A group of friends and writers went to the 12th Annual Joe Burke Literary Festival on Wolfe Island on June 12 this year. Dave Bidini invited our fledgling environmental group, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, to join him for the festival's cold kick-off May 9th, 2002. We were there to help strengthen the ties between writers and the surrounding water community of Wolfe Island.
Saturday morning, I took the Waterkeeper boat, Angus Bruce, across to Kingston to pick up Kevin Barry and Saleema Nawaz. They had come in from Montreal by train. The trip across Lake Ontario was rough. I noticed a dark ugly cloud in the water pulling up to the Barrack Street docks.
On the way back to Wolfe Island, I kept my eye on the water. It seemed like the dark dirty water reached out almost a kilometre from shore, conjuring memories of one of Waterkeeper's first cases: Kingston sewage. In the moment, I wondered if the City had discharged sewage into the lake the previous day.
The festival was amazing. Fantastic readers, writers, poets: Jane Gowan, Ken Babstock, Saleema Nawaz, Tasneem Jamal, Alexandra Leggat, Kevin Barry, hosted by Dave Bidini and a music by the Bidiniband. In addition, Tanis Rideout performed her new poem, which I have included below.
With respect to the dirty water, I checked the Utilities Kingston website. Sure enough, the City of Kingston had released tens of thousands of litres of sewage into the water in the past couple days. In fact, more sewage has already been bypassed this year then the total reached in any other year for the past 5 years of record taking.
As always, the literary festival brought amazing people to the water who shared their work and ideas in unpredictable and uncertain circumstances. And as always we left the island a little changed from when we arrived. And this year a little more concerned about the waters and the people at this end of Lake Ontario. Stay tuned.
Remember?by Tanis Rideout, Poet Laureate for Lake Ontario
If there is a shoreline
then there is that time.
Remember that time?
That time when we slipped naked into 4am
August water a common garment that clothed us.
And that winter midnight
When our bladed feet scrape and push
metal over ice frozen champagne
bubbles at our lips.
Or that time
When with Bowie in my ears
I dangle my feet in the lake diluting
all my anger and angst
(this time recurs,
recurs with all the bravado of an encore)
Remember? Only the lake is the same.
But if there is a shoreline
Then there is that time.
Remember that time
Hands held fast we push off from land and plunge feet first into green darkness
and the watery hum of summer?
Such golden gloom is a place to be swallowed by.
Or that time with guitars ‘round the bonfire
and our harmony was off, but the lap lap lap rhythm of the swells was perfect
and we were perfect together.
Or that time when it was too cold but we went in anyway.
The lake a dare we couldn’t refuse
And we stayed ‘til with frozen flesh
we couldn’t tell anymore where we ended, and the water began.
That kiss on the riverbank.
The first taste of the ocean.
Or the first swim of the season, the last.
That time with Joseph & Steven, Shaughnessy, Gord & Grace.
That time Jenny croaked like a bullfrog, a treefrog.
The time with Jonathon, with Dave, with Grant, with Alison.
The time Angela orgasamed the sound of butterflies.
That time with Paul, with angie, with Priscilla, with Ron.
That time Christian read and a small boy
dressed as a dog danced the rhythm of poetry.
Remember that time the ice heaved on the beach
and we played arctic explorers and picnicked on frozen dunes.
That time the cormorants were a dark string
Wing to wing to wing as long as the horizon.
Remember a time when you stand ankle deep
And there is that thing that you almost remember,
Like the silver white flicker of a great fish rising from the deep,
That thing you finally understand
When you’re lying
In the lap of the lake.
Remember, only the lake is the same.
But, if there is a shoreline
then there is that time, remember?
Remember that time.
Mark Mattson, Wolfe Island, Joe Burke Wolfe Island Literary Festival, litfest, Dave Bidini, Kevin Barry, Saleema Nawaz, Jane Gowan, Ken Babstock, Tasneem Jamal, Alexandra Leggat, Bidiniband, Tanis Rideout, Kingston Utility, City of Kingston, Kingston