Conscient Podcast: e117 – deeper into the forest

Note : Une version en français de cet article est disponible sur : Français


(Deeper Into the Forest (2023) poem by Robin Mathews, narrated by Robin Mathews with sound design from field recordings by me)

Lights flash in the skies above.

Voices sound….

As if coming over a hill,

As if connected to bodies

Out of reach,

(perhaps, even, the products of imagination)

Except… you know the voices,

You recognize (or think you recognize)

The lights.

You know the message

Even before it is uttered.

The pathway you walk upon is narrow, rough.

It leads deeper into the forest….

It leads down a steep hillside

To water … to the water’s edge

And down into the water … down …

Into it and under it

Where another forest grows

Of a richness you do not expect to see.

You do not expect to walk

Under the branches of that forest –

Branches above your head 


As if guided by unseen currents 

Of wind … or of water ….

Overhead … there  is something like a surface

You can never reach;

And above that surface there are voices – 

Or a simulacrum of voices –

As if coming from over a hill, distant, unclear…

Or as if connected tenuously to bodies

Out of reach.

You know the voices

And you know they cannot shape words

That will break the surface over your head.

Lights flash in the skies above,

Dart through the water.

But words do not form.

The surface above you

(which you cannot break through)


And the voices, as if caught in a settling wind,

Diminish … and then cease.

In the darkness that moves toward you

As if it were a living creature

The voices fade away … or seem to fade away…

And you know the surface above your head

Will not break.

The voices beyond the surface

Will grow distant and imperfect

And you, quite alone, will move deeper into the forest

Where sounds occur … almost as if voices

Are reaching for communication, 

As if coming from over a hill, distant, unclear,

As if connected tenuously to bodies

Out of reach.

You know the voices

And you know they cannot shape words

that will break the surface over your head.

Lights flash in the skies above, 

Dart through the water. 

But words do not form.

The surface above you,

Which you cannot break through.


In the darkness that moves toward you

As if a living creature

The voices fade away … or seem to fade away,

And you know the surface above your head

Will not break.

The voices beyond the surface 

Will grow distant and imperfect

And you, quite alone, will move deeper into the forest.


This poem was written on January 1, 2023 by my father in law, the poet, playwright, literary critic, political activist, and educator Robin Mathews at age 91.

The poem relates to ‘Sounding Modernity’ by the way it evokes our ability to remember and feel our environment. 

This episode is dedicated to Robin and his wife Esther Mathews with thanks to the Mathews family.

A short bonus episode is also available with a conversation with Robin about the poem. 

Robin Mathews is a Canadian icon who is regarded as a Canadian nationalist par excellence. For over 60 years Mathews fought for Canadians of all races and origins-–and for Canadian independence. His contributions to the preservation, development and promotion of Canadian culture are exceptional and unique. 

For more information see:

I am grateful and accountable to the earth and the human labour that provided me with the privilege of producing this episode. (including all the toxic materials and extractive processes behind the computers, recorders, transportation and infrastructure that make this podcast possible).

My gesture of reciprocity for this episode is to Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society


Transcription of bonus episode

Robin : That’s a funny poem. 

Claude : What’s it about, do you think? What do you remember it being about? Do you recognize it as your own? ? 

Robin : I do recognize it, but I don’t know where it came from. 

Claude : Well, you wrote it just a few weeks ago on January 1st. You talked something about the grimms myths, that deeper into the woods is a reference to that. Does that ring a bell? 

Robin : Yeah. Grimm’s fairy tales, I think has the line and they went deeper into the forest. 

Claude : Right. So that might have been an inspiration. 

Robin : Might have. Without even connecting to it. 

Claude : Well, what I’ll try to do is to illustrate it a bit with sound. 

Robin : Oh, neat. 

Claude : Yeah with some wind sounds and some of the, the sort of distant voices.  It’s a beautiful poem. Thank you. 

Robin : Oh, good. I’m so pleased. Where did these things come from, eh? 

Claude : Yeah, from the poet. It’s a bit of haunting poem because it has these illusions to going under water and distant voices

Robin : And being alone

Claude : Maybe that’s the way you were feeling on that day. 

