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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Quirky poetic homage to Hamilton/author interview Martin Durkin

A Q&A session with Author Martin Durkin………..

A Q&A session By the Crazy Irishman with Martin Durkin, Author of: SteelTown For Mary, Memoirs From a Dick
  1. Q:How did the idea for this book come about?A: Well, my wife was raised in Hamilton, but for 9 years prior to 2008, we had been living in different cities between Kingston and Oakville. During that time, she would tell people about her love for this great city. You could tell it was in her bones. Yet quite often, for people who don’t live here, or have never bothered to visit, they would kinda chuckle and joke about it being smog town. I could tell it hurt her, and it got me to thinking, that I needed to learn more about the city she loves since, I didn’t grow up here. Early in our marriage around 2004, my wife had an internship at Rogers in Toronto. So for the first time, I was coming to Hamilton to live while she did a 3 month run in T-dot. We packed up our belongings in two trucks and in the middle of the night with help from her family, we drove to Hamilton. Her step father owned a welding shop just off of Burlington Street, and in the back it had living quarters – by which I mean a sink, a microwave, and a shower. We quickly got a bed and set up house. During that time, she commuted to Toronto and I worked with my father in law. Each morning I would drive her from Kenilworth over to the GO Station on Hunter. It was mid winter, so the Christmas decorations were out, and at 5am the city was quiet and beautiful. Hamilton was starting to sink in. While working with my Father-in-law, I was able to see every part of Hamilton working the construction sites.
    After 3 months, and a job opportunity back towards the Quinte area where I am originally from, we left and Hamilton was far from my mind. But in that time, the pride of the city, the Skyway Bridge and the Ontario waters were very much becoming a romantic setting in my mind, which would become part of my book.
  1. Q: So in essence, this book is a love story seen through your eyes and written to your wife?A: Much of it yes, when I talk about the waters, unicorns on the waves, or the Skyway – it is very much her and about the things she shared to me. But that includes the grit and the dirt, and the pride of the city overall. By living in the tougher part of the city for 3 months, I saw it all, and it was invigorating.
  1. Q: So when did the idea for a detective story come about?A: Well, in 2008, my wife decided she wanted to go back to school and get a degree. She was accepted by McMaster and eventually earned her Masters. When we initially drove back to Hamilton and were looking at apartments, we searched mostly in the downtown area. While driving around the Hess Village area, I told my wife I was going to write something about Hamilton that would make her proud. In the past, I had written two books of poetry and decided I wanted to write a book of fiction, make it a mystery. Somehow though, everything went on the back burner for about 2 years. I was working in Waterdown on a horse farm, and then in Toronto at an office, my writing had almost dried up. In her 3rd year of school, I decided to sit out on our balcony in the Corktown neighbourhood and start writing a short murder mystery story, and use what I saw around me as a backdrop. I would include the apartment we lived in, the churches, and everything else within plain view, including the abandoned building directly below our apartment building.
  2. Q: How did the short murder mystery become a collection of poems, which read like a story?A: Well, I had written several short stories about a cop and a few short stories about my neighbourhood, but they weren’t going anywhere. I printed them off and realized I could combine them into one large story, make my lead character become part of the other short stories. But even that wasn’t working. Then it hit me, why not take what I had already written, and make them into poetic chapters. Rearrange the order of the stories, so that it became a murder mystery on one hand, but more importantly a love letter to Hamilton.
  1. Q:So if the reader reads this collection, would you say it is only relevant to the citizens of Hamilton?A: NO. It is certainly a map of the general downtown area, and I think it shows a very endearing side of what I feel for the city but, I think my lead character has a very universal story. It also tells the story of a retiring detective who is a widower, and has to come to terms with retirement, life choices, and about missing his wife. In the end, I think he comes out on top and there is potential for many more stories about him. My hope is that whether you are from Hamilton or from Belleville Ontario, you can pick it up and find a connection.
  1. Q:Do you need to be a lover of poetry to enjoy this book?A:Not at all, what I wanted to do was, write something that could read as easily as a story. I just happen to think and write more clearly when I do poetry. But it is my hope that whether you read novels, poetry books, or graphic novels, you can pick this book up and find it enjoyable. I purposely avoided writing in any heavy poetic tones that someone might relate to what you would only read in school. It would be great if it turned some heavy novel readers over to poetry or graphic novels, because I think if you have a love for words, you can enjoy anything.
  1. Q:Did you break any other rules in writing this book?A: I’m not sure, I guess in a lot of detective novels you find the lead usually listening to jazz. I love Jazz and there are some great Hamilton musicians in the area BUT I decided to go a different route. I wanted my old guy to be a lover of great rock n roll, so instead I have him listening to Tom Wilson through out the story. I grew up on Junkhouse music, when kids were going in to buy Nirvana or Oasis, I was grabbing Canadian guys like, The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, or Junkhouse. I actually saw Mr.Wilson perform on the Rita MacNeil show in the mid 90′s, and was blown away, the next day I ran out and purchased, STRAYS. My most favourite song on that album was BIG LAKE. It’s funny at the time, I had no idea about his relationship with Hamilton, or my future relationship to this great town. But when I started writing, I realized very quickly I needed a musical score, and who better when it comes to this town.
  1. Q: Will there be any other books on the near horizon?A: Definitely, once I started writing SteelTown, the flood gates opened. In the last 6 months while my wife completed her Masters, I took time off and started writing full time. In the last 3 years, I’ve probably written 3 other poetic novels, and am working on a sequel to SteelTown. My lead may be retired, but there is so much more to explore about him, and I am by no means finished with writing about Hamilton, it is a second home to me now.
  1. Q: What is the publishing date for this book, and where can people find it?A: The release date is going to be announced VERY shortly, and will appear electronically with a PRINT version to follow. There will be more details being released online shortly.
Touted as a working man’s poet, Martin Durkin has been writing professionally for the last 12 years. He has appeared in over twenty anthologies across North America, including, “And left a place to stand on”, a collection of poems and essays about the late great Al Purdy. Durkin has also published two collections of poetry, “Hypnotic Childhood”, and “The Sound of Quish”.
In 2013 Durkin was part of the Purdy Rednersville show, reading some of his latest work.
In 2014 a new book of poems called, ‘Steeltown for Mary, Memoirs from a Dick’ should be hitting the shelves. The book was edited by Richard Turtle whom Martin met during the Rednersville show. Thus far,the reviews for this book have been very positive………

