River Revery began with a tiny idea, and in the excitement that collaboration can inspire, the whole of River Revery was born. River Revery is a collaboration of poetry commingling with visual, moving art. Poetry becomes fluid through transmedia storytelling, through visualization, through animation.
Your story about our river will become part of our story and will be featured here, on the Story Wall.
River Revery expands print publication in employing innovative transmedia platforms to engage and inspire new audiences, youth in particular. River Revery reflects our ongoing concerns as artists deeply involved with our particular place and cultural community.
As a writer, I’m interested in exploring the natural world as it impinges on urban realities. Outside my window, jackhammers awaken the day, digging up a city road to reveal an underground stream. Medway Creek at the end of my street flows into the Thames, which swallows it whole and continues through the city and on, to debouche into Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean.
The river Thames winds through the city of London, forking into two streams; thus it was named Askunessippi, “the antlered river,” by the original Algonquin inhabitants. For our Indigenous communities, it is“Deshkan Ziibiing” or “Antler River”. French explorers called the river “la tranche”, the ditch. Its current name derives from its colonial progenitor, a river goddess called “Tamesis”, the Celtic word for “Dark Flow”. The name is a palimpsest: in calling the river a familiar, comforting name from the Old Country, English settlers colonized the forbidding new territory. The name reflects life as a pale imitation of ‘home’, rather than embracing the vibrancy of this river as it is. The Thames waters my garden, real and imaginary, “with real toads in them”.
I was first inspired to write about the Thames when taking part in the Kuhlehorn project in 2008. A group of artists and environmentalists recreated painter Paul Peel’s 1877 journey with his mentor, William Lees Judson, down the Thames. Present day canoeists paddled from London’s pump house to the mouth of the Thames. Our art show, “The Thames Revisited,” was exhibited at 1st Hussars Museum in London ON.
In my writing on local hero and global explorer Teresa Harris, the river symbolized Teresa’s escape route from her home at Eldon House in colonial London. I envisioned her turning to the river as a child and returning on her death bed.
For me, River Revery began with images. I walk daily in London’s many natural areas around the river. As I walk, I notice small details — suspended moments that catch my attention with their beauty. These small moments of beauty remind me, as do Penn’s River Revery poems, of the impermanence and flux in which we live.
Still images are translated into movement as the images are layered, superimposed upon other still images or video — transfigured. Using digital editing, montage and stop motion techniques these separate images flow together, creating my animated response to Penn’s poetic words. I hope that these poems and artistic interpretations call us to value and protect the glorious natural world that surrounds us every day, here in our home, along our beloved River, in London.