Poetry at Quest

When you come to Quest you’ll notice that there’s poetry all around you.


in the ATRIUM

The staircase in the atrium has words stamped out of the metal sheets making up the sides of it. If you look closely you can see that a poem is in fact wrapping its way up the stairs to the third floor. The poem is called Inside the Mill, written by Canadian poet Al Purdy in 1976 and incorporated into Quest’s infrastructure to commemorate the history of the Squamish mill which was shut down around the school’s inception in 2007. The words cast beautiful shadows on the stairs and on the people walking up and down them.







Inside the Mill by Al Purdy (1976)

It’s a building where men are still working

thru sunlight and starlight and moonlight

despite the black holes plunging down

on their way to the roots of the earth

no danger exists for them

transparent as shadows they labour

in their manufacture of light


I’ve gone there lonely sometimes

the way I felt as a boy

and something lightened inside me

-old hands sift the dust that was flour

and the lumbering wagons returning

afloat  in their pillar of shadows

as the great wheel turns the world


When you cross the doorway you feel them

when you cross the places they’ve been

there’s a flutter of time in your heartbeat

of time going backward and forward

if you feel it and perhaps you don’t

but it’s voyaging backward and forward

on a gate in the sea of your mind


When the mill was torn down I went back there

birds fumed into fire at the place

a red sun beat hot in the stillness

they moved there transparent as morning

one illusion balanced another

as the dream holds the real in proportion

and the howl in our hearts to a sigh



On the window of every door in the academic building is a word over a translucent stripe of colour. When you walk around the building the words don’t seem to have any connection to each other but in fact they do. When it was being built the architect, Andrew Larigakis, scrambled up the poem Gifts of Rain by Seamus Heaney and put each word on a different door of the academic building. Perhaps this block you’re in the “mammal” classroom or the “straw-footed” one.



Gifts of Rain by Seamus Heaney (1971)

Cloudburst and steady downpour now

for days.

Still mammal,

straw-footed on the mud,

he begins to sense weather

by his skin.


A nimble snout of flood

licks over stepping stones

and goes uprooting.

He fords

his life by sounding.




Beyond the infrastructure, there is a great push at Quest to bring poetry to the community including open mics, and poetry/writing classes taught by prestigious writers. Recently, the Quest Student Representative Council’s Minister of Arts and Culture, Andrew Wood organized and hosted the Sea-to-Sky Corridor’s first poetry slam. The idea is to enter the Sea-to-Sky into the poetry community, perhaps even becoming involved in national slam competitions. It’s been a huge success, with a variety of Quest students, Squamish locals, and well-known Canadian slam poets Coral More and Johnny MacRae performing for packed crowds at the Brackendale Art Gallery. Stay tuned for more! 

(Check out this video of Elise Pearson, a student at Quest presenting her poetry at the Sea to Sky Poetry Slam. See the Squamish Poetry youtube channel for more!)

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