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.