Steel Town is so much more than a book of really good poems. It is a graphic novel without the artwork, a Sam Spade movie without motion or sound, a compelling social commentary without complicated language and a detective story without any of the boring bits. It’s also one hell of a good idea and an even better read……..RICHARD TURTLE (editor)

“An unusual and remarkably rich and evocative narrative told so adeptly by an author who knows how to use in almost impossibly few words to engage the reader. Durkin brings Hamilton and its characters to life, stanza by stanza.” -Graham Crawford,Owner Hamilton HIStory + HERitage

From Lindi Pierce, Heritage writer, researcher and member of the Local and National Al Purdy A-frame association boards….”If Dashiell Hammett had written poetry, he would have written this!”

With this book he takes a long step forward into the ranks of Canadian poets of consequencee.– Chris Faiers, Canadian Poet and Recipient of the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Medal

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

hay bales (haibun)

Hi Gail,
I like your new short pieces - they are akin to prose poems, but just the right length, or perhaps they are succinct meditations. Well written & thought out, the creations of a true contemplative  ;  )

There is possibly a publishing market for them - perhaps with a few more you could get a regular column with THE LINK or some other mag.
peace & poetry power!
Chris ... & Chase Wrfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!

p.s. This aft Chase & I made a return hike to the new logging slash about a mile back on the trails behind Zion Church. The last time we hiked there we surprised a huge herd of deer browsing on the tasty remnants left by the loggers. The place looks like hell - a forest version of Mordor - but the deer love the fresh supply of tender tree tops & branch ends & the safety  from predators provided by the openness.

