When Jackie began compiling these poems it was not with the intention of creating a book . . .
One evening in February 2020, I was at the University of Calgary preparing for my Social Studies course. In that course we were paying special attention to social movements including those related to climate change and environmental protest. In my office that evening, I started to watch the recording of the Alberta Legislature sessions for the week, particularly the debates about Bill 1: The Critical Infrastructure Defense Act. As I listened to Premier Jason Kenney deliver a long, passionate rant about the purpose of Bill 1, in which he listed organizations and others that he considered to be the enemies of the Alberta oil and pipeline industry, I started to write them down as a list. The list looked like a poem. I formatted it, gave it the title “My Enemies” and posted it on Facebook for my friends. This was the first poem.
Over the following months, I played with creating more found poems from UCP MLA social media posts, Facebook Live sessions, and Alberta Government news conferences. Found poems work with existing texts (including oral speeches, etc.) and are reworked by the poet into poetic and literary forms. They can include the complete original text, as many in this book do, or be reworked into collage, combined with other texts, or have sections deleted or altered. The original sources of the poems in this book are documented and referenced in the “editor’s notes” with links when possible. Where anything has been deleted, added, or altered, or if a poem has been inspired by a text but is not the original, this has also been noted.
I did not purposefully seek to write these poems. They almost always appeared to me first as titles. These titles were often words or lines from a social media posting or interview. And then the poem would follow. Over many months, the process of creating the poems became a personal practice of witnessing and documenting this political moment in Alberta. It became a form of arts-based, scholarly inquiry that enabled me to slow down and pay attention. Politics moves quickly; it’s hard to keep up. By creating these poems, I noticed themes, patterns, and intentions in the politicians’ words. I was able to look back and remember what they had written or said on earlier occasions. I continued to post some of the poems to Facebook, only for ‘friends’ to read, but I primarily engaged in this poetic practice in private, for my own education – so that I could better understand what was happening politically in Alberta and what it meant for my work as an educator.
One night, after a long and challenging day, overwhelmed with the lethal mix of Covid and Kenney’s cuts to education, Darlene discovered Jackie’s provocative poems on her Facebook thread . . .
My encounter with these poems charged me with an energy surge mix of acceleration, sadness and hope. I was instantly connected to what was being done here, an equivocal challenge to a painful absurdity that we were all living through, that was near impossible to not only put into words, but to process in a meaningful way. I was compelled to reach out to Jackie because I knew that this was important work. With my artistic and design background and skills I offered to compile Jackie’s poems into a book, more specifically, I had envisioned an artifact that could somehow hold the complex story of the times and unique circumstances we were living in and through in Alberta. Only a few days prior, I posted to my national and international friends: “ Does anyone realize what is going on here in Alberta Canada?” I was myself in near disbelief that Kenney’s government was getting away with devastating cuts to education while we were trying to navigate a global pandemic. When Jackie agreed and I received the first draft of her poems I immediately went to work to try to communicate and support this work visually. Like Jackie’s collection of poems, my photo-digital collage images are created with a collection of images aimed to honour the people on the front lines: educators, healthcare worker, student protesters and more. I used publicly accessible images, licensed stock images when needed for creative expression, and a collection of our personal photographs to tell a visual story of these times and experiences; a visual story that acts as another portal along with the poems. It was my way of processing this experience, supporting the amazing work Jackie was doing, and honouring the people in our community who were equally struggling and fighting to save lives and livelihoods.
This emergent, and collaborative, arts-centred research project was our way of documenting what we were witnessing and experiencing. As scholars and teacher educators we recognized the pedagogical importance of this moment. We committed ourselves to create this artifact to stand as a record that enhances, provokes, educates, and reminds readers of this troubling and important time in Alberta politics. As scholars working in faculties of education, we are deeply committed to arts-centred forms of knowing, learning, and becoming. This book reflects the possibilities of this process and form of inquiry and learning.
About the Authors
Jackie Seidel is an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Learning at the University of Calgary with an interest in arts-based methods of inquiry and activism. She is passionate about exploring the existential and pedagogical meanings of ecological and social justice issues with teachers, including biodiversity loss and climate change. She is learning Arabic, and enjoys writing poetry, knitting socks, and cycling. Several colonies of honey bees occupy her yard and she enjoys their sweet buzz, earthy scent, and putting her bare hands in the hives.
Darlene St. Georges is a visual artist, poet, and creation-centred scholar. She is assistant professor of art education at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Her theoretical and practice-based research recognizes the creative, critical, spiritual and performative ways of knowing in the world. Politicizing memory, generating counter-narratives, and sharing stories invites innovation and embraces an unfolding metamorphosis of scholarship in provocative, creative, and intellectual ways.
We would like to thank Stephanie Westlund, PhD, for her careful and skilled editing of draft manuscripts, Deirdre Bailey, friend, teacher, and scholar, for supporting us in bringing the book to the public through social media, and Loft 112 in Calgary for supporting, nurturing, and creating community for artists and poets to share and celebrate their work. And thank you to the many who encouraged, laughed, cried, and supported this work over the past two years as the first audience.