Monday, June 28, 2010

poempark vs. ...a day at the park

Crows rest on the rollercoaster track at the PNE, vacant in the off-season (2009.)
The gates will be ever open and it will be kept as a beautiful park, such as will be greatly appreciated by the people, particularly those in the eastern side of the city.
- J.J. Miller, 1910
This year marks the centennial of Vancouver's Hastings Park, which struck me as a good time to re-read Oana Avasilichioaei's feria: a poempark, published in 2008 by Wolsak & Wynn.

Incidentally, I couldn't find my copy on my bookshelves and thought I'd gotten rid of it, but after I'd borrowed it again from VPL, there it was, peering at me from my Canadian poetry section, just where it should be. Since feria is a book about erasures and ruptures, I found my copy's disappearing act to be quite apropos.

The City of Vancouver is currently undertaking public consultations about their Master Plan towards the redevelopment of Hastings Park and the Pacific National Exhibition (known as the PNE.) The paper version of the master plan is marked by a kelly green footer with the text:
Hastings Park / PNE Master Plan ... a day at the park
on one side and
Hastings Park / PNE Master Plan ... a day at the fair
on the other.

If, as Avasilichioaei's feria suggests, "a park is constructed upon fractures of landscapes, histories, buildings and (the park) with its visitors, exists in continual response to such fractures," then might the City of Vancouver's plans enact a further fracture? The Hastings Park Conservancy group thinks so. They've created materials in response to this perceived "ungreening of Hastings Park." In fact, the current plans do seem to contradict the 1996 plans to re-green Hastings Park, which gave greater import to the restoration of the park's stream and to environmental concerns over recreational and commercial uses.
This, a slaughterhouse
built over a stream.
The stream blushing into Burrard Inlet. (17)
Of course no park is natural as much as it civilizes "a land into the worshipped other" (26). Hastings Park and feria stand as objects that are also long poems, continually writing and rewriting history into present. Avasilichioaei's lines repeat the iterations and attempted erasures on this landscape; she "render(s) the skin puckered" in this "park with no history," though the word skin calls to mind the bodies formerly of this land, the aboriginal peoples whose land was not ceded and the Japanese Canadians who were interned on this land before being shipped to internment camps (24). And the park ruptures past back into present:
Each year the bones work themselves
closer to the surface, threaten/to break through (25).
Hastings Park is "a void bordered" (10), "a slaughterhouse built in haste" (16), "a piece of forest/with a small stream" (16).
Of course, as usual in these sort of circumstances,
the smell is a problem (19).
City of Vancouver:
Traffic calming and landscaping to create mini park gateways from the neighbourhood into the park.
on exhibition/crowds of throbbing humanity pour/along the 'skid road', the future/removed from the first/condition of things" (32).

City of Vancouver:
A new urban heart of the park featuring: comfortable seating, public art, high-quality paving and lighting where on [sic] can grab a coffee, access Wi-Fi, read a book, chat with friends, or play in the water fountain.

feria / lonesome
needs spectators
storms inhabit this word (43)
City of Vancouver:
The Master Plan proposes to add more park space in many different forms, especially within the southern portion of the site. Please indicate your level of support for each new park space described below.
industrial exhibitor/can be summed up in a /few words/:/space/space/space/space every year/from the very first, we think/we say all that is necessary." (35)
City of Vancouver:
Momiji Gardens, located on the south side of the Garden Auditorium building, along East Hastings Street, were completed in 1993. The Momiji Commemorative Garden serves as a reminder of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. The garden’s location is significant because it was in the P.N.E. buildings where the internees were temporarily housed before being assigned to various camps around the province.
a bonsai
here is a garden of violence (69).
City of Vancouver:
Double-decker barns with approximately 300 stalls to replace existing barns.
(No horsing around beyond this point) (67)

Vancouver residents have until June 30 to have their say and fill out the online questionnaire in response to the City of Vancouver's plans. (Current public consultation materials are available as .pdfs on that page).

Nikki Reimer lives and writes in East Vancouver, stumbling distance from Hastings Park / PNE. She likes to watch the ducks at the Hastings Park Sanctuary. [sic] was published by Frontenac House in 2010, and has nothing to do with parks.


alexleslie said...

Someone should do this for "Steveston" and the current False Creek-ifying that's happening here. Real estate lingo. Industrial views! Close to historic cannery! (Tankers; dispossession.)

I like how you have the voices take turns at the end. After the public "consultation" maybe you could do that again, with the three voices, for a local mag.

Love the photos. Especially "Land." Photo essay, before it becomes a stadium-sized Bean Around The World. Golf carts with wi-fi to ride from table to table.

drakealley said...

Love love love this "dialogue" between planning and poetry. Thanks.

nikki reimer said...

Hey, thanks for the idea Alex. I may take that and run with it. Wonder if Vancouver Review would be interested...?

"A stadium-sized Bean Around The World. Golf carts with wi-fi to ride from table to table." I sure hope not, though the City's plans would point us in that direction, wouldn't they?