Total Pageviews

Sunday 19 June 2011

Dominion Day in Jail/Yankee Go Home campaign/hate laws


(Celebration 1975)

I spent last Dominion Day in jail
in a cold cell
on a steel bench -
cold, sleepless, angry and proud
tho almost wanting to feel foolish.

Fed a cheeseburger and a coffee in 24 hours
stripped of my shirt
frogmarched - mugshot

All this for the patriotic crime
of daring to say YANKEE GO HOME!
to the Yankee Shriners
parading thru downtown Toronto.
They thought it was the 4th of July
(Canada Division).

Cold, sleepless, hungry, angry
that I was cold, sleepless, hungry, angry
and not enjoying the July sun
lounging on the green grass in Queen's Park
or lining the parade route for the Shriners.
This growing pride made my solitary jail cell
a celebration of Dominion Day.

Chris Faiers

some publication history and notes:

This poem tells the true story of my arrest in 1975 for the heinous crime of wearing a bright yellow teeshirt emblazoned with YANKEE GO HOME as part of a protest against the Americanization of Canada. Our pro-nationalist group, The Canadian Liberation Movement, had recently adopted this slogan.

I was charged under the new Ontario "hate crime" laws, an example of the police misinterpreting a new law to suit a political agenda. Several other CLM members were also arrested as part of this somewhat misguided campaign - the Canadian people were definitely not of a mind to rise up and bear witness against the ongoing assimilation of our country into the United States.

We fought the charges all the way to the Supreme Court of Ontario, a process which took well over a year. I was acquitted by the Supreme Court, and the judge admonished a testifying officer for his lack of credibility.

In 1978 I started the literary press, Unfinished Monument Press, with intentions to publish more radical poetry than was generally published in Canada at the time (with some notable exceptions, including Milton Acorn and bill bissett).

The first collection I produced was my chapbook, Dominion Day in Jail. The poem was subsequently included in further collections of my poetry as well as in the Steel Rail Publishing poetry anthology Poems for Sale in the Street, edited by Tom Clement and Ted Plantos, 1979. The idea and title for the anthology were mine, suggested to Tom, who was boarding in the house I rented at 2128 Gerrard Street East in Toronto. A new generation of poets made appearances in this collection, including Jim Brown, Rosalind Eve Conway, Mary di Michele, Len Gasparini, Greg Gatenby, Gordon Gilhuly, Gwen Hauser, Jane Jordan, Julie McNeill, Robert Priest, Alfred Rushton, Sara Spracklin, and Kris Sri Bhaggihadatta. Steel Rail Publishing was founded by former members of the CLM house press after the CLM splintered and dissolved over issues of sectarianism and social fascism shortly after the ill-fated Yankee Go Home campaign.


This is the second posting on my participation and writings on political protests. The first was the previous post, Street Fightin' Man, 1969. The concluding post will be my piece on the Human Summit, a group meditation at Woodbine Park, held during last summer's G20 protests.


Conrad DiDiodato said...

Incredible story, Chris.

Ever thought of writing a book: a sort of memoir of an anti-American activist?

Chris Faiers/cricket said...

Hi Conrad,
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm finding writing this blog is serving the purpose of creating an ongoing memoir while filling in the gaps in my lifelong activism.. My online 1990 memoir, "Eel Pie Dharma", tells the story of the months before I left the U.S. to avoid participating in the Vietnam War, and the subsequent three years I lived on the streets of the UK.

It's not that I'm anti-American, I'm anti-imperialist, and I've also demonstrated against apartheid in South Africa, British troops in Northern Ireland etc. . But I was raised in the U.S., and so feel thoroughly inoculated against all the hype and overwhelming cultural propaganda that empire churns out by the bucketload.

As Canadians we are completely susceptible to all this 'imperialist' propaganda, and I've always felt it's my duty as a writer and a poet to inform people about the dangers of misunderstanding and underestimating the intentions and abuse of power the American empire manifests around the world.

This part of why I so much respect the legacy of Milton Acorn. While other poets of his generation were avoiding the issue of Canadian complicity in the VN War, or the general apathy and neo-colonial mentality of most Canadians, Milt joined our wacky Canadian Liberation Movement and wrote poems opposing the American empire. I remember Irving Layton was the writer-in-res at UniGoo when I was a student there circa 1973, and Layton supported the VN War!

