Last night I went to Les Forges de Montréal, a coal smithy, to view blacksmiths forging poppies out of steel — les coquelicots en acier. The public demonstration was part of Montréal’s annual citywide celebration called “La Nuit Blanche” which features 200 or so activities, mostly free.
Les Forges de Montréal is located in an industrial area down near the St. Lawrence river (map). The building is very old. It is surrounded by freeway overpasses, large silos and rusty warehouses. Inside was warm, the walls glowing from the coal fires. It was noisy but not annoyingly so.
I loved being up close to the workers and watching the hot steel be shaped, twisted and punctured. Forging metal is one of the big accomplishments in human history — mythological and magical, civilizing and utilitarian.
These blacksmiths are joining others from around the world in forging poppies for a “Poppy Cenotaph” to commemorate soldiers who had died, were wounded or displaced in World War I. The cenotaph” (I had to look that one up) will be created in Ypres, Belgium in September 2016 and will include 2016 poppies. The official Ypres 2016 site has fascinating information about the memorial, forging, World War I and more.
My grandfather enlisted in the Canadian Army and went to France in WWI. His military career was not illustrious — the subject of another post — but nevertheless he was there in the thick of one of the worst wars.