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Monday, 23 January 2012

PurdyFest: 'vacation time for poets' (reason no grants)/Larwill-Faiers emails

Vacations for poets is how Toronto poet Anna Yin accurately and concisely summarizes our annual PurdyFest gatherings. Thank you, Anna, for simplifying something which from time to time can be seen as confusing by some.

The following email string between Ottawa-area poet and core PurdyFester Jim Larwill and myself goes into more historical background on why we don't get involved with grants or funding of any kind.

By the way, Jim's emails contain some great anecdotes about the night Milton Acorn received the GG for poetry, and he mentions other People's poets, such as Jane Jordan and Jim Brown.

There are also rambles and reflections by both of us on Canadian People's poetry, thoughts on our common bond as comrades in the long-ago Canadian Liberation Movement, and on our respective rurual retreats, the Raven's Nest and ZenRiver Gardens.

- Chris

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Date: Friday, January 13, 2012 6:01 pm

Hey again,

Sure feel free to pass on our emails or post as you see fit... there
maybe some typos and spelling mistakes as usual in my rambles but.. use
what you can as you can.

Great poem by Morley by the way.

Kent, Mac, Ronan and Carmyn say hi to Chase... a full cabin here
tonight... and watching Snow White for the second night in a row....

jim (Larwill)

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From: Chris Faiers <>
Date: January 13, 2012 6:01:37 PM EST

Hi Jim,
Much interesting reflection here - Milt, CLM, PurdyFests, even bellyrubs  :  )

I'd like to send our emails to Terry Barker, & maybe even post them online on my blog - game?! - at age 63 I'm starting to not give much of a flying fuck about stuff - I'd rather speak in my own voice than have someone else 'speak'/interpret/misinterpret what I've done with my life - & what my visions, poetic, politikal & neo-Buddhist,  are.

Spellbinding & evocative reminiscences of Milt, when he got the GG, Jane Jordan, you, Ottawa poetry scene etc. etc.

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm - group bellyrubs - the feature of PF #6 - hhhuuuuhhhhuuuuuuhhhhhhuuuuuuhhhuuuhhhuuuu (think ZZ Top!) - Chase approves - she was def. a she (no dude looks like a lady in the doggy world)

granddad's gotta go nap,
peace & poetry power!
C&C ... sleepy wfffffffffffffffff ...

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On 2012-01-13, at 1:59 AM, Jim Larwill wrote:

Yo Chris,

Thanks for your reflections.

As always.

I liked the idea of Chase sucking up to everyone for a belly rub as an
integral part of PFesting.  And thanks for the stroking of my ego.
Always appreciated.  Maybe the stroking of my belly could also become an
important part of PFesting? Why should Chase get all the affection? Well
there was one PF year... well many many different memories... and as I
typed that it continues to strike me now that PFest already has a history.

It also strikes me the two stray dogs for shamanic companions on yr
Callahan's Rapids walk with Chase might be embodiments of Terry and I.
Strays of some-kind; each: eh?

Cycles turn on rims of past to present to farthest past again.  "Peoples
Poetry" maybe now a moving away from, in the same way it was once a
moving towards.

Yes  'Uncles & Aunties'.... I know there are lost Uncles out there
forgotten, I wonder how many lost Aunties?  I certainly would like to
learn more about Dorothy...  and actually Jane Jordan comes to minds as
a lost Auntie, not only lost because an Auntie, but also because she was
from Ottawa; a central figure in "Folk and Poetry" from L'Hibou days.
(First time I heard Milt read was at L'Hibou and Ian Tambline was the
fuzzed faced opening act. The young unknown Tambline was fawning in awe
of the Canadian poetry legend Acorn.  If I remember correctly Milt was
sort of awkward and dismissive with Ian, Acorn displaying that typical
tension between his shy unobtrusive and utter bombast.)  The night Milt
received the GG I remember being in the back of a cab with Milt, Jane
Jordan, and Jim Brown. It is a bit vague in the memory.  Distinct memory
of Jim B trying to convince Jane to give way to abandon and "explore"
her connection with Milt farther.


Milt's comment at the gala after getting the GG...

"Stick to your guns.  You'll live or die by them."

Later at Robin and Ester Mathews's house he said, when he said this at
the GG, all the Quebecois in the room stood up because they thought he
said "Get your guns."

So maybe it is my Quebecois roots?  And People's Poetry is a Canadian
Poetry trend in English.

