By David Clements/Langley Advance Times Special
When I took a popular undergraduate course at Western University a few decades ago, I didn’t question the title of the course.
The title “Plants in the Service of Man” had a practical connotation and, in fact, it provided a plethora of practical information about plants and people.
As I listened to poets read poems about trees at the Ta’talu Festival on July 9 – organized by A Rocha Brooksdale in South Surrey – it made me think of the folly of seeing trees only as something thing to use… trees in the service of man.
North Vancouver poet David Zieroth read about how once-living trees became power poles.
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His poem “in winter the alley is gloomy, colorless” ends with “the old dried up trunk forced into modernity does it recall at this moment how it also lived in the past… not this straight and endless rigidity in the service of this that he cannot understand and has never been”. imagined when the sap was rising.
Zieroth’s poem is part of a collection of poems about trees published in the 2022 book titled “Worth More Standing”, in reference to the many serious problems facing trees, such as the threat of ancient logging. in British Columbia.
Vancouver poet Fiona Tinwei Lam also spoke boldly for trees during the Ta’talu festival.
His poem “Utility Pole” also describes how trees are forced to meet very many human needs: “Telegraph, telephone, linking of smart meters, video service, Internet, cable television, transformers…”
Another reader who took this scene, Susan McCaslin from Langley, wrote a poem inspired by a tall black poplar tree that stood in a forest where she staged the Han Shan Poetry Project in 2012.
His work evokes the power of poetic words in the second stanza “Coiling fused branches/entangled whispered texts/twisted to voiceless autumn skies”.
The Han Shan Project has seen poems by many renowned poets hung from trees in the forest to protest the planned development of the site.
Lest you think impersonating the trees is a useless poetic exercise, consider that the tall cottonwood and all the trees still stand today in the Blaauw Ecological Forest east of Fort Langley.
Like the poets, the Blaauw family saw more than just purpose in these trees and generously donated the funds needed to keep the forest a forest in perpetuity.
I wonder if the nearby power poles look longingly at the living trees?
I often walk in the forest and never fail to be refreshed and grateful for the trees.
– David Clements PhD, is Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Trinity Western University
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