by noting that "underneath the poetry is a description of how the barricade was constructed." Called by Eden Robinson "the most dangerous poet in Canada," in Once in Blockadia Collis is in search of how we can continue to resist—as we only begin to understand the extent of our complicity and the depths of the predicament we are in. The bulk of Once in Blockadia is made up of two long sequences evolving from found texts, and two long poems that engage with Wordsworth. The two found texts relate to two blockades Collis was involved in: one blocking the flood of commodities into the Port of Vancouver, and the other blocking the potential flood of oil out of Vancouver. In both cases the poetry and "notes" that follow offer glimpses into the documentary "fact" of events, the resistance behind the blockade, the reasons for them, and the complex of resistant affects driving the events. The two Wordsworthian long poems involve two walks—one in the Alberta Tar Sands, and the other in Wordsworth’s beloved Grasmere. In the first instance Wordsworthian description is applied to the impossible to aestheticize Tar Sands; in the second, Wordsworth’s own beloved home is revealed not as an alternative to the destruction of extraction, but as conditioned, surrounded, and structured by it.