Brigitte Leblanc, Untitled (2015)

Back to the green deeps of the outer bay
    The red and amber currents glide and cringe, 
    Diminishing behind a luminous fringe
Of cream-white surf and wandering wraiths of spray. 
Stealthily, in the old reluctant way, 
     The red flats are uncovered, mile on mile, 
      To glitter in the sun a golden while. 
Far down the flats, a phantom sharply grey, 

The herring weir emerges, quick with spoil. 
     Slowly the tide forsakes it. Then draws near, 
     Descending from the farm-house on the height, 
A cart, with gaping tubs. The oxen toil
     Sombrely o'er the level to the weir, 
     And drag a long black trail across the light. 


Charles G.D. Roberts (1893) from Canadian Poetry: From the Beginnings through the First World War. Ed. Carole Gerson and Gwendolyn Davies. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1994.



Since 1497, when John Cabot claimed one could walk across the backs of cod in the Grand Banks, Canada’s Atlantic coast has been known for its fisheries. While the passage of time in Roberts’ sonnet inches the reader towards the death of nature’s bounty at the hands of one fisherman, the passage of time in Canada’s weir fishing industry has led to the destruction of a Canadian livelihood that has fed countless generations. According to the CBC article “Weir Fishermen Struggling to Catch Herring in the Bay of Fundy” (2015), last year, weir fishermen caught one quarter of the fish that were caught in 2013.
— Shane McGowan
“The Herring Weir” describes the struggles and pain of the sea, as it “forsakes” its bounty to the hungry humans who fill their “gaping tubs,” an ominous image reminiscent of gaping maws.
— Brigitte Leblanc


“The Herring Weir” is a poem about man’s abuse of nature’s rhythms. There is a sense of loss in the poem, as the picturesque scene is disrupted by the removal of herring from the sea for human consumption. The herring are not pictured in Roberts’ poem, and neither are they pictured in Leblanc’s painting. Both their presence and depletion are understood by the scene around them.
— Shane McGowan
I was deliberate in my choice of technique and point-of-view. I used a painter’s knife to create the scene, which lent it an impressionist-feel, with a hazy, almost dream-like image. This technique aided me in portraying Roberts’ feelings of uncertainty regarding humanity’s place in the world. The distanced, neutral point-of-view allowed the reader to associate with Roberts’ mindset, and allowed a much clearer dichotomy between the human and nature.
— Brigitte Leblanc


SHANE MCGOWAN (ENGLISH) is a mature undergraduate at KPU.  He is nearing the completion of his BA with a minor in English.  Shane works in post-secondary and enjoys writing, drawing and other artistic outlets.

BRIGITTE LEBLANC (ENGLISH) is in her second year of studying English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She hopes that someday she will be able to use her experience in literature, music, fine arts, and cooking in her own work.