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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Terry Barker's presentation of People's Poetry essays (Parliament St. Library)

Following is the outline of author Terry Barker's presentation at the launch of his book, Continuing Chesterton: The Passage and Revelation of Canada's Renaissance Roots in People's Poetry, at the Parliament Street Library branch of Toronto Pubic Library on June 22, 2015.

In his report on the current state of Canadian poetry in Lummox (Number 3, 2014, San Pedro, California), James Deahl says that a large number of poets writing here now consider themselves to be in the tradition of the "Great Generation" (as he calls it) of the founders of People's Poetry (e.g. Dorothy Livesay, Raymond Souster, Al Purdy, Milton Acorn), or their successors, such as the late Toronto poet Ted Plantos. He further claims that an examination of the poetry of these self-identified followers shows that it is akin not to the work of the People's Poetry founders, but actually to that of a different literary movement that is known as Confessional Poetry.

I am not qualified to comment on the strictly literary aspects of this controversial claim, but I believe that the collection of essays I am launching today (on behalf of Synaxis Press, Dewdney, British Columbia) may throw considerable light upon what might be called the "spiritual content" of the work of the aforementioned "founders". For it is this aspect of the poetry of the "Great Generation" of People's Poets, and of the work of some contemporary Canadian writers, that I am dealing with in this book.

The majority of the items in the book were given as papers at the symposia on People's Poetry at the annual PurdyFests held each summer for eight years in Marmora, Ontario, and which were founded by Chris Faiers, James Deahl and myself. By "spiritual content" I meant there, and I mean in this book, both what is conventionally meant by "spiritual" (things of a religious or psychic nature), but also matters of an ideological, philosophical and sociological type. This broad usage of the term "spiritual" reverts to my own training in the theory and philosophy of politics, and to my years of teaching this subject (under various titles) at Humber College. In this way of approaching the literary content of the work of a group of authors, the investigator reflects on the structure of consciousness revealed in the writing under review in the context of the authors' individual intellectual biographies, relating these to parallel phenomena in relevant general intellectual history, situating the group's identity (in this case People's Poetry) in broader historical trends, representing various structures of consciousness identifiable by scholars.

In this book there are essays on Ted Plantos, Milton Acorn, Dorothy Livesay, Al Purdy and Raymond Souster, as well as items dealing with the general context of their work. There are also book reviews on related matters, and introductions to books by poets who seem (to me) to currently fall within the purview of People's Poetry. Readers of my earlier collections of papers on People's Poetry, After Acorn (1999) and Beyond Bethune (2006) will probably guess that my methodological master is primarily again here the late "philosopher of consciousness" Eric Voegelin. He was a great reader of poetry, and affirmed in conversations held in Montreal that, in a sense different from Plato, "poetry does not lie."

If the reader may be a bit puzzled by the use of G. K. Chesterton as a linking thread for the book, it should perhaps be mentioned that in addition to the fact that he was a "grey eminence" for the British Georgian poets who were read by the Canadian "Great Generation", and acknowledged as an important influence by some of the latter. Chesterton began as a disciple of Walt Whitman, the fountainhead of the American Populist movement in poetry (and bard of the mid-nineteenth century flowering of democracy in New York), the immediate predecessor of People's Poetry in Canada. Like Canada's Father of Confederation, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Chesterton undertook an immanent (i.e. from within) critique of the Anglo-American experience of liberal modernity, producing both an affirmation and a criticism (from a populist perspective). This he expressed in his 1913 poem The Secret People, for example (Terry then read this poem from page 103 of Continuing Chesterton).

The French and First Russian Revolutions (1905) are characterized here as genuine people's revolts against bureaucratic oligarchies in this poem written during the hideous trench warfare of the First World War, the first truly modern technocratic war. Millions of ordinary men and women produced the machines of destruction, and were hurled into combat with one another by the agents of these production forces, the socialist parties of Europe, by and large, being complicit, as Chesterton, who at the time called himself a socialist, was well aware. The "new age of peace and prosperity" that Western civilization had promised its peoples at the end of the nineteenth century, then, was turning out to be a new, more sophisticated, international tyranny. Our "founders", under consideration this evening, lived and wrote in the era of what is sometimes called the "second battle" of the First World War, and its sequels through the 1930s - 1990s. We are the inheritors of the world made at that time. My specific excuse for using Chesterton to tie together the themes I treat in this book is revealed towards the book's end - a fascinating essay by the late John Sutherland, the knowledge of the existence of which I owe to a gift many years ago from James Deahl.         


                                      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As the chief organizer and host of the eight annual Purdy Country Literary Festivals (PurdyFests), I was pleased to learn that Terry Barker was planning a book on our People's Poetry symposia. Continuing Chesterton is the main document to date of our group's study and analysis of some of the key figures in this movement. Many papers in addition to Terry's collection were also presented and discussed, and the PurdyFest symposia themselves grew from a series of earlier "poetry controversies" organized by poet James Deahl and Terry. The Marmora/ZenRiver Gardens PurdyFests were weekend gatherings, perhaps with more than a trace from my hippie youth spent camping at festivals like The Isle of Wight and Glastonbury, and fortunately there are plans for PurdyFests to continue evolving in a new form under the leadership of James Deahl, Tai Grove and Patrick Connors.           

Of course it's impossible to objectively review a book which details something I was a key part of, but I sincerely believe that