Farming On Water

The dipping prow
ploughs clouds
firmly under.
It rocks flocks
of birds into lengthening
furrows of flight.
At river bends,
oar blades
saw whole
reflections of trees
unevenly down,
opening up
clearings for larger
crops of blue.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Farming On Water”?

I’ve spent a lot of my life living by water (seas, lakes, rivers), and am a keen kayaker and canoer. I love the muscular sense, while paddling, of being integrated with the world of water, with a sense of its currents rising up my arms and into my shoulders; and the simultaneous visual sense of sky being stirred into the water, paddle-stroke by paddle-stroke, through a flurry of reflections. It’s as though the kayaker is creatively interfusing the otherwise separate elements of earth, air and water, to bring new worlds into being. It can seem rather like the muscular effort of farming (ploughing, sawing etc.), which changes selected areas of wilderness into fields, creatively producing an amazing harvest. (I have also farmed, on the banks of the Tawatinaw river in Alberta.)

What poetic techniques did you use in “Farming On Water”?

How to blend the elements of earth, air and water into each other? I use very short lines, so that one line runs on into the next, drawing its imagery into that following line. So the “dipping prow” in the river “ploughs clouds” in the sky through the reflections. The rhythm of the short lines is like that of a swift and firm paddling action. I also use a number of rhymes, both within and at the ends of lines, to bring water and air closer together. The “prow” in the water “ploughs” “clouds” into the river’s reflections. It “rocks” with the water’s movement, to startle “flocks” of birds, also caught in reflections. The “oar” blades “saw” at reflections of trees, so that the reflections are destroyed—as trees are felled.

This poem “Farming On Water” originally appeared in Shaping Texts. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 119 (Winter 1988): 31.

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