(I also remember sitting in the Crest Grill on Spadina with Milt after I
came to TO to find out what the hell was going on with the CLM around
the time of the purge-to-end-all-purges of Perly.  As Ottawa Club
Chairman I didn't know what the hell was going on with central office,
New Canada Press  The Canadian Worker's Union, the Toronto CLM clubs,
let alone the so called hard-line Marxist Caucus which never even had
the guts to try and recruit me even though I was openly calling myself a
Stalinist; and while at the time I thought Milt was a total lunatic, I
did know that he would give me the straight goods, so I looked him up at
the Waverley. "The Doctor is In" they told me at the desk so I dragged
Acorn out of his ashtray of a room down to the greasy-spoon around the
corner from the CLM office and Milt's doss house near Spadina and Queen.
Milt talked about sectarianism being rampant in the movement.  And
more.  Of course. Zulus.  "In the Jungle the Lion Sleeps Tonight" being
dead British Soldiers. Korea's first in the world iron clad ships.  And
some how he got me talking about my multilayer and checked origins.
"Jim" he said with dull assonance when he first opened the door of his
hotel room. And 'Jim' he said again at the Crest Grill across the
mottled booth table after I spoke of my intermingled family history.
'Jim.'  'Jim.'  'Jim.'  He laughed with timber and seemed to drift off
to another place and time.  'Jim.'  He disappeared into his thoughts.
'Jim."  It became an echo.  The interview seemed over and like a
ground-hog Milt's psychic had scurried down a hole with a scrap of some
kind. Now I would recognize it as a writers with a bone needing to be
gnawed on.  A few months later at the purge of Gary Perly, Milt and I
were the two last members of the CLM to oppose the purging of Perly.
Milt gave way when it was relieved Perly "had stolen from widows and
orphans."  As a Stalinist I hung hard arguing to the very end Perly
should be removed from his position as Chairman, but rehabilitated
within the movement.  I felt the movement was more important than
revenge. And Stalinist's like the concept of rehabilitation. However: a
new a better world was coming to free the previously mislead from the
tyranny of the past and I was a silenced lone voice. Free of the
movement Perly went on to quickly become a millionaire.  The CLM within
months of optimistic new democracy fell apart.  Milton that year wrote
the poem "Jim.")

.....hmmm a ramble that seemed to arrive... anyway

If you ever come to visit the Raven's Nest I am sure you will
immediately feel the energy difference between it and Zen River.
Hmmm... maybe something to ask Simon?  Energies connected but different.

Certainly for Milt and Purdy poetry was rooted in the landscape.  Ted
too in most ways even if an Urban landscape.

more on another day...

Hey Chase... that big shepherd might not have been a she.... deal with



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From: Chris Faiers <>
Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:40 pm
Subject: red herring of People's poetry descriptor/listening to wild voices

Hi Jim,
Good to hear from you. I wasn't pissed off or anything by your
strong response - it was a gut honest response (something too many
poets are afraid to make!), & I was glad to get it.

The opportunity to feature bill bissett - or more accurately, to
pay bill to attend - is the closest I've come to paying a poet.
Nothing overly principled in my wishes to not pay PF poets - it's
honestly as much laziness on my part, perhaps almost as much as
just not wanting to play the
'establishment'/capitalist/hierarchical/academic/etc. etc. ........
literary games again - altho I did eventually manage to pay ALL the
poets I featured at the Main Street Library gig 3 decades ago -
can't remember how many CC grants I could give in a year, & Toronto
Public Library paid everyone else we featured - think it was $25 -
not that bad for the early 80s).

Yeah, the whole 'People's poet' thing. Who is, who isn't, who may
be, who gives a shite???

The whole thing is really a red herring (wow, bad pun) as it was
the poets (like Atwood, Purdy, etc.) who gave the title & medal to
Milt at Grossman's Pub so many decades ago. They did it primarily
to honour Milt & to make up for the GG he was robbed of, but also
with a lot of tongues firmly in cheeks (I believe).

I def. see PFests as something of a new paradigm & direction for
Canadian poetry. More egalitarian, participatory, non-capitalist -
even kinda 'hippie & New Age' - (groans from a few peeple on those
descriptors possibly). Also shamanic, magickal and 'earth-oriented'
- e.g. all the campers at ZenRiver.

You are a key part of PFesting - every year you sooprise all of us
with some new twist - Wilbur wandering out of the sumacs - crazed &
lyrical shaman chants last summer - & of course we always depend on
you to be the ultra-stern kamp kommandant at ZRG  :  )

So whether you consider yourself a People's Poet - is kinda
irrelevant really (to others - me anyway) because it's what we're
creating for CanPo - a whole new way for presenting & LIVING CanPo
for the week+ of PurdyFests. Of course there are still remaining
major elements of the trad poetry scene - the Symps are pretty
trad. academic, but we need this, just as we need the round robin
readings on the dam, & Morley playing his guitar, the cooperative
campfire dinners at ZRG, and you surprising us every year with some
new facet of poetic inspiration. Hey, even Chase sucking up to
everyone for a belly rub is part of PFesting.

I honestly believe we are currently the primary creators of a new
CanPo trad., one which the 'Uncles' & 'Aunties' (Milt, Al, Dorothy,
Ted, Ray Souster, likely even Maggie A, & bill, etc etc.) would
approve of.      

