Creekstone Press

Northern BC's publisher

Creekstone Press Publications

Excerpts from The Enpipe Line: 70,000 km of poetry written in resistance to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal

In July of 2010, I chained myself to a door in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines office with several activists.Many more were outside One Bentall Centre, the building where the office is located. The occupation was undertaken by Greenpeace to protest the proposed Enbridge pipelines. It was also undertaken in solidarity with First Nations through whose unceded territories Enbridge proposed to run the pipelines. We were well aware that 61 First Nations (at the time) and 80 per cent of British Columbians opposed the project.

Were the Enbridge pipelines built, tar sands crude oil would run from Bruderheim, Alberta to a port near Kitimat, British Columbia in one of the two pipelines that make up the project. Natural gas condensate would run from the Pacific coast to Alberta in the second pipeline. This condensate would be used to dilute tar sands crude, making is viscous enough to pipe to the coast. Over 700 rivers and streams would be intersected by the proposed pipelines, including salmon spawning habitat in the upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds. The pipelines would bring oil tankers to British Columbia’s north coast, where vessels larger than the Exxon Valdez would have to navigate the treacherous waters of the Inside Passage.

In the hours I spent in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines office waiting room in Vancouver, Enbridge CEO John Carruthers observed us from time to time. After fourteen hours, the police cut through our chains and carried our limp bodies to an oddly vacant office. While being removed from the premises, the image of a poetry-jammed pipeline struck me. An artist’s residency with the Gabriola Institute of Contemporary Art (GICA) soon after the Enbridge occupation provided time and space to develop and workshop The Enpipe Line concept. Through the GICA workshop process, I was able to conceive of The Enpipe Line as a 1,173 kilometre long poetry collaboration, designed to go dream vs. dream with Enbridge’s pipeline proposal. (Enbridge later updated the length of its proposed pipeline to 1,177 kilometres.)

On November 1, 2010, The Enpipe Line project was launched in Prince George, British Columbia—a city close to the proposed pipeline route. Poet and professor Rob Budde read about the Enbridge office occupation in July, and noting that I taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia, invited me (and poet Reg Johanson) to read at the University of Northern British Columbia. Both Rob and Reg have contributed poetry to The Enpipe Line. A call for submissions went out over the internet and contributions started to arrive from poets the world over. I started to measure the poems and post on my personal website, though the project was later moved to its own site at The long poem found in this book is comprised of the poems submitted to The Enpipe Line website in resistance to the proposed pipelines, and stands in solidarity with similar projects that resist social or environmental destruction. While the initial goal was to collect 1,173 kilometres over a two-year period, The Enpipe Line grew to over 50,000 kilometres in less than one year and now measures over 70,000 kilometres (see endnote).

The Enpipe Lines poems come from people who fight Enbridge in their communities. They come from people ready to move toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. They come from some of the world’s finest poets. They come from people who have never written poetry in their lives. The Enpipe Line’s contributors are of all ages and from all walks of life. They come from sister struggles against: fracking, Stuttgart21, child soldiers, Goldcorp, gold mining in Ghana, tar sands extraction, and of course, the BP oil spill.

As the months wore on, The Enpipe Line was part of several protests in Vancouver. The Anonymous Collective generated text in resistance to Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s socially and environmentally destructive mining practices in Guatemala. Simon Fraser University had accepted a $10 million donation from Goldcorp, which entailed the renaming of the SFU Centre for the Arts to the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. The community at SFU rallied to get Goldcorp on the agenda at the school’s Board of Governors meeting, as the university accepted the donation prior to making it known to the SFU community. The Anonymous Collective staged a “mutterance” (a performance in which a group of people mutter a text together, though not necessarily in unison). The mutterance text is contained in these pages.

On April 20, 2011—the one year anniversary of the five-month long BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—poet-activists took to One Bentall to perform a piece of poets theatre called “Irresponsible Extraction, We’re Through with You.” This play was created for the Rising Tide Day of Action Against Extraction, in which Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Stephen Collis and Ben West—all The Enpipe Line contributors—took part. In the spring of this year, Sheila Peters at Creekstone Press approached me about publishing the project as a book, as she too was concerned about the pipeline.Smithers-based Creekstone Press was an obvious fit, as Smithers is located just downstream of the proposed pipeline route.This fall, The Enpipe Line was part of 100 Thousand Poets for Change—a global event. A number of “Enpipeliners” participated in a shoreline cleanup in the morning and a reading hosted by Vancouver’s Carnegie Centre and The Word on the Street Festival in the afternoon.

Just as the book’s contributors and publisher were self-selected, so was the editorial collective—a true grassroots effort. The editorial collective includes Jen Currin, Jordan Hall, Ray Hsu, Nikki Reimer, Melissa Sawatsky and Daniel Zomparelli. The discussions I’ve had with each has broadened my understanding of what it is to work collectively. I thank everyone who has touched the project. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be deposited into a Northern Gateway Pipelines resistance legal defense fund. This is important to the editorial collective as we want to support the physical processes of resistance that inspired the book in the first place.

The Enpipe Line, as it appears here, is a fraction of its actual size. At 72,128.71 kilometres long, in a font one kilometre tall, it would be almost impossible to print the poem in full scale. But, unlike Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipelines, The Enpipe Line represents a shared desire: that this pipeline project never sees the light of day.

Christine Leclerc

Endnote: The poems submitted were put into 12 point Times New Roman. The poems were then hand-measured in centimetres. Sometimes we used handmade rulers. Next the poem lengths were converted from centimetres to kilometres to refl ect the fact that The Enpipe Line’s actual height is one kilometre. Why so big? Because the height of the text is intended to match the width of the right-of-way requested by Enbridge to build their proposed pipelines.

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