The Cascadia Poetry Festival was held this past weekend in Cumberland. I had the privilege to be a small part of a session called “A Village and Forest Walking Tour”. The tour was conducted by Meaghan Cursons who led us through the dark corners of the historic sadness of Cumberland’s natural and built landscape. Meaghan is a local story teller, historian, naturalist, and longtime Village resident. Meaghan’s presentation was full of interesting facts and stories about Cumberland and the beloved forest surrounding Cumberland. This was predominantly a walking tour with a small writing component.
My role was to inspire poetry grounded in the history and geography of Cumberland. After an initial encouragement to fill up the walk with sensations coming from the nine senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, skin sensations, balance, movement, intuitive feelings, and imagination, I was swept away by Meighan’s story telling. During the second pause, people settled in to writhing notes so I did not want to interrupt.their flow of thought.
I am hopeful that the walking tour led to some great examples of poetry. I would love to see them and perhaps publish them in a booklet as an emotional compliment to the actual history of Cumberland.
Here is my contribution:
Cumberland, so many stories,
So many sad stories:
Union members evicted from their homes,
A man of compassion hunted down and murdered
Because he gave food and shelter to striking miners,
The hard life of the miners,
Men buried underground,
Their bodies never brought up to the surface,
Their wives dying in childbirth,
Their babies dying from Cholera
From waters polluted by winter’s waste and runoff,
Fires destroying the main street of the town,
Five hundred Japanese driven from their homes,
Most never to return,
By an insane law composed in fear,
Without the touch of a human heart.
Cumberland, so many stories
Stories of courage and bravery:
The courage to go down again after another disaster,
The courage to build the town again during the depression,
The courage to have another baby after watching the last one die,
The courage to stand up and fight for what is right
Even though it may cost you your life.
And then the forest,
The struggle to hold on to what is precious,
Two houses mortgaged to buy back land given
To business minded people who see no value
In preserving a forest that will feed the soul .
So much history,
So many stories,
So much to mourn,
So much to celebrate.