Yeah, would that more Canpoets take meditative walks in the bush &
listen to the 'voices' (man, I heard some pretty scary wolf ones
yesterday - got a little too remote on our hike). There are very
powerful 'old' truisms 'blowin' in the wind' as Bobby D. once sang,
but how many of us are out there, literally in the wilderness,
listening to the messages & then bringing the news back to the
tribe? Then the PFest tribe passes on the collective word/vision to
the larger Canlit community, & then these truths pass into the
Kanadan zeitgeist.

hey, I'm not even hi ... just inspired after today's walk at
Callahan's Rapids with Chase (& 2 beaut. stray dogs for shamanic
gotta make dinner, drink some red

peace & poetry power!
Chris & Chase ... wroooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooof!
(that big shepherd was gorgeous, but wish she'd stopped trying to
hump me!)

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On 2012-01-11, at 3:35 PM, Jim Larwill wrote:

Hey Chris,

I am in town so this will be short.  (Staying with gran kids.)

Sorry if I came across as a very strong NO.  Ultimately it is
your show
and your choice, but well... you know my opinion based on
numerous arts
organizations I've been in and the whole grant thing.  And as a
Stalinist my feeling on payment is none at all, or if funds are
available all should come to me and me alone.

And if as you have said your life experience has always led to
X...  at
this point why do you think it might in the end lead to Y????

Anyway it got me thinking  "What is People's Poetry?"

Funny the morning before your email I on my meditative walk
around the
Raven's Nest a .. not vision... not voice...  a knowing? came to
me that
I wasn't a People's Poet.

Various things I am in the process of pondering.

For you Chris...

Purdyfest is your show.

Stay true to YOUR core.

don't worry... what will be will be...


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From: Chris Faiers <>
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 12:33 pm
Subject: /PF funding for bill bissett looks easy &
straightforward - NOT!

Hi Jim,
Thanks for your input. That's a very strong NO you're voicing -
prob the deciding voice. You've got major cred with 5 years of
support of PurdyFests for you to expect the fest to stick to our
mandate (vague or New Age or shamanistic or nontraditional as
may be to many).

As I said in one of the first emails re funding bill, to do so
'might be a dangerous exception' - the beginning of a slippery
slope to grantsmanship & the old-fashioned way of playing the
CanLit game.

I tried to call you over my brunch coffee to discuss this with
then realized I don't have a phone number for you ...

So we can feature bill bissett at the Symposium, but without
there, or do Livesay - the new Acorn book's publication date is
still uncertain, so the consensus so far is to feature Milt next
summer (2013 - if the planet is still here). Or we could do a
feature this summer on a topic, rather than a poet - like we did
the inaugural Fest - the Symposium on People's Poetry and
spirituality. I'm thinking of the shamanistic trad. you & I &
others are working with & developing.

anyway, we'll come up with something ...

peace & poetry power!
Chris ...  and Chase ...
wroooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooof! (how
dog/wolp poetry?)

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On 2012-01-10, at 1:12 AM, Jim Larwill wrote:

"so how to choose who gets the
funding? Everyone or  no one?"

I have given 5 years of support to a PF free of funding and have
promoted it as gathering free of grants.

easy & straightforward


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----- Original Message -----
From: Chris Faiers <>
Date: Monday, January 9, 2012 3:53 pm
Subject: Re: getting together later this month/PF funding for bill
bissett looks easy & straightforward

Hi Allan,
Thanks for all the helpful info ... it looks very easy to get
funding for PurdyFest thru the League's tours - $250 + mileage
and he can either stay at the classy Marmora Inn B&B or billet
Virginia and Jim Christy.

As you point out, focusing PurdyFest on a living & active
poet is far different from featuring long gone poets like Al
Ted (and eventually Milt & Livesay). Guess it's not much of an
"honour" to be asked to appear, & then not be $ compensated ...

A concern from the start with PurdyFests was that many/most of
poets involved are CC eligible, so how to choose who gets the
funding? Everyone or  no one? Combined with the feeling on my
that I've substantially 'paid my dues' by organizing a CC/TPL
funded series for 6 1/2 years 3 decades ago (Main Street
Poetry Series), & personal burn-out with bureaucracies after
vicious firing by the Stirling library - this has been the
for reluctance to fund poets at PurdyFests. But in bill's
most willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous
bureaucracies once again ...  :  )

Maybe the next step is for me to phone bill & chat & explain
PurdyFests are - and bill, in his creative & outrageous way -
perhaps better envision his role(s) at PurdyFest than we can!

I'm sure Terry will be OK with this. He's fascinated with bill
his impressive CanLit legacy, but doesn't seem to know much
him, so here's our collective chance to learn bill's history
him, enjoy a presentation by bill, while promoting bill &
simultaneously celebrating Canadian People's Poetry in our
format and setting with PurdyFest (#6!).


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