In A Springtime Instant: Launch of Milton Acorn Anthology July 12Parliament Street Public Library are sponsoring an evening in remembrance and celebration of this important cultural and political event in Toronto’s history. It will be held this Thursday, July 12, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.
The library will host the launch of the new selection of poems by Milton Acorn: In A Springtime Instant. Acorn, who also read with his people’s poetry colleagues at the library, spearheaded the free speech struggle in Allan Gardens in the summer of 1962. He courageously read his politically and socially charged poetry to large crowds in front of Robbie Burns’ statue in the Gardens. Along with other Toronto poets and cultural figures, such as Joe Rosenblatt, he was able to change Toronto by-laws, allowing poets to read their works in Toronto parks without penalty.
“Milton Acorn was a bardic prophet to those sprouting poets like myself and others who came under his influence in the early sixties,” said Rosenblatt. “He composed poems about proletarian individuals he knew personally; fishermen, union organizers, miners, while referencing his tangential musings to the boss carpenter, Christ, while he shouted love as a class war versified weapon of mass destruction against the bourgeoisie, when all the while he bruised easily on another theatre of war, tough love. How to classify his muse? I say don’t!”
All poets are invited to share their favourite poem by or about Acorn during the afternoon visit to Robert Burns’ statue in Allan Gardens between 4:00 to 5:00 pm.
The evening program will feature a talk on Acorn’s literary contribution by long-time Acorn friend and editor of the new book James Deahl, a background to the Allan Gardens issue by Humber College teacher Terry Barker, poetry about Acorn by poet Anna Yin, music by Toronto artist Honey Novick, and readings of Acorn’s poetry.
“Anna Yin was a great help technically throughout this project,” Barker said. “She is going to her native China for a visit shortly afterwards. Her publisher is also Mosaic Press. Howard Aster of Mosaic has a long history with China, and we are hoping for this to be an opening for Milton.
“She had never heard of Milt, as someone not from Canada, as well as a member of the younger generation, until I introduced her to him, as it were. Hopefully she can introduce a new generation to his poetry. She is attracted to the people’s poet aspect of Acorn. Different people are attracted to different aspects of him.
“Similarly with Chris Faiers, whom I’ve known since 1973. He has stayed with an interest in Acorn and haiku poetry, and developed other things alongside which fit into it. He is interested in the mystical/spiritual side of Acorn.”
According to an e-mail sent by Deahl on June 14, the Milton Acorn feature he edited for Hamilton Arts & Letters has been read by over 10,000 people from 23 countries. Canada was the top reading country, while Toronto featured the third most readers by city. For this many people from this many countries to read anything about a poet, let alone a Canadian poet, is remarkable, and speaks even further to Acorn’s appeal.
Special guests will be include Acorn biographer Chris Gudgeon, as well as scholar Joyce Wayne, another friend of Acorn’s.
The Parliament Street public library is located at 269 Gerrard Street East, at the corner of Parliament Street. Their phone number is 416-393-7798. The Acorn event will be held in the upstairs meeting room, and will have light refreshments.
“Acorn is very important in the Canadian canon,” Barker said. “Large numbers of writers from that era were indirectly influenced by him, as well as Gwendolyn MacEwan, whom Milt was married to for a short time.
“The circumstances of his life and personality made him difficult to situate. He dropped out of, not favour, but knowledge. Prior collections are out of print.
“He lived what he wrote about. He did go into the world and experienced part of the things he was interested in. Physical and pshycological problems made life difficult, for him and also for those around him. This made it harder to acknowledge his contributions.
“Socialism is no longer an issue, Canadian independence is no longer an issue, as these were issues in Milt’s time. But perennial topics such as a critique of modern society, including the “advertising rainbow” he spoke of, certainly are.
“This parallels in thinking of Canada’s future as one potentially being run by a technocracy. As a thinker, a poet is someone who should deal with these thoughts and the issues which arise from and write about them.”
For more information on the book, please go to: www.mosaic-press.com