Next year will be the anniversary of the War of 1812. Surely a proud moment in Canadian history - our forces repelled the American invasion and then marched on Washington and burned the White House - creating its now-famous colour!

We were the first country to successfully resist the yankee imperialists, and it took over 150 years for another country to do so - Castro and Che and the Cuban Revolution. Then the Vietnamese under Uncle Ho's guidance bloodied them again. The Afghanis are in the process of doing this once more.

When I ask friends who were schooled in Canada "Who won the War of 1812?", they reply, "It's the war nobody won." Bullshit! They invaded, we repelled them, and then we marched onto their turf. We won!!!! We are teaching our schoolkids a neo-colonial history - a false history imposed on us by the 'big elephant in the room' ... oops, big elephant on the shared continent.

Canadians have a far more progressive history and legacy than the Americans. They are still working out universal health care, pensions, civil liberties - and their legacy of treatment to First Nations was one of a far more brutal conquest, altho we're certainly no angels in this national regard. And of course the Americans persist in imperialist wars around our hillbilly planet, under various guises, but always for THEIR benefit.

peace & poetry power!

Conrad DiDiodato said...

"Canadians have a far more progressive history and legacy than the Americans. They are still working out universal health care, pensions, civil liberties - and their legacy of treatment to First Nations was one of a far more brutal conquest, altho we're certainly no angels in this national regard. And of course the Americans persist in imperialist wars around our hillbilly planet, under various guises, but always for THEIR benefit."

Right on, Chris!

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Oh, by the way, I also happen to believe that we've been paying a literary price for the last successful American invasion at Simon Fraser in the 60s: the invasion of the forces of Olson, Creeley, Duncan et al. Tish has done a real number on our literary heritage (imo)

Chris Faiers/cricket said...

I had a 1 1/2 hour chat with Terry Barker tonite, who is possibly the most knowledgeable person on the history of Canadian poetry. This is partly because Terry studies it to the point of near obsession, and more importantly because he has known and befriended so many of our major (and "minor") poets for many decades.

Terry discussed this very issue you've raised about the Tish movement, in fact I received an incredibly informative half hour tutorial on the role Raymond Souster played in the introduction of these modernist American poets to Canada.

Terry contends that Souster first read, and then brought these poets to Canada as an antithesis to the velly velly British poetic tradition we had been saddled with as their colony. Terry says the war-weariness of the Brit poets was primarily negative. The Brit empire was weakened and destroyed by the two world wars, while the American empire came out of WW2 somewhat rejuvenated. The American poetic was more robust and positive than the ennui ridden and devastated poetic Europeans manifested.

Anyway, I'm prob not doing Terry's explication justice. He visits Raymond Souster on a regular basis, along with his best friend, poet James Deahl. Several other PurdyFesters,including Allan Briesmaster, Kent Bowman and Mick Burrs, also visit Ray regularly.

So when Terry presents his paper. "Moderate Modern: Raymond Souster, the Troubador of Toronto" at this summer's PurdyFest Symposium,
we'll be getting some accurate insight into this critical juncture in Canadian poetics.

It's a fine line for Canadian poets, finding and keeping our unique voice, while sometimes learning from, and often forcefully opposing, the poetics of imperialist powers which seek to dominate us culturally.

There were those who vociferously challenged and denounced Souster for giving entree to the Black Mountain school, and according to Terry, Souster himself is not particularly keen on them. But he did what he felt was the necessary thing at the time.

It is best to 'know your enemy', or a 'wrong' position in any discipline so it can be countered and dealt with accurately, be it poetry or whatever. So it was inevitable that Canadian poets would have to deal with this movement. The strength of the 'great generation' of Canadian poets, Acorn, Purdy, MacEwen, Layton, etc. etc., shows that our poets were able to effectively deal with and overcome the downside of the Tishites.

I'm looking forward to hearing Terry present this and much more on Souster's legacy in person at PurdyFest #5 (now proclaimed SousterFest).

peace & poetry power!

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Ah, Souster let them in. I didn't know he was that pivotal. Something definitely worth exploring on my own.

Thank you for Barker's insights into Tish, and yours

Chris Faiers/cricket said...

Hi Conrad,
Yeah, apparently Souster was incredibly pivotal and crucial to the develpment of CanLit, esp. poetry. He was a founder of the League of CanPoets (as much as I've hated and fought them in the past, still a crucial step forward in the development of CanPo). . Terry Barker gave me a long dissertation on this part of CanPo the other nite. You should connect with Terry - I've been telling him about you, how you've been a major supporter and participant on my blog, and a very active poet re Can. People's Poetry.

