BC Poetry 2017: "Digsite" by Owain Nicholson (Nightwood Editions)

The Water's Cycle
The rain unends, little bee,
and my boat compasses on the water.
There’s a pike on the line
and I don’t know about the hook
but the world is scuttled.
Clay never leaves skin unmarked;
the good work bevelled my joints
but the earth was empty.
The pike rudders against fin-skin waves
but keel, hull and gunnel
are only substructure.
The heart suffers
because that’s what we earn –
Always how we sleep:
a skeleton grinning
into the last skeleton’s
degenerate skull in the burial pit;
what would you say
if that were you, constructing
who you thought I was,
interpreting down to me?
– I think we carry living too long.


Owain Nicholson grew up in Winnipeg and studied both creative writing and archaeology at the University of Victoria. A working archaeologist, Nicholson sees history, ancestry, nature and people at the centre of both practices, and his poems often use the digsite as a source of image and metaphor. Digsite is Nicholson's debut collection of poetry. He currently lives in Toronto.


Digsite draws on Nicholson’s experience working in the Alberta oil sands and arboreal forest, taking an archaeological lens to its subject, and in this way, reimagines tens of thousands of years of human existence. These poems grow from a schism between the current place of living and the ones in which we are pulled back to, in particular, the places we no longer occupy.

Nicholson’s language draws on his archaeological and fieldwork background as he burrows and grinds the places we have lost, consistently underpinned by the grief that must accompany such a fervent exploration. In these discoveries, Nicholson presents us with the material remains of our own abandonment, of loss and acceptance, and ultimately leaves us with more questions than when we began.


Arrived October 2016.


Book Launches: Come and gone!

Purchases: From the Nightwood Editions website or at your local bookstore. If you're in Toronto, Owain recommends Type Books. $18.95.


Burrowing and grinding.

The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

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