Elise Marcella Godfrey Reads from Pitchblende
Join us for a poetry break – courtesy of a reading by Elise Marcella Godfrey, from her 2021 collection Pitchblende
RABBIT LAKE URANIUM MINE
Eight hundred kilometres north of Saskatoon. Through mixed
grassland, aspen parkland, boreal plain, boreal shield – the land
metamorphoses from prairie to forest. Was the lake really named for a
rabbit? Or was the word misheard? Hare Lake? Snowshoe? Jackrabbit?
Not cottontail. White in winter. Longer in the leg and ear. Drained,
mined, made a tailings pond. What’s left of the lake whispers through
sutures. Beneath, fear leaks, fills a forgotten strope. The hares left when
the drilling began, running like white water, bleached and foamed.
Smell of fear, acidic. A kick in the throat. Lungs and kidneys lined
with a fine metallic film. Glimmer of trout scale: steelhead, rainbow.
We began to dig ourselves
deeper than we dreamed
when we began to see
metal as other than medicine,
our bodies, more than mineral.
Copper traces our skin,
iron, our blood.
Alkaline earth, our bones, teeth,
sodium, our pulse.
What sets our planet apart. Allows our survival. Where our story
begins and ends. Creation myths, floods, yet the world will end in
fire. Fire that finds its way into water. Fire that takes water’s form and
spreads, beneath the earth’s surface, subterranean, unseen. Invisible
fire that cannot be smothered or doused. Those it singes don’t know
they’ve swallowed the sun until mouths fill with cinders, marrow turns
to ash. Not only the taps near the fracking fields leaking flammable
gas, but the northern waters, those in which fish still spawn, those
we spin into gold, dammed. Waters we consume at a rate the rest
of the world can hardly imagine. Waters we contaminate, break.
From an emerging environmental voice comes an evocative, multilayered poetry collection about extraction, destruction, and the erasure of Indigenous people.
At Rabbit Lake in Northern Saskatchewan lies the second largest uranium mine in the western world. For decades, uranium ore and its poisonous by-product—pitchblende, a highly radioactive rock—were removed, transported, and scattered across the land, forever altering the lives of plants, animals, and people who live there.
Elise Marcella Godfrey’s Pitchblende is a powerful, political collection that challenges us to urgently rethink our responsibilities to the land, water, and air that sustains all species, and our responsibilities to one another. Inspired by and adapted from testimonies given at the public hearings about the Rabbit Lake mine, which prioritized the voices of industrial interests, Godfrey gathers voices from the found texts, and adds others, in defence of the natural world. Interconnected, Godfrey's poems are a choral and visual, literal representation of how industry, capitalism, and colonialism seek to erase affected peoples and their voices.
Elise Marcella Godfrey’s poetry has appeared in literary journals such as subTerrain, Room, Prism, and Grain. She now lives with her family on the traditional and unceded land of the QayQayt First Nation.