Ledi (poetry film) : 5 instalments

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Ledi is a series of short poetry films on the excavation of an Iron Age horsewoman’s grave in the steppes of Siberia, her story interwoven with the narrator’s memory of a former lover’s death by suicide. Excerpted from the long poem Ledi (Book*hug, 2018) by Kim Trainor, with original music by Hazel Fairbairn.  Integument, screened as part of the Canada/Quebec spotlight at the 20th ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in BerlinGhost was an official selection at the 9th International Video Poetry Festival (2021), hosted by +the Institute [for Experimental Arts] in Athens, Greece.

Ledi, the second book by Vancouver poet Kim Trainor, describes the excavation of an Iron Age Pazyryk woman from her ice-bound grave in the steppes of Siberia. Along with the woman’s carefully preserved body, with its blue tattoos of leopards and griffins, grave goods were also discovered–rosehips and wild garlic, translucent vessels carved from horn, snow-white felt stockings and coriander seeds for burning at death. The archaeologist who discovered her, Natalya Polosmak, called her ‘Ledi’–‘the Lady’–and it was speculated that she may have held a ceremonial position such as story teller or shaman within her tribe. Trainor uses this burial site to undertake the emotional excavation of the death of a former lover by suicide. This book-length poem presents a compelling story in the form of an archaeologist’s notebook, a collage of journal entries, spare lyric poems, inventories, and images. As the poem relates the discovery of Ledi’s gravesite, the narrator attempts simultaneously to reconstruct her own past relationship and the body of her lover.

Praise for Ledi:

“This is what grief feels like, isn’t it? The repetition, the daily visits with damage, the uselessness of the task. Trainor recreates the endless small efforts to make sense of something ineffable and unavoidable in its mystery. In the end, it is only the slow work of the wild grasses and flowers that persists where any body could, did, or might have lain.” —Elee Kraljii Gardiner, “Seeking Peace: An Omnibus Review of Poetry by Wanda John-Kehewin, Arielle Twist, and Kim Trainor.” Prism international30 July 2019.

“The great strength of Trainor’s work in both Karyotype and Ledi, but perhaps most richly exemplified in the latter, lies in her ability to lay the bones of the past alongside the losses and griefs of the present [,,,] At its core, Ledi is a quietly wise and richly articulate book about the power of loss, grief, ceremony, and love that make us human.”    —Jenna Butler, “Archaeology of a Horsewoman,” TheOrmsby Review, 22 July 2019.

“Trainor’s poetry offers the reader a moving, powerful meditation on mourning as a burial of the dead and “preparing for life after death.” The flowers and grasses found at a burial site of the Iron Age Pasyryk woman known as Ledi, or “the Lady,” inspire memories of the narrator’s dead lover, a man with whom she travelled the American desert and who named and identified all the wildflowers that they found on their way. Through her poems, Trainor weaves these two lives and deaths through the flora and fauna associated with burial practice, so that the past is folded into the present in a quietly stunning memorialization of loss, known and unknown.” —Jury for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award


Hazel Fairbairn

grew up in and around London, UK, and studied music at The City University and viola at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Whilst in London, she played with the London Musicians Collective, various avant-garde ensembles, an African jazz band, and in a lot of Irish pubs. Following this, studying Ethnomusicology at University College Cork and the University of Cambridge provided the opportunity to pursue a growing fascination with traditional Irish music and her PhD ‘Anarchy and Heterophony in the Traditional Music Session’ was the first in its field.

In 1993, Hazel co-formed ‘Horace X’ with producer/drummer Mark Russell. They spent almost a decade running this collective out of their own UK based studio and independent label, being too weird and electronic for folkies and too folky for everyone else. Eventually, labels in Minneapolis and Berlin picked up the project, and they spent the next five years touring a live show around Europe and North America, including coast-to-coast tours of Canadian festivals in 2002–2005. During these years Hazel also studied Carnatic Violin Playing, played with Laurie Anderson at her South Bank Meltdown series, and worked as a session string player/arranger and music leader for folk and improvised acoustic workshops.

When ‘Musical Futures’ a UK education initiative pioneering informal, project-based learning in the music classroom, recruited professional musicians to work alongside classroom teachers, Hazel discovered that teaching can actually be as much fun as being in a band. She went back to school in 2009 studying music pedagogy at the Institute of Education in London. Currently teaching music, art  and audio in Vancouver, Hazel is also exploring the manipulation of violin-generated sounds, recently collaborating with UK based Moff Skellington to produce the radio people by the sleeping ducks, and working with Mark Russell on a new studio-based electronic-acoustic project.

ledi self portrait 2Kim Trainor 

is the granddaughter of an Irish banjo player and a Polish faller who worked in the logging camps around Port Alberni in the 1930s. Her second book, Ledi, a finalist for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award, describes the excavation of an Iron Age horsewoman’s grave in the steppes of Siberia. Her next book, Bluegrass, will appear with Icehouse Press (Gooselane Editions) in 2022.

Her current project is Tell me, where do we go from here? The first part, “Wildfire,” includes short lyric poems such as “Paper Birch,” which won the 2019 Gustafson Prize. Part 2, “Seeds,” is a long poem that thinks about forms of resistance, survival, and emergence in the context of climate change and the sixth mass extinction. Each numbered section or ‘seed’ centres on a different human-made object or organism: lentil, snowdrop, chinook salmon, ‘the beautiful cell,’ codex, lenticel, tiny house, honey bee, among others. Each ‘seed’ is a blueprint, whether simple human-made tool/concept or complex organism driven by its DNA to adapt and respond to the current existential threat. Her project also explores the idea of attention as a moral act, as observed by the neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist: “without alertness, we are as if asleep, unresponsive to the world around us; without vigilance, we cannot become aware of anything we do not already know.” The poem aims to focus attention as a form of respect for these organisms, not as resources, but as beings in their own right, withdrawn, dark noumena. 

In addition to the Gustafson Prize, Kim’s poetry has won the 2013 Malahat Review Long Poem Prize and the 2018 Great Blue Heron Prize, and has been long listed many times for the CBC Poetry Prize. Besides her work with Hazel Fairbairn on the poetry film of Ledi, she is also working on an art song of her poem “Blackmud” with the composer Yi-Ning Lo for Art Song 2020. Kim teaches in the English Department at Douglas College and lives in Vancouver, unceded homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

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