After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at the University of Montreal in the spring of 2013, Antoine Desjardins enrolled in the Certificate in Creative Writing at UQÀM in the fall of 2014, curious to further explore his passion for literature. What was supposed to be a brief interlude in his teaching career turned out to be a turning point in his life; a year and a half later, determined to make writing his main vocation, he enrolled in a master’s program in creative writing at UQÀM.
From winter 2016 to spring 2018, as part of his research, he is interested in geopoetics as a preferred creative approach to engaging in environmental struggle, overcoming eco-anxiety, and accounting for the ecological crisis through an artistic practice that combines poetry, science, and ethics. The dissertation resulting from this work, supported by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 2017, earned him the André Vanasse Prize, awarded by the Department of Literature at UQÀM, in winter 2019.
Indice des feux, his very first book, was published in the winter of 2021 by La Peuplade and was well received by the press.
“As part of this writing residency, I wish to compose a literary short story exploring the theme of the erosion of the banks of the St. Lawrence River.
While this phenomenon is not new, it has been steadily accelerating since the 1990s, in particular due to the increase in winter temperatures associated with global warming, which reduces the ice cover and exposes the coastline to a greater number of storms. According to a study led by Professor Patrick Bernatchez of the Université du Québec à Rimouski, more than 5,200 buildings will be exposed to coastal erosion by 2065 in the Lower St. Lawrence, North Shore, Gaspé and Magdalen Islands. Beyond the economic loss (estimated at just over 1.6 billion Canadian dollars) that coastal erosion will cause, I am first and foremost interested in its human cost, its impact on people who will lose their homes or see beloved places (buildings, shores, beaches) wiped off the map.
As far as possible (according to the sanitary norms in force at the time of the residency), I wish to meet people who live in and know intimately villages and places that have been weakened, damaged, transformed or at risk of disappearing due to the accelerated retreat of the river banks. I would particularly like to talk to people from Ste-Luce or Ste-Flavie. In addition to being damaged by the winter storm of December 6, 2010, some waterfront areas in these municipalities are now so directly threatened by the devastating effects of severe weather on coastal erosion that their jurisdictions have had to offer financial compensation to some homeowners to encourage them to vacate their homes or to move them to a new, safer location. Exchanging with people affected by this phenomenon would allow me to better grasp the emotions, memories, reflections and sensations linked to such an experience, whose existential significance I will then be better able to reveal in my writing.
By placing in parallel the erosion of the riverbanks and the crumbling of the memory of people seeing their homes uprooted, abandoned or demolished, I aspire to question the intimate and affective links linking the inhabited territory to the construction of identity and memory. What happens to us when beloved places disappear forever? Do the lost places persist in us, imprinted in our inner landscapes? What part of the memory will remain, against all odds, and what part will be wiped off the map forever, washed away with the sand and clay?
These are the questions I plan to explore during this residency.”