Hiroshi Shimazaki

Serendipity and Geopoetics

Blanc Sablon harbour
Funny how things happen. Just as I was planning to research geopoetics as defined by Kenneth White, whose name I came across serendipitously at a museum in La Rochelle, France,  I dropped into my local art gallery to buy a card and found an exhibition by Hiroshi Shimazaki, who works from a similar principle. Says Shimazaki, "Geography and painting share a common concern: the study of the relationship between people and environment."

White, a poet and essayist, says: "If, around 1978, I began to talk of geopoetics it was for two reasons. On the one hand,  it was becoming more and more obvious that the earth (the biosphere) was in danger and that ways both deep and efficient would have to be worked out to protect it. On the other hand, I had always been persuaded that the richest poetics came from contact with the earth, from a plunge into biospheric space, from an attempt to read the lines of the world."

Meantime I am trying to condense my thoughts about the interaction between the people and the
environment of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I am trying to read the lines of that far flung place. My immediate and specific purpose is to write a feature article for whatever journals will run it. I am a communicator. I like to tell people about things. But the experience was so rich that it is hard to cram all the description, information, impressions into a piece short enough for today's attention span.

Random ideas float in like the tide that rolls all the way up to Quebec City from the wide Atlantic. The Gulf of St. Lawrence was the North American entry point for so many explorers, colonists, immigrants. The first Europeans somehow found the narrow entry to the Straight of Belle Isle and tacked up river. Traces remain, especially when formally preserved as they are at Grosse Isle, the principal stop for ships carrying immigrants to Montreal. Here the passengers would be checked to determine if they were healthy, for one thing, and it was as far into the new land as many of them were able to get. The lines of a grassy stretch of that world are lumpy with the remains of those who died of cholera or some other disease ship conditions generated.

More than half a century after the last ship stopped at Grosse Isle, are the icebergs that float in the Gulf or stand stationary in the harbour, fragments from the polar ice cap melting quickly now? Evidence of global warming, so also evidence of man's dramatic and destructive interaction with the environment? Near the edge of terra firma the land and seascapes are so expansive, I wonder, was it courage, blind greed or just plain hubris that made people think they could dominate. Plunging into the biosphere compels one to not only read the lines, but read between the lines, too.