I hope you can make it to Marmora for PurdyFest #5, esp the symposium on Souster. I think you'd thoroughly enjoy it, and you'll also get the chance to meet some other very interesting 'influential' people in the CanPo 'movement'.

I'll copy this to Terry, & if you're both OK with this, I'll help exchange phone numbers for you.

Ray Souster's legacy is incredible ... personally, I have no pretences whatsoever towards scholarship - I've always considered myself a poet first - altho in recent years I've come to consider myself a Buddhist first (in the broadest terms possible), and a poet second, and a politikally engaged Buddhist thirdly, historian and scholar of CanPo unfortunately doesn't even rate a ranking for me ... and sometimes Terry surprises the heck out of me with just HOW knowledgeable he is about the history of Canadian poetry.

I'll copy Terry and his close friend, Anna Yin, on this email, so hopefully you two can connect.

peace & poetry power!

p.s. a thought is coalescing in my brain pan - perhaps a further presentation on Ray Souster could be given in TO after the PurdyFest Symposium. Both Terry and Anna will have presented their pieces at PF and be well rehearsed, and perhaps we could entice Greg Gatenby & others to participate in a TO based symposium on Ray.

just a crazy thought, but the guy's still alive and kicking, and it's better to honour our major poets while alive than the alternative ...

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Right on!

Connecting with Souster readers/scholars would be awesome! Thanks. I think a CanPo movement is still one in the making, and regionalizing it in the way we're doing (let's face it: Purdyfest is iconic) could be a significant way to bring back the Souster days of significant Cdn poetry. I think poetry is being assailed from the 'experimentalists'.

Interesting that your buddhism comes before your poetry. Or perhaps I oughtn't put it that way, as if you're prioritizing.

Chris Faiers/cricket said...

Hi Conrad,
Terry Barker and I had another long chat early this aft - one of the benefits of being 'retired' from the daily grind. We're going to give TO Star columnist Joe Fiorito a tour of the Toronto Necropolis on Tues. evening. We'll show him George Brown's grave & marker, the unfinished monument grave & marker, W.L. Mackenzie's large monument with the celtic cross, etc.

Also Allan Briesmaster (he co-edited the Crossing Lines antho) & his wife, Holly, who is a visual artist, as well as poet Anna Yin will accompany our visit with People's Poetry ancestors.

During our chat I asked Terry if he minded me giving you his phone number. He was pleased to be asked:

I've mentioned you several times to Terry, and he's always keen to discuss CanPo with another interested practitioner. So go ahead and call him if you feel so inclined. He's not a nite hawk like me, so early evenings are prob. best at a guess.

Yeah, Buddhism & poetry go hand in hand with me - kinda back and forth or more accurately, interconnecting - they're very compatible interests - at some level, they're really the same thing I believe - the whole striving for and sharing higher levels of consciousness.

It's interesting that you mention 'experimentalists'. Back in the late 1970s, when I was first writing poetry again and involving myself with founding Unfinished Monument Press and the Main Street Library Poetry Series, politikal poetry was far less mainstream than experimentalism. These poets are basically nice, but the whole surrealist/experimentalist/post modernist/deconstructionalist thing always left me a bit cold. It's interesting that most of the poets who once ignored or even denounced politikal (People's Poetry) now write it, while I've continued to ignore most experimentalism as a dead end.

However, I was (and continue to be) a leading practitioner of English language haiku/haibun, which some might consider avante garde or experimental or whatever (at its worst, even pseudo-Orientalism).

I hope that after PurdyFest and the Souster symposium, Terry and Anna Yin and other fans of Ray Souster will hold a second symposium in Toronto - after all, most of those interested already live there. Terry and I also briefly discussed this possibility this aft.

peace & poetry power!

Conrad DiDiodato said...

A Toronto symposium would be great, and more accessible for me! Please advertise in your blog when the time comes.

Yeah, the experimentalist 'digital', flarf, conceptualist, etc poetries (a lot of it coming out of Calgary) leave a lot of us cold. There's probably a good reason for it.

Please email me Terry's number if you have it. It doesn't appear here.

Again, thanks and have a great Marmora day!

Ed Baker said...

plenty of correspondences up there, I'm sure, to
follow the cross-borders trails ? :

like these:

I am sure that the Olson/Souster letters are also somewhere archived ?