Robin : Don’t ask me

Claude : I mean, poetry is like that, right? It just comes out and you’re not sure exactly what you’re feeling but the words are there 

Robin : And the idea that the surface is up there somewhere and you’re under it, you know? 

Claude : We’ve had a lot of conversations over the years about poetry and political poetry. I don’t know if you remember, but we did a number of interviews and you read a lot of your poems as well. I 

Robin : You’ve got them, have you? 

Claude : Yeah, I have them. You know, so maybe I’ll publish some of them if that’s okay with you and make them available. 

Robin : Yeah.

Claude : You sent us postcards over the years you used to paint on a postcard and then write a little note and send them in the mail and so we have a whole bunch of them at home of your paintings. 

Robin : Or paint. 

Claude : Or paint and postcards…

The post e117 – deeper into the forest appeared first on conscient. conscient is a bilingual blog and podcast (French or English) by audio artist Claude Schryer that explores how arts and culture contribute to environmental awareness and action.


About the Concient Podcast from Claude Schryer

The conscient podcast / balado conscient is a series of conversations about art, conscience and the ecological crisis. This podcast is bilingual (in either English or French). The language of the guest determines the language of the podcast. Episode notes are translated but not individual interviews.

I started the conscient project in 2020 as a personal learning journey and knowledge sharing exercise. It has been rewarding, and sometimes surprising.

The term “conscient” is defined as “being aware of one’s surroundings, thoughts and motivations”. My touchstone for the podcast is episode 1, e01 terrified, based on an essay I wrote in May 2019, where I share my anxiety about the climate crisis and my belief that arts and culture can play a critical role in raising public awareness about environmental issues. The conscient podcast / balado conscient follows up on my (2016-2019) project: 175, 3-minute audio and video field recordings that explore mindful listening.

season 1 (may – october 2020) : environmental awareness and action Season 1 (May to October 2020) explored how the arts contribute to environmental awareness and action. I produced 3 episodes in French and 15 in English. The episodes cover a wide range of content, including activism, impact measurement, gaming, arts funding, cross-sectoral collaborations, social justice, artistic practices, etc. Episodes 8 to 17 were recorded while I was at the Creative Climate Leadership USA course in Arizona in March 2020 (led by Julie”s Bicycle). Episode 18 is a compilation of highlights from these conversations.

season 2 (march – august 2021 ) : reality and ecological grief Season 2 (March 2021 ) explores the concept of reality and is about accepting reality, working through ecological grief and charting a path forward. The first episode of season 2 (e19 reality) mixes quotations from 28 authors with field recordings from simplesoundscapes and from my 1998 soundscape composition, Au dernier vivant les biens. One of my findings from this episode is that “I now see, and more importantly, I now feel in my bones, “the state of things as they actually exist”, without social filters or unsustainable stories blocking the way”. e19 reality touches upon 7 topics: our perception of reality, the possibility of human extinction, ecological anxiety and ecological grief, hope, arts, storytelling and the wisdom of indigenous cultures. The rest of season 2 features interviews with thought leaders about their responses and reactions to e19 reality.

season 3 (october 2021 – february 2022 ) : radical listening Season 3 was about radical listening : listening deeply without passing judgment, knowing the truth and filtering out the noise and opening attention to reality and responding to what needs to be done. The format is similar the first podcast format I did in 2016 with the simplesoundscapes project, which was to ‘speak my mind’ and ‘think out loud’. I start this season with a ‘soundscape composition’, e63 a case study (part 1) and e64 a case study (part 2), a bilingual speculative fiction radio play, set in an undergraduate university history seminar course called ‘History of 2021 in Canada’. It concluded with a soundscape composition ‘Winter Diary Revisited’.

season 4 (1 january – 31 december 2023) : sounding modernity


I’ve been retired from the Canada Council for the Arts since September 15, 2020 where I served as a senior strategic advisor in arts granting (2016-2020) and manager of the Inter-Arts Office (1999-2015). My focus in (quasi) retirement is environmental issues within my area of expertise in arts and culture, in particular in acoustic ecology. I”m open to become involved in projects that align with my values and that move forward environmental concerns. Feel free to email me for a conversation:

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