an illustration of a tree trunk

Video Poetry: Utility Pole

Utility Pole is based on a poem written and narrated by Vancouver’s poet laureate, Fiona Tinwei Lam, BA’86, MFA’02, and created in collaboration with Ontario poetry filmmaker Mary McDonald, MET’20.

A note from the poet:

"After traipsing up and down back alleys regularly for groceries, I started noticing telephone poles, which we so often overlook. I noticed that they would often be positioned near living trees. At the time, I was writing odes to ordinary things, inspired by Pablo Neruda's Odas Elementales. The poles seemed the perfect subject to honour through poetry."

Utility Pole

Utility Pole

Fiona Tinwei Lam

Once a teeming green

cosmos. 130 million of you.

Southern Yellow Pine,

Pacific Silver Fir,

Lodgepole Pine, Jack Pine,

Western Red Cedar,

Douglas Fir.

Forest plunder


into bald grey spines

soaked with creosote,

studding highways,

roadsides, alleys.

Column after rootless

column aligned

in a motionless

muletrain crisscrossing

the continent along

infinite grids.

Telegraph, telephone,

smart meter backhaul,

video service,

internet, cable TV,

transformers, fibre

optics, equipment

enclosures, disconnect

switches, electric

meters, streetlights.

Current, pulse,

signal now sing

in your cross-arms

as you route the human.

Only woodpeckers

remember, drill you

back into tree. 

(From Odes & Laments, Caitlin Press, 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Fiona Tinwei Lam.)