When Yvonne Blomer initially heard about plans for the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline that would carry crude and refined oil from Alberta to the West Coast, a feeling of helplessness washed over her.
Having lived on the Island since she was a teenager, Blomer has seen many changes in the Pacific Ocean. She’s watched as the starfish vanished from the Breakwater downtown, noticed the decline of fish in the ocean due to unsustainable practices, and grew more concerned for the decrease in whale populations because of rising temperatures and noise created by ships.
The idea of increased tanker traffic that could potentially endanger the Pacific Ocean even more was a thought she couldn’t bear.
“It feels like such a slow process to get us to change,” Blomer said. “It left me feeling quite frustrated and little bit helpless.”
That’s when Blomer, the City of Victoria’s poet laureate, sprung into action and decided to combine her passion for poetry with her concern for the environment. The result is Refugium: Poems for the Pacific, which launches this week.
Consisting of works from 82 poets from across Canada, California, Alaska, the Yukon, the U.S. and even one from New Zealand, the anthology highlights humans’ connection to the Pacific Ocean and their concerns for the health of the ocean.
“I know a book is a commercial thing, but for me, it’s beyond that, it’s the ocean,” said Blomer, who received more than 260 poetry submissions for the anthology. “I wanted to create a kind of conversation and community through the book.”
Among the poets who have lent their voices to the cause is Colwood’s Dan MacIssac and View Royal’s Terry Ann Carter. Carter’s poem, Oceans Child, compares her then unborn granddaughter, Sophie, in the womb to a sea animal floating in the ocean.
“In the embryo, it’s kind of like she is in an ocean. The beauty of the sea and what the sea gives us is something I want to hold on to,” Carter said. “I just feel we have to speak out and make sure that everything that’s possible is being done to keep our waters safe, to keep them clean so that little Sophie, when she grows up, will have ocean water, will have fish and have everything that the ocean provides us.”
The launch of Refugium: Poems for the Pacific takes place at the Maritime Museum of B.C. (634 Humboldt St.) on Thursday, Oct. 5 beginning with a pre-reception at 6:30 p.m. There will also be readings and a performance at 7:30 p.m., followed by a post-reception, which includes drink and appies. Money raised from the launch will be used for environmental education programs through the museum.
The anthology will be available to Munro’s Books and the maritime museum.