This past summer my friends and I piled into a car and drove up to Hamilton’s escarpment in the middle of the night. We brought blankets and wine and found a spot where we could enjoy a wide view of the city. I climbed a tree and looked down with my legs dangling over the edge. We stared at the world beneath us and felt both large and small at the same time. It was the kind of large you feel in your twenties when you’re laughing with your friends and the night is warm and you have few worries and many dreams. But we were small too, because we felt suddenly invisible in this immeasurable landscape.
We went exploring and discovered a plaque that offered a poem that began: “There used to be giants, and they loved it here. They’d sit their giant hinds in a row along the top edge of the escarpment, and pick at the loose rock.” I later learned that it was written by John Terpstra, a poet based in Hamilton. The permanent installation displays the entire text of Terpstra’s poem from his collection, Two or Three Guitars. The installation marked the ninth “bookmark” in Project Bookmark Canada, an initiative that aims to permanently place text from Canadian works of poetry and fiction in the exact location described in the passage.
I often find Hamilton decidedly unglamorous, but in the few years that I’ve lived here, this has become one of the city’s winning assets. Here I was, between the shrubbery, looking down at “steel city,” suddenly engaged in a conversation with myself, the poet and Hamilton. It was a kind of sincere and subtle beauty that few places can offer. In that moment, the city had reclaimed this poem and allowed me to experience it for myself in a way that could not have been possible by page.
I look forward to hearing the poem on Monday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. from the man himself at Brian Prince’s Booksellers. John Terpstra will be reading from Naked Trees and a selection of other poems along with British Columbia-based writer Kate Braid. Admission is free and all are welcome.
By: Bahar Orang