URBAN DECODER: Poetry plaques in Ottawa give a nod to nature and Canada’s literary talent

A poem by William Wilfred Campbell that is part of Poets' Pathway.

DEAR URBAN DECODER: This spring, as I walked on the bike path near Nepean Creek, I noticed plaques attached to boulders along the waterway. Who put them there, and what are they for?

The plaques that you saw were placed there by Poets’ Pathway, a local organization made up of volunteers whose goal is to commemorate Canadian poets. The plaques contain the works of celebrated poets such as Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott, William Wilfred Campbell, Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, and several others. These writers were chosen for the link between their work and nature in Canada.

These commemorations can also be found on other pathways throughout Ottawa, but most notable are the three anchor points within the city that represent the poets’ lives and work. Poets’ Pathway starts near the Ottawa River at Britannia Park where poets Lampman, Scott, and Campbell often canoed. It continues south toward McCarthy Woods and Meadow to the second anchor point where lush green forests line the paths and mirror the landscapes described in many of these artists’ poems. Heading northeast, the third anchor point ends at Beechwood Cemetery where many of the famed writers have been laid to rest. This site contains many symbols that pay tribute to the poets, including the William Wilfred Campbell Bench, Lampman Boulder, several plaques, and the Poets’ Hill Book Monument.

According to Poets’ Pathway, the plaques are the first of their kind in Canada. The organization hopes to create awareness, and honour the immense literary talent this country has to offer. It believes that this initiative will educate residents about the history of Canadian writers, and help preserve green spaces within the city.