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Terreson Profile
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Under History


Here is something posted for the fun of it. (Of course, for crit too.)

I have a longish poem that draws on a historical event, a mining disaster that occurred in 1895 in Whatcom County, WA State. I lived near Blue Canyon, at the southern end of Lake Whatcom, for a couple of years, and I used to walk the mountainside into which the Blue Canyon mines were dug.

Here is a link to a satellite image of Lake Whatcom. Mt Baker is to the east, all 12,000 feet and glacially covered. Blue Canyon is at the lake's southeastern toe.

http://lakewhatcom.org/maps/MtBaker-to-Lake.jpg

Here is a link to an article on Whatcom Co. history. Scroll down and mention is made of one of the state's worst industrial accidents.

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=7904

And here is my poem.


Under History
(Blue Canyon mining disaster, Whatcom County)


Into Blue Canyon they came
with their title to claim on bed of coal,
what was raised in high folds of crust in
slate and iron ore and mica schist, and
coming too, since, timber stood in untouched stands
of cedar, dark fir, and hemlock radiance.

In from the bay by heavy gauge of rail,
through sinuous length along shore of lake,
and let into canyon crease whose banks
took township and workers in script and
company with claim cutting up through
mountain, water depth, skyline and valley pass.
Barons of industry and knights of labor,
the self-enobled, hence, dragon slayers,
or thanes of town hall whose
mob raised Beowulf must root out
the nature of wilderness Grendel
in his haunt of dark mother fastness.

Down the mouths miners carve their way with
soon the shadow yawns up canyon wrinkle,
and timber beasts too who finger the forests
for logging to insure vesting capital.
Steam Donkey in place, log boom riding in lake,
and soon the tow tug signing in low sky cover.
Then shore laid tracks and coal that comes that
carries as far as Frisco Bay; only,
too soon the miners who speak in shortest tones
of mountain that moves, they say she moves
as when rolling herself on fracted thighs.
How she shifts, swells, pinches against
flex of timber in the vaulting against
wet walls held from closing back.

For four years the good coal comes until
and there, but then, that day so quick,
so quiet with no notice when
dust-and-fire-damp disaster
no soul living out of dark mouth hears;
when force of gas at tunnel's breast
sends air packed fist through arteries to crush
the mules, the miners, the horses in its path.
Twenty-three men who then must die in
sudden stance in 1895.
Some with sweethearts, some without.
Some with family in hand and some without.
But not a one standing apart when
bridge whose span sheds light from night.

But always workers must take to labor's call,
and so coal's black flow for twenty more years,
or until veins pinch and coal crunches out.
With town taken down, rails pulled up,
bunkers left vagrant until torched by stray spark.
And company who keeps, who enlarges,
engorges on timber with way working east
through Park Pass, up north by Nooksack,
by south into Skagit, then southwest
for the tidal flats of inland sea.

Walking up the hump of Haner mountain,
coming from behind the canyon's blind side,
and walking within green halls pillared again
in cedar, fir, and hemlock; only,
not as once mighty.
Sword fern enlarged and the living mosaic
of forest floor deep in a hundred years of leaf.
The old growth stumps standing head high and they
nurse the huckleberry over reach of deer.

And voices to hear. Whose is never certain.
Miners maybe, slope runners, riggers,
the boomsticks, the bindle stiffs,
loaders, high climbers, and timber beasts.
Any one of whom punched the veins of coal,
or who let daylight into the swamps,
but no one to come for longer than was needed
to take in hand first findings.
None of whom stayed, but for miners twenty-three
whose voices maybe, or then, but no, but
sometimes it sounds like a girlie chorus,
a millenial song sliding through the
covered canyon climb of Haner's haunt.


(About the poem's nomenclature. Steam Donkey = a steam driven engine used to pull out of the forest downed old growth trees. Timber Beasts = loggers. Dust-and-fire explosion = coal dust ignites, the consussive pressure of which blows through the mine, not heard outside tunnel mouth, just seen as a lazy burp of dust. Slope runners = cable workers walking along cables attached to the felled timber and a dangerous job. Bindle stiffs = hobos so called because of the stick or staff slung over the shoulder, at the end of which was a cloth containing all their belongings. High Climbers = workers who spike-climb a tree, topping off its green with saw in hand. Daylight in the swamps = a waking call to loggers in their tent in the pre-dawn hour.)

Terreson

Last edited by Terreson, Apr/11/2010, 11:58 am
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Under History


A timely poem, Tere.

S6 is perfect. Can't think of another way to describe it. I read the parenthetical glossary at the end as part of the poem; organically connected.

First word of S4--"For," instead of "Four"?

My only real nit is at the end, "girlie chorus." The word, girlie, not sitting well with me. It's not a feminist or 'pc' objection; just isn't working for me poetically.

Although I am following the jobbing thread with pleasure, it's good to see your poetry.

Happy Sunday,

Chris
Apr/11/2010, 9:00 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Under History


Thanks, chrisfriend, for reading and for catching the typo. I've not looked at the poem in a while. I'm suprised to see it works better than I had thought. I'll think on the girlie chourus image. I had in mind the last poem in Goethe's Faust Part 2, entitled "Chorus Mysticus," which would be impossible to better. So I had on something less arch.

A side note. Perhaps this is before your time but before the pop group, the Bee Gees, got too pop they did some pretty good stuff. They had a song about a mining disaster that I think had occurred in New York in the early years of the 20th C. I heard it when a teenager. Always wanted to make such a poem.

"In the event there's something happening to me,
there is something I would like you all to see.
It's just a photograph of someone that I knew."

That's how it started.

Tere
Apr/11/2010, 12:10 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Under History


Tere,

I'm not familiar with that song but I doubt it was before my time.

There's a series of interviews with Richard Burton in which he describes growing up in a mining town in Wales. His father and brothers were miners. He was in awe of them. Something heroic and tragic about that way of life; hard to believe it still goes on.

Chris
Apr/11/2010, 12:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Under History


Terreson,
This read well, most of it. I saw no need for italicized material which follows here, because it was so explicit -- and nowhere else was this made explicit, this outright reference to literature, and the use of language from the past: thanes, dragon slayer, and Grendel. Otherwise, the language was strong and in keeping with the traditions of the region. Very different life in the mountains there than in the valleys. I appreciate your posting this. Zak

 Barons of industry and knights of labor,
the self-enobled, hence, dragon slayers,
or thanes of town hall whose
mob raised Beowulf must root out
the nature of wilderness Grendel
in his haunt of dark mother fastness.






 

Last edited by Zakzzz5, Apr/24/2010, 2:56 pm
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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Under History


I should also say, very nice writing. Powerful. Rolling. Solid. Zak
Apr/25/2010, 6:13 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Under History


Thanks much, Zakman. I get your objection to the lines you point to. I suppose it is a bit too literary. Maybe you too have seen the 19th C photographs of loggers and miners and settlers clearing their way through the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. What has always struck me about the captioning is the bravado of those men. To me they look like men determined to subdue the wilderness into submission. They all but succeeded unfortunately. And so I was put in mind of such tales as involves Grendel, tales in which what is natural is labeled evil. That was my thinking but I will reconsider.

Tere
Apr/25/2010, 12:30 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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