Lesley Battler always wrote—stories, satirical sketches, comic books—whatever struck her fancy. But poetry was her “final frontier,” meaning that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t write a poem that met her own exacting standards. Even her writing for corporations seemed more creative and interesting to her.
Then she began to work in the petrochemical industry, and her day job gave her a poetic mission.
“I think industry is a topic that needs to be explored in a discourse that goes beyond stock market price,” she says. “Now that anyone who protests, or even questions, the hegemony of Big Oil is branded a terrorist, writers who question that power, or wrestle with issues of conscience versus livelihood might be worth hearing.”
Her first book, Endangered Hydrocarbons, brilliantly confirms this hypothesis. Drawing on texts created by a multinational oil company about the process of oil extraction, it treats these documents as crude oil – excavating, mixing, and drilling to shine a light on the pervasiveness and absurdity of their dominant metaphors. A witty, brainy take on the environmental, economic, and human impact of a process that underpins our everyday lives, this is a début to be reckoned with.
Lesley’s work has been published in Alberta Views, Arc, Contemporary Verse 2, Matrix, and a number of other journals. She has won the PRISM international Earle Birney Award, and the University of Calgary Poem of the Season Award. The recipient of an MA in English from Concordia University, Lesley currently lives in Calgary.