When I visited Morley's dad at Campbellford Hospital last week, this was the story he wanted to hear - about this huge gathering of perhaps 40+ deer foraging in their own unique deer yard. When Morley visited him on Sunday, this was again what Don wanted to talk about. Don is an old bushrat, raised in this area, & these woods & their creatures are his favourite places. He was so concerned about the deer starving over this bitterly old-fashioned winter that he asked Morley to lug a bale of hay back to the slash.

bitter winter
dying man dreams hay bales
for starving deer


On 2014-03-25, at 12:31 PM, Gail Taylor wrote:

Hi Chris,
I am sorry that I did not get to join you last Sunday but I was making my trips to Peterborough. The link below is the direction that I am thinking about going with my writing.  When you have minute, let me know what you think.

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On 2014-03-25, at 10:45 PM, marvin orbach wrote:

Hi Chris,
   That certainly is a great haibun.  You are a master of  the haibun.
   If you do any more that deal with nature, please keep me in mind. 
    Marvin,   retired librarian.

Many thanks for the kind words, Marvin  ; )
I felt a real kinship with Basho's final "over the withered fields" haiku this afternoon.
Wrfffffffffffffff!  Chris/cricket & Chase

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Andreas Gripp has left a new comment on your post "hay bales (haibun)":

a very touching haibun. thanks for posting, Chris.

Posted by Andreas Gripp to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 26 March 2014 08:53

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

pension rules rip off senior writers

Dear Chris,

         I have been reading your recent pieces with great interest. What you report is completely correct. ALL Canadians living on the government pensions alone are forced to live below the poverty line. The poverty line (by the government’s own calculation) is about $20,000 at the present time for a single person. But the highest pension amount (C.P.P. plus O.A.S. plus G.I.S.) is considerably under $19,000. Exactly as you report.

         But hold on Chris, it actually gets worse. Last year I received a cheque for $600 from my publisher in royalties. Since this was a year ago, it was my first royalty cheque since going on the O.A.S. and the G.I.S. Guess what? The government cut my pension by $42.36 per month. $42.36 X 12 is $508.32. I was only able to keep $91.68 of my $600 in royalties! (This is absolutely true.)

         I went to my M.P. (a Tory, unfortunately, but that’s not my fault) and inquired. I was told that this is the way the system works for retired people.

         This is not a one-off. I read Good Times magazine. They have a financial consultant reply to questions from readers concerning retirement issues. A reader of Good Times earned $200 in interest. And guess what? The government took most of it by reducing his pension for a year. So he wrote to the financial consultant at the magazine and was told what I had been told by my M.P. That’s the way the system works for retired folk.

         In my opinion this is TOTALLY outrageous. If you are poor and do manage to earn a few hundred dollars, the government will take almost all of it!

         In the future I will tell my publishers to keep my royalties. As poor as I may be, I would much rather take a pass on $91.68 if it means I can keep $508.32 out of the hands of the federal government.


         . . . James

p.s. Please feel free to share this letter with others.

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Hi James,

I filed my income taxes just over a week ago. My net income for 2013 was UNDER $10,000!
It will be interesting to see what my Guaranteed Annual Income Supplement will be increased to at the end of this July. Currently I'm receiving about $10 a month in the supplement - I can't continue to live on this amount ...

Thanks for letting me post your email. The government has everyone so confused and divided with the rules, regs & BS with our old age pensions that a lot of us are falling through the cracks. 

peace & poetry power!
Chris ... & Chase Wrffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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March 20, 2014

Dear Chris,
            Good to see my letter on your blog. The largest group of poor people in Canada is senior citizens, especially widows, widowers, and singles (like you). Once you stop being a wage-slave and paying income tax, the government does not give a shit if you live or die. In fact, if you die you stop costing them money every month.

Poetry Power!
            . . . James, Norma, and Rocky.

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Hi James & Anna,
Yes, I think it's good to keep harping away (pun intended) at the way we're used & abused during our working lives, & then pushed aside into not so genteel poverty once the
overspending pols no longer need us - makes me think of ANIMAL FARM   :  (       Turn the poor old work horse seniors into glue ... maybe I shouldn't even joke about this!!!!

