Archive for April, 2017

The Ballad of the Lac-Mégantic Disaster

April 28, 2017

By George Elliott Clarke, 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)

Reproduced with permission. First reading: Lac-Mégantic: Life Loss Legacy

7 PM, Sunday April 30, 2017, Atwater Library, Westmount, QC.

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Rail Co.—Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic—

Was okay to let one guy staff

Or stall a train. Downhill, Lac-Mégantic

Slept, and the conductor booked off,

July 6, 2013, post-midnight,

While locomotives snorted, spit

Sparks and belched smoke, their black freight—a real fright—

74 cars, left to sit,

Seemingly at rest, parked until sunrise,

With steel-drum seas of black crude oil—

A feasible firestorm—left without eyes

To watch air-brakes. But catches fail….

The train was unflinching as it inched free

Of brakes that had just broken down,

After 1 a.m., and oil—a black sea—

Shuffled loose, now rolled, set to drown

A town in tides of fire—indelicate,

Unholy, obscene—to slather

Citizens and streets in a blitz of spit—

A greased spritz of flaming lather.

Wheels vacated blatantly where they’d stopped—

Those tanker cars slid now downhill—

Parallel rails let nothing interrupt

As the freight squeaked, squealed, squalled—brutal—

And began to hurtle, no more halting,

And careened—quite terrifying;

Wheels—not just turning, but somersaulting—

Brought Death—huge cannonballs, flying—

Next expropriating, devastating flames—

Equivalent to an onslaught

Of napalm bombs blamming grass-hut frames

(As in Vietnam). Now, a juggernaut,

The train disintegrated—atomic—

To desolate and immolate

That town—Lac-Mégantic. Vitriolic,

The petrol—black ejaculate—

Smothered, suffocated, who didn’t burn,

Or blaze to gore, each face charred, scorched;

Identities none could discern

Showed where scathing fuels tarred and torched.

The exploding freight dismantled the town—

Unilateral—like God’s whims;

A toxic concoction besmirched each noun.

Smoke smeared and smudged, choking off hymns.

The rollicking cholic of septic air

Had all still breathin now coughin;

The purgative Disaster that chanced here

Cankered survivors: They sob when laughin.

An inquest was held; some persons got blamed—

For the damage, the dirt, the deaths.

Some had to cringe, crouch low, as they got named,

For those coffins, those monoliths.

But the disaster that’s Lac-Mégantic

Marks no jinx? The Injustice

Was no runaway train? Greed—gone frantic—

May discount corpses countless?

The thirst for black ink can turn a blood sport

When Profit’s the trophy, and scorned

Is Safety—some businesses’ “last resort”

(Despite being sued, threatened, fined, and warned).

Too many lie dead at Lac-Mégantic;

Most due maybe to one mistake—

Failure that allegedly turned Tragic:

Expense-cutting that had no brake.

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© George Elliot Clarke 2017


The Ballad of the Lac-Mégantic Disaster

April 27, 2017

By George Elliott Clarke, 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)

Reproduced with permission. First reading: Lac-Mégantic: Life Loss Legacy

7 PM, Sunday April 30, 2017, Atwater Library, Westmount, QC.

CLICK HERE to read The Ballad of the Lac-Mégantic Disaster

Lac-Mégantic: Life Loss Legacy, Apr 30

April 17, 2017

Great news. Maine’s award-winning folksinger, Ruth Hill, will join the bill on Apr. 30, 7 PM at the Atwater Library in Westmount, Quebec.

In this one-time public event poetry, photography, song, and critical policy analysis come together to explore the elements faced by the citizens of the town devastated by Canada’s worst train disaster, as they continue their struggle to get the rail line moved from their community.

The evening will include a reading from Jacques Rancourt’s book Quarante-sept stations pour une ville dévastée, translated into English as Forty-seven Stations for a Ravaged Town by three time Governor General’s award winner for translation Donald Winkler. Winkler will read sections from his translation.

Photo by Ben Welland.

Bruce Campbell, Lac-Mégantic: Public Betrayal, Corporate Negligence, Justice Denied. Campbell has studied the political failures that allowed the train disaster to occur. Awarded a fellowship in 2016 at the University of Ottawa’s faculty of law, Campbell is currently writing a book on the disaster.
The photographs of Montreal’s internationally-recognized photographer Michel Huneault will be shown. Huneault rushed to Lac-Mégantic within twenty hours after the train explosion. He continued visiting the community fourteen times over the first year, documenting the trauma of the community. Schilt Publishing has produced a book of Huneault’s work, The Long Night of Mégantic/La longue nuit de Mégantic.

The state of Maine’s acclaimed folksinger Ruth Hill will travel to Westmount to perform various songs, including Lac Megantic. Ms. Hill has been writing songs for decades and was the 2016 winner of the Maine Songwriter’s Association songwriting contest.

A special poem by Canada’s current Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, will be read at this event.

Various people from Lac-Mégantic have been invited to share their stories.

The event begins at 7:00 PM, Sunday April 30, 2017, at the Atwater Library Auditorium, 1200 Atwater Avenue, Westmount. The event is free to the public and people should enter through the side door.

The event has received financial support from the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.

Lac-Mégantic: Life Loss Legacy

April 10, 2017

Photo We Shall Overcome

If you could share the following, it would be gratefully appreciated. Thank you.

LacMégantic: Life Loss Legacy

7 PM, Sunday, April 30, 2017

Atwater Library(1200 Atwater Ave, Westmount, QC)

Featuring Donald Winkler(Forty-seven Stations for a Ravaged Town). A special poem by George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s Poet Laureate. Bruce Campbell presentation “Lac-Mégantic: Public Betrayal, Corporate Negligence, Justice Denied”; photography by Michel Huneault, The Long Night of Megantic; Maine’s award-winning songwriter/folksinger Ruth Hill, and more. With support from the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.


Poetry, Poetry, Pastry. Apr 23

April 3, 2017

I’m reading.

P&P Poster 2017