“Loss Creek” is a poem from Don McKay’s 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection “Strike/Slip”. Loss Creek is a river on southern Vancouver Island that follows a straight, narrow, steep valley aligned to the Leech River Fault, a geological feature that originated as a strike-slip fault. Let’s explore how McKay layers rich meaning on this striking (yes, word choice intended) yet shifting (slipping?) foundation.
“He went there to have it
The poem’s protagonist is seeking something clear and undeniable.
“To have it tangible.”
Both the protagonist and the poet are looking to the real world for literally concrete proof of something. Rocks and rushing water, even the delicacy of birdsong …
“the wavering note a varied thrush
sets on a shelf of air”
are helping him to confirm … what, we’re not certain, but the repetition of
“He went there”
reinforces the protagonist’s determination. What he is seeking solace for or insights into is hinted at in the unusual refrain
Edmund Husserl was a 19th century German philosopher who tried to reconcile empiricism (observation) versus rationalism (reason and theory).
That refrain is followed by
“I’ll do the crying for you”
which seems to suggest letting the natural world express the feeling for you when you cannot express it yourself.
The very literal poetry of direct experience, depicting sensations from the environment around one, illustrates the impossibility of completely and accurately capturing it in words, while celebrating the enduring challenge and attraction of trying. Off the page, paper or web, on which one reads “Loss Creek”, the reader might be inspired to learn more about the eponymous waterway and will discover this:
“As the Pacific Rim rock is uplifted and exposed it rapidly erodes; this releases the occasional gold deposit, which then collects in placer deposits in Loss Creek.”
(Loss Creek, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Loss_Creek&oldid=638625852)
What treasures – literal and figurative – are Loss Creek and the poem “Loss Creek.”