Chris & Chase Wrfffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (we hiked too far yesterday for our tired old bods)

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Monday, 10 March 2014

Robert Service: People's Poet by Ron Dart

Robert Service: People’s Poet

 by Ron Dart

             He (Robert Service) was a people’s poet. To the people,

             he was great. They understood him, and knew any verse

             carrying the by-line Robert W. Service would be a lilting

             thing, clear, clean and power packed, beating out a story

             with a dramatic intensity that made the nerves tingle.

                                                   Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph           

             Robert Service is ‘the singer of the common man’

                                                                   Stanley Walker

             I suppose all my life I have fought against obscurantism!

             For me the true intellectual is a simple person who knows

             how to be close to nature and to ordinary people. I tend to

             therefore shy away from academic poets and critics. They

             miss the essence.

                                                                      Dorothy Livesay

                                                                     Song and Dance


Most Canadians have heard of Robert Service (1874-1958) as the popular and successful author of The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee.  These two ballad type poems catapulted Service to the forefront of popular Canadian literary life. These poems were published in Songs of a Sourdough (1907), and this slim missive became the first book of poetry in Canada that sold well and made a substantive profit.

Who was Robert Service, though, before Songs of a Sourdough was published to such acclaim and attention? And, what sort of path did Service hike after his early fame as bard and tale teller of the Yukon was left behind?

Robert Service was born in Scotland, and like most creative and gifted people, had a difficult time at school. He left the hallowed halls at the age of fourteen, and he worked in a bank until he was twenty-two. Needless to say, such potential could hardly be tamed and domesticated in the banking world.

There were hints of Service’s future political outlook and artistic abilities at work in such tender years. Service became quite involved with the socialist movement (while still working at the bank) in the 1890s, and he became an avid reader of Robert Blatchford’s  leftist leaning The Clarion. The publication of Blatchford’s, Merrie England (1894), was ‘an immediate runaway bestseller’, and the young Robert Service was held and convinced by Blatchford’s  simple, incisive and poignant socialist prose and arguments. 

It was just a matter of time before Service had to make some hard decisions.

Would banking be the beginning and end of his trail, or were there other paths to hike with finer vistas to see? Service was attracted in the 1890s to  Blatchford’s brand of ecological socialism that blended the importance of the common good and the life of being on the road with the hobo, worker and vagabonds. Service came to Canada in 1896 at the age of 22. He found a variety of jobs on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley, and he also took a brief trip south to California. He took all sorts of jobs, and by taking low paying, unskilled labour work, he met and spent hours with men and women who lived, moved and had their being at the lowest end of the social scale and class structure. These experiences were to have a profound impact on the way Service wrote his poetry, prose and novels. Service was a poet of the people before Milton Acorn was offered such an award in 1970.

Robert Service was on the Canadian West Coast, except for his brief jaunt to California, from 1896-1904. This was a period of time in which he worked on ranches, wrote and read much. These were also the contentious years of the Boer War, and Service did not flinch from writing some stirring poems that pondered the tragedy of the war and the fate of many who lost their lives in it. Robert Service was no keen supporter of the war, and his poetry reflects, in a poignant and descriptive manner, the brutality of the carnage.

Service was offered a job with the Imperial Bank of Commerce on Vancouver Island in 1903, and by 1904, he was on his way to Whitehorse.

Whitehorse at the time had passed its bumper crop season of the gold rush, and it was a depressed and forlorn place. It did not take long for Service to enter the fray and join the life of the community. He worked as a banker during the day, and wrote during the evening. He often recited his long and engaging ballads to the workers of the town, and his poetry was received and welcomed by the people of Whitehorse.

Service collected many of his ballads, and in a tentative sort of way, sent the manuscript to Toronto (with money to pay for the printing). It was just a matter of months before Songs of a Sourdough became the literary talk of the town. This was poetry from the margins, poetry of the people, poetry that spoke of the life and everyday struggles of the far north. 

