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bird is the word

In August (2015), I was able to spend ten days in Washington, D.C. to be in residency with Martha, who died on September 1st, 1914. She was the last passenger pigeon.

A hundred years after her death, and the extinction of the species Ectopistes migratorius, the Smithsonian Institute brought Martha out of storage as part of their exhibition Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America. After January 3rd, 2016 however, the plan was for Martha to be returned to the vault.

For the ten days I was in Washington, my hotel room became my studio. And daily I walked down to the National Museum of Natural History to spend time with Martha. I took a different route each day, text walking along the way (taking photographs with my phone, of words/text that caught my attention).

This fall I’ve started to work with the material that I gathered and gleaned on the streets of Washington, and from my experiences with Martha. And so far, I’ve created a series of postcard pieces, have written a series of poems using the text walking to Martha words that I photographed each day, and have completed an artist bookwork titled bird is the word that incorporates those poems.

This project feels far from done, however. And I will continue to feel my way through this process, where bird is the word.

(Thursday, December 3rd, 2015)

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The following are images used on some of the postcard works:

And the following are excerpts from poems that are a part of the bird is the word artist bookwork, as well as some images of the completed bookwork.

bird is the word

Day 1: Sunday, August 9th


the bird identified a place to pass through

to the other side

introducing a choice to savor the shaken

and ride a return

to listen to a sensible alternative

to repair a broken meter

and refresh thirsty voices


below the line

as a traveler, I volunteer to fold daily acts

to welcome the transporter

alternating layers of the page

and landscaping flow

with rough bits

building out of trash

and half hidden love

beauty, only the beginning

the renewal project, a joint venture

entering and exiting the archive

slicing sweet impact

and opening digital possibilities

for the inquisitive

with languages rebuilt

in raw reunion


look, you’re missing something

the legend is accessible

the spirits make no plans to disappear

in the deadly toll

parking forever in a tow away zone

gently handle the fragile heirlooms

for a slow exchange

of the told and overheard

to reach and respond to eyewitness talk

of distances

designed to filter runoff and drought

and to carry out


and street play

building a mobile connection


specimen USNM 2 2 3 9 7 9 / 2 3 6 6 5 0

collected 1914

not normally on view

she died, the last


Day 3: Tuesday, August 11th


understanding, temporarily disrupted

recycle the read

trade-in transactions

insert return

keep off the fries

today, you’ll need flexibility

to taste the accessible

Day 5: Thursday, August 13th


pssst …

legend has it that Martha brought luck

on summer evenings

even from the shore of extinction

during periods of mammoth change

and here, now

a conversation with the bird

unravelling stories

and lean fiction

located between death and chance

the invisible making connections

through traces of revealed landscapes

hand rolled sweets

and memory

Day 9: Monday, August 17th


by quantum tunneling

introducing a formation factor

transcribed through a long series of books

suggesting adventures of transit

and rejuvenation

of independence from the frozen framing

of history

playing at times, to find more space

to reflect and celebrate

kind humour

inspired by recyclables

to welcome a bird buddy

I engage the collapsible photo

create crosstown activity

later smile

and venture the dangerous drop

to watch

for hand filled slices

 where neighbourhood tonic cures


happy campers

and a quiet guardian

This photograph on the back cover of bird is the word was taken by J. D. Brown.

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I would like to acknowledge and thank The Canada Council for the Arts for their generous support of my practice and this project, which allowed me to make the trip to Washington and to have that time with Martha.

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