The word "treasury" usually describes a collection of highly valued poems; it is used in the title to describe a collection of highly valued poetic terms. There is a wide local vocabulary in Newfoundland and Labrador to distinguish specific phenomena in the continuous modulations of winter weather. Several of the terms are from 17th century English, brought to Newfoundland with the settlers. Many of these terms survived here after falling out of use in their original countries; others arose from particular occupational activities in this climate. This dialect is important to me because many of these words would have been in the mouths of my Newfoundland ancestors.
I found over 80 terms for different conditions of ice and snow in the Newfoundland dialect. These terms are precise, practical, evocative, sonic, and lyrical. Knowing them helps us actually see different phenomena, instead of winter being just a cold, white blur.
These local terms reflect experience and knowledge of the land and the sea. But this vocabulary is now a fragile intangible artifact. The loss of local linguistic complexity is a result of major changes in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly the decline of the fishery as an occupation. And these terms are fragile for another reason—climate change.
From the Ground Tier to a Sparrow Batch:
A Newfoundland Treasury of Terms for Ice and Snow, Blast Hole Pond River, Winter 2012-2013
medium: documentary video-poem (includes HD video, still photographs, poetry, text, definitions of the local terms, and a two-person voice-over)
From the Ground Tier to a Sparrow Batch: A Newfoundland Treasury of Terms for Ice and Snow, Blast Hole Pond River, Winter 2012-2013 is based on a 40-part long poem. It proceeds chronologically through a winter, following the changes along the Blast Hole Pond River, which flows through the patch of boreal forest where I live and work in Portugal Cove. A small waterfall, seen from the same fixed viewpoint throughout the season, serves as a refrain. The seasonal phenomena are observed and recorded by means of over 50 named varieties of ice, snow, and winter weather.
Sea Ice, Conception Bay, Newfoundland, March 2014
medium: video projection (includes HD video and text)
It is not uncommon for Arctic ice, or drift-ice, to be driven by wind and currents into Conception Bay from more northerly latitudes. But the winter of 2013-2014 was so cold that, by March, Conception Bay itself—which is, of course, salt water—froze for the first time in decades. I took this video in one shot from the Bell Island ferry as it passed through many different formations of local ice, or bay ice.
A publication on this work is available:
Brickle, Nish, and Knobbly:
A Newfoundland Treasury of Terms for Ice and Snow