The sheer success of Songs of a Sourdough worked their wonders on Service. Robert began to ponder whether he should and could leave his job as a banker and ponder the possibility of writing as a vocation. He was quite taken by the gold rush days of the Klondike, and he decided to follow the trail of those who panned for gold to Dawson City. The trip was made in 1908, and the missive produced from the arduous journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City was called Ballad of a Cheechako (1909). The slim volume was about his time in the Yukon, and it was written about Yukon life. Robert was thirty-five when Ballad of a Cheechako was published, and the fact it was a bumper crop success meant that life at the bank could be left behind.

The Trail of Ninety-Eight, A Northland Romance (1910) yet further consolidated Service’s reputation as the weaver of fine northern yarns.

The ascent, by many gold hungry miners, over the white capped peaks in search of their illusive fortune was not lost to the probing mind of Service.

‘Like a stream of black ants they were, between mountains that reared up swiftly to storm smitten palisades of ice’. The Chilkoot Pass claimed the lives of many, and the many black dots that ascended the imposing white snow boulders in search of their pot of gold led to many a tragic tale, and Service did not flinch from pointing out the foolishness of such never ending quests.

The royalties that poured in from Songs of a Sourdough and Ballad of a Cheechako meant that Robert was now free to explore and probe the Canadian north yet further. He decided to do the longer trip from Edmonton to Dawson City. He made the trip in 1911, and his third book of poetry, The Rhymes of a Rolling Stone (1912) reflected the arduous and demanding pilgrimage made.

The times they were a changing, though, and dark clouds were emerging on the horizon. Robert had also come to the end of season of his life. He had lived in the Yukon (for the most part) from 1904-1912. He had lived in British Columbia (for the most part) from 1896-1904. He had written about the people of the Yukon, and held high their courage and hard life. He had written about British Columbia and California. His books were selling well, but Robert longed to do and be more. Eastern Europe and the Balkans were heating up, and Service felt the heat and fire that was about to emerge. The journey across the ocean took him to different places than BC and the Yukon, and it was in his frontline experiences of war (and all its tragedy and carnage) that the poetry of Robert Service moved to greater depths and spoke with finer integrity.

The Balkan league (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro) announced they were going invade the dying Ottoman empire in April.1912. Robert Service worked as a journalist and with the Turkish Red Crescent in the war. The gruesome nature of the war went deep into his poetic and sensitive soul.

The war ended in December/1912, and Service arrived in Paris in 1913. The trip to Paris altered the life direction of Robert Service in many different ways.  It was in Paris that he met his wife (Germaine) in the spring of 1913, and Robert and Germaine lived in France (mostly in Paris) from 1913-1928.

It was in Paris that Robert met the literary and intellectual elite of the time, and from such meetings and interaction, he wrote and had published The Pretender: The Story of the Latin Quarter (1914).

It is important to remember that Robert Service had spent the previous two decades with the rough and tumble, the hard working and hard living miners, gold seekers and trekkers across the barren and frigid north. He had also just seen the brutality of war. The stark contrast between such a life and the more insulated, introverted and cultured intellectual class of Paris could not be more stark and obvious. There was pretense, pose and much posturing in such a class and clan. Service saw all this and wrote about it in a candid way and manner. Stephen Leacock did the same thing in Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914). It is significant to note that both The Pretender: The Story of the Latin Quarter and Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich were published in 1914. This was the same year that Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist took to the streets, also. Tressell pulls no soft punches when it comes to the living conditions of the working person and the immoral gap between the rich and the desperate poor. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is so graphic in its telling detail that the full text was not published until 1955. There is no doubt, though, that Robert Tressell, Robert Service and Stephen Leacock were, in many ways, on the same page when it came to their view of the idle rich and the destructive aspects of capitalism.   These men lived on the edge of WW I, and they saw the tragic and sad gap between the pandered rich and pretender class and the needs of the poor and the people. We find the same exposing of such an intellectual and artistic tendency in the way Mazo de la Roche etches in the character of Eden in Jalna and Whiteoaks. The immoral and indulgent aesthetic nature of some artists had to be called for what it was, and Robert Service, Stephen Leacock, Robert Tressell and Mazo de la Roche blew the whistle on the mirage and illusion with incisive and rapier like precision.

