How many times in your life can you say – if ever – that an innately powerful poem has been written just for you?
Well, now the people of Trail can.
“This is the 17th poem I’ve written about Canada’s flower corvettes from the Second World War, and this poem is the deepest of them all,” Garth Paul Ukrainetz, Poet Laureate of the Blackmud Creek, shares.
“HMCS Trail has a story to tell the rest of Canada … and the world.”
And “Hero Trail” is more than simply black text printed on a page of a newspaper that you’ll read once then toss aside. The words of the poem are to savour, they’ll touch your spirit and you’ll ponder their meaning over and over.
Read the poem here: Hero Trail
The Trail Times was first contacted by the Edmonton-based poet back in the fall. He asked if the newspaper would be interested in a piece on Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Trail – a wartime ship built and named after the City of Trail in 1941 – as a Remembrance Day feature.
Of course, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Times readers so the answer without question was, “Yes please!”
As with all the finest things in life, “Hero Trail” took a little more time for the poet laureate to roll onto paper than what he originally planned. It’s always best for a poem to have its own direction than force a direction onto a poem, he said.
“I had just finished a marathon writing of a bunch of warship poems in order to get them into newspapers for Remembrance Day publication, and quite frankly I was tired and uninspired and ready to take a break,” Ukrainetz said shortly after he submitted the poem on Nov. 24.
“I had just started my poem HMCS Trail, but honestly there was not enough gas in my tank to get this poem finished in time for Remembrance Day and I figured Trail wouldn’t care too much about the poem anyway, so I decided not to write my HMCS Trail poem. But then I read … the Trail Times, when you made the announcement that I was writing it, and that motivated and inspired me to finish,” he said.
“I have a feeling the people of Trail are gonna like this poem. I made it kinda special for them.”
Originally hailing from Saskatchewan, as many Trail families are, Ukrainetz has travelled through the Silver City a few times, the last time was decades ago. Even though it’s been 20-or-so years since he was here, the poet is tapped into what the people of Trail most treasure, the majestic river and the mountains that hold us close.
“The Columbia River is the most distinguishing feature about Trail,” he said. “There would be no Trail without that river.”
While they don’t quite make it to the southern Interior for summer vacation, Ukrainetz and his daughter often visit B.C.’s hot springs in Radium for a week in July where they swim and explore Columbia Lake, the source of the Columbia River.
The verse seven line “Where the mountains bring peace to the people” is a tribute to his favourite sign in Radium that reads, “The Mountains Shall Bring Peace to the People.”
That sign is located at the top of a cliff overlooking Sinclair Creek which immediately flows into the Columbia River, the water that eventually flows through Trail.
“To be quite honest, that sign in Radium Hot Springs is basically the foundation of this poem,” he said. “That foundation is peace.”
Being a Second World War buff and delving into war through the written word – like those in “Hero Trail” – has Ukrainetz thinking about life today and where we are headed.
“A world where there’s no more war. A world of peace and equality for all. A bit of heaven on Earth.
“Is it just a dream or can it really be achieved?” he questions. “What path must we take to achieve this lofty and seemingly unattainable goal of true world peace and equality for all?
“Even though we probably will never reach the lofty destination of ‘heaven on earth,’ it’s important to be on the path towards it.”
Read more: Remembering Trail veterans now gone