Fireseed – Catherine Graham

What does climate anxiety look like? Is there mourning? Anger? Resignation? Hope?

These are some of the things on my mind constantly these days, on top of everything else and in common with millions of others. But it came especially to the fore on a week-long stay on Galiano Island in the summer of 2023, which we now know was the hottest year in recorded history.

After the appalling Lahaina Fire, where embers could be seen spiraling horizontally through the streets on a phone video captured by a desperate, fleeing resident, I could not escape thoughts of a similar fate awaiting any one of a number of locations closer to home. And at an opening of the wonderful Valley Grill on Galiano I spoke with the island’s fire chief about his feelings on climate change and the impact on Galiano specifically, and BC in general. He mentioned that in light of what’s been observed with regards to fire behaviour in the last few years alone, ideas of protecting Galiano with several firebreaks must be revisited. The embers will just blow across. And John Vaillant’s new book “Fire Weather” (which I picked up at the well-stocked Galiano Bookstore) gives further cause for concern as it documents the unprecedented speed and change of the very nature of fires as we crash past environmental red lines.

Mindful of all this I did some filming and photography on Galiano and later at my friend Marian Bantjes’ house on Bowen on an unseasonably warm fall day. I had some vague notion of making a new video poem after “Rig Veda”, the previous video poem done with Christina Shah, was enjoying some success at Spanish and Italian film festivals. So I approached EVENT magazine suggesting it would be nice, in the future, to do some more. But before I could think of a realistic schedule they put a call out! And that’s when Catherine Graham enters the picture.

Catherine has a substantial and highly regarded body of work out which you can check out at the link below. She is also a judge of the CBC Poetry Prize. In any event she showed immediate interest in working together. We met via zoom and got along well. I’d mentioned that I’d like to have a poet respond to the images I make rather than the other way round as is usually the case. I mentioned the Galiano visit and that the images were created with the hot, horizontal winds on the tinder dry islands in mind. I’d read her recent work and it was full of imagery that naturally resonated with me. And there were elements of grief which seemed to connect to a phenomena now attached to the climate crisis.

After bouncing video rough cuts back and forth across the intertubes, Catherine quickly came up with perfection. I had initially used a half-speed recording of music by Brooklyn-based musician Benoit Pioulard for setting the mood but then decided why not ask him to do an original score? And so he did! I was thrilled about this development because on top of it all, he also released “Eidetic”, one of my favourite CD releases of 2023. And the results are also, by my reckoning, something resembling perfection.

Thank you Catherine and thank you Thomas (Benoit)!

So herewith; fireseed.

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