Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dartmouth Gothic

Dartmouth Gothic

Across Portland Street, one block away,
They are flashing the church tower
and caulking windows. Someone dangles against the siding
over there from a nylon apparatus,
poking and prodding the long-gone Scottish masons'
monument to Providence and economy.

Man-sized dentures tremble
from the passing buses. Tim Hortons teems
with humanity, And Value Village
touts its bargain prices and quality used goods.

That picture is incomplete, part left out
that might alter the whole Dartmouth landscape:
The canal that lies buried beneath pavement, empty lots,
and condos. The Irish shantytown disassembled
or rotted away a hundred years before:
The factory where the first Modern Skate was born,
old blockhouses and Mi'kmaq encampments,
Duc D'Anville's failed expedition
sails limply in to the harbour, and the sound of wooden pegs
being pounded into obsolete wooden schooners.

Do the men work for those people long gone?
Or for the man in holey jogging pants, thinning hair in disarray,
who waits for the 58 bus, for the youths who show up
for their weekly bagpipe session
or the women dropping by Antoine's for their weekly
set and curl.
Something is about to happen. Plastic bags lie still.
One block away, a man hammering in the sky.

Yeah, so I totally spoofed Al Purdy's Wilderness Gothic. It's killer! One of my favourite poems. I just thought it suited this Dartmouth take on the image.


Ryan said...

Lucky to live in such a place.

I'm sure if I attempted some sort of "Gothic" series of photographs in Calgary, the photographed building would probably be demolished before the flash went off.

Awesome, by the way.

Sarah O. said...

I chuckled at your first comment - not many people find Dartmouth charming, but then they only see the Dartmouth from the 1970s on, and are a little short on Dartmouth history. (It's kind of a malls-and-suburbs bedroom district to Halifax now, with the tiny downtown being a mix of gritty, bureaucratic, senior, indie, and yuppy).

One of the benefits coming out of our decades upon decades of economizing and slow growth in the Maritimes has been the persistence of old buildings - things tend to be re-used and re-purposed, instead of torn down. My academic supervisor does Western Canadian landscape history, and I believe she once told me the oldest building in Alberta is a church from 1865 or 1867?

Ryan said...

Yeah, that sounds about right. The church I attend in Calgary is one of the older buildings in town--1912. It is surrounded by skyscrapers--so much so that we actually have lamps on one side of the building pointing inwards to light up the stained glass during the day. There are a few streets, like the LRT line downtown and the 8th avenue walking mall that sport older historic buildings, but by and large the downtown area is probably 98% buildings built after 1970.

The funniest (and saddest) part is that many of the new skyscrapers have plaques located either inside or out that proclaim the historical significance of the spots. It's all very Calgarian or "New West". My guess is that Dartmouth probably has more charm in its downtown core than all of Calgary combined.

Ryan said...

Did I mention that I think that, even though I love the prairies and have a strong affection and love for Calgary? :)