The gathering storm and dark clouds of WWI  had their way in 1914. Robert Service, like many other writers (Hemingway, Cummings, Nordhoff, Dos Passos, Masefield, Seabrook, Maugham) became ambulance drivers. The sheer violence, brutality and carnage of the war went yet deeper into Service’s poetic imagination. Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (1916) became another best seller for Service. In fact, the many insightful poems in this tract for the times captured the nature of war so well that it was used in trauma clinics for Vietnam veterans. There is no doubt Robert Service had a way of hearing and heeding the times, and speaking the harder and more demanding concerns to the people in an accessible way and manner. Rhymes of a Red Cross Man does not romanticize or idealize war. The tragedy and ugliness of war is laid bare for all to see, and it was seen in an accurate way by Service the red cross man.

Robert was back with his wife in Paris in 1919, and living a more sane and settled life. The war was over, and much rebuilding had to be done. Robert Service had very much carved out for himself a life as writer, poet and bard.

He could live off the royalties of his many best selling books. He was forty-five, and still had much to write and say. Paris was a good place to say and write such things. Service wrote Ballads of a Bohemian in 1919, and it was published in 1921.

Hollywood became interested in The Shooting of Dan McGrew in 1921, so Robert and his wife, daughter and mother headed to California for a period of time. Novel writing replaced poetry for Robert Service in the 1920s, and

The Poisoned Paradise (1922) and The Roughneck (1922) were bestsellers and made into lucrative movies.

Service turned 50 in 1924, and his physician at the time told him he needed to do something about his waning health. The comments were not ignored. Robert began to seriously change his life style, and became a firm and committed advocate of regular exercise and healthy eating. His faithful reading public was rather shocked and surprised when he even wrote a book on the subject: Why Not Grow Young? Keeping Fit at Fifty (1928).


The optimistic 1920s were coming to an end, and the depression of the 1930s and WW II drew ever closer. The political right (fascists) and left (communists) in France demanded their oppositional due, and Robert Service walked the extra mile to hear the arguments from both sides in the heated debate. Service decided to go to the USSR, and he booked a trip with Intourist in 1938 to see what could and should be seen. Stalin was in power at the time, and Intourist (the Soviet travel agency) did its best to hide the worst aspects of Stalinism from naïve western tourists. Service was too bright to be taken in by the tale told. Germany was linking affectionate and conniving hand with the USSR, and Robert Service saw the worrisome writing on the wall.

The trip to the USSR inspired Service to begin a novel, Four Blind Mice.

WW II began in 1939, and France was caught in the vice like grip. The Service family managed to escape from Saint-Malo in France in June/1940 as the Nazis began their occupation and colonization process. They arrived in London and left before the intense bombing of the city in August 1940.

The boat trip from England to Canada was fraught with all sorts of dangers on the water, but the family made it to Montreal by August 1940. They were welcomed with much adoration and many an honour. The bard of the north and the Yukon, the poet of the people was back. Robert and family threaded their way slowly across the country, stopping and staying in Banff for a time, then settling into Vancouver life. Robert’s brother, Peter, owned Sourdough Bookshop on West Pender Street. The Canadian West Coast managed to hold the Service family for a few years.

They remained in Vancouver (going to California for short visits) from 1940-1945. He wrote the first part of his autobiography, Ploughman of the Moon (1945), and there were boosters and knockers of the book. Ploughman of the Moon, like most of Robert Service’s writings, took quickly to the top of the selling chart.   Service was seventy-one when his autobiography was published, and most Canadians were pleased their bard was back even though the Robert Service who had returned was a different man than the one who had left many a decade ago. The balladeer of Songs of a Sourdough, Ballads of a Cheechako and Trail of the Ninety-eight had seen much since his Yukon days, and he was a different man as a result of it. But, most wanted the Robert Service of The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

WW II was now done and over, and Robert Service had entered the autumn years of his lingering life. The waning season can be a time of ease, comfort and the demands of life or the final burst of colour, splendour and beauty before winter finally arrives to claim its own. The final decade of Service’s was abundant with the sheer fullness of the best of the autumn season. Few could equal Service in their autumn season.

The Service family returned to France after WW II, and it was from Monte Carlo that he wrote much. His companion autobiography to Ploughman of the Moon was called Harper of Heaven (1947), and it sold well again. Robert wrote eight more books of poetry before he died in 1958. Robert did return to Vancouver in August 1948 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Trail of the Ninety-eight; this was the final visit of Robert Service to the Canadian West Coast.

There is no doubt that Robert Service was a Canadian for all seasons.

He was a people’s poet before the word was used, and he wrote for the common person in a direct and accessible way. It was on the Canadian West Coast and in the Yukon that Robert Service cut his poetic teeth and earned his literary stripes. He stands for a way of being Canadian that we can still learn much from in an age in which poetry and prose often ignores the common person and writes for, as Milton once said, ‘a fit audience though few’. Robert Service did not write for a fit audience though few, and he probably would have seen such people as ‘the pretenders’.

There is a direct line backwards from Milton Acorn’s More Poems for People to Dorothy Livesay’s poetic desire in Poems for People and Song and Dance ‘to be close to nature and to ordinary people’ to Robert Service’s  poetry. People’s poetry in Canada has a compelling history, line and lineage, and Robert Service can be seen, in many ways, as the grandfather of such a heritage and tradition.




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email from Jim Christy
March 10/14

Thanks for sending along that piece by Ron Dart. I was pleased to see
old Bobby -- what us old Yukoners, call him -- receive a few kind words.

When you went to my art show in B'ville last May you would have seen a
poem collage on a board. Included thereon was a photo taken by me of the bank where Bobby used to work in Dawson City.

Is this Ron Dart the one who lives in Abbotsford?--which per capita has the highest murder rate in Canada and is known for religious fanatics and hatred of non-whites? I have an Abbotsford poem about a walk one day a few years ago to buy shoes. Before turning the corner to go back to where I was staying I was confronted by the King James box store and, on the other side of the street, something called The Kafka Centre (a clinic). In front of which was a bench warning that "They" didn't tell the fat pregnant girl that abortion causes cancer. Certainly a good place for a writer to gather material, particularly for a suicide note.
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Jack Kerouac ruined my son!

Hi Ron,

Many thanks for giving me permission to post this important (crucial) history of Canuck People's Poetry on my blog! I honestly didn't have a clue as to 'the rest of the story', or even of Robert Service's seminal influence on our tradition of People's Poetry.

My apologies if there are any strange line breaks or other oddities with the post - I did the best I could to post it as sent, but my Mac and the Google Blogger systems played mild havoc with the layout, & it took me almost an hour to clean things up, even after Anna kindly sent me the piece within the body of an email.

Anna, Ron has given us both permission to post this important lesson in Canadian poetry, so please go ahead & post it on your 'co-views' site.

Some of my personal history (& Jim Christy's) has been made clear from this piece. Jim told me yesterday that his father once exclaimed, "Jack Kerouac ruined my son!"
Ron, you have shown a clearcut lineage of the tradition of politikally progressive vagabond writer/poets from Robert Service & his influences thru Livesay - Acorn - to the present!

again, many thanks for writing this fascinating history, & for letting me post it ...

peace & poetry power!
Chris ... & Chase Wrfffffffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Hail the Sunshine! poem by Katherine L. Gordon

Arms of Light Rescue

The sky is silvered blue

the colour of archangels
who have gathered
with their swords of light
to split the darkness
drive Winterdark away,
the drab of days folded
as a used shroud,
spirits leaping out of rib cages
dreaming roses
love in scented bowers
troubles and sickness melted
in the sacred balm of sun’s light.

Katherine L. Gordon.  March 9,

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Daylight saving Time, 2014.
Andreas Gripp has left a new comment on your post "Hail the Sunshine! poem by Katherine L. Gordon":

Conrad was so right -- Katherine is the guardian of a true Canadian poetry. Thanks for posting this excellent poem. Really needed it after the horrible winter we've been having ...

Posted by Andreas Gripp to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 10 March 2014 06:19