I was approached a few months back to create a poem in response to The Vimy Foundation‘s replanting of oak trees at Vimy Ridge for the 100th anniversary of that First World War battle: “Quercus (for Guillaume Apollinaire)” is the result.

I arranged the names of every type of oak tree that grows in Canada and France in a column designed to evoke classical memorials and the trunks of grand oaks. Embedded within the column, quietly asserting a poetry within the trunks and branches, is a single quotation from Apollinaire’s famous 1st World War poem “Le Petit Auto” [“The Little Car”, 1914]. Apolllinaire’s calligrams were the precursor for the contemporary concrete poem and his work stands testament to the affect of the French avant-garde on contemporary poetics. and “Quercus” evokes his subtle arrangement of letters in tear drops and machinery. “Quercus” embeds Apollinaire’s “Nations hurled together so they / might learn to know one another” setting the line within the very trees and columns which stand testament to the lives lost. Apollinaire himself survived a head wound at the front in 1916, but died from the Spanish Flu two days before the armistice, Nov 9, 1918.Nations hurled together so they might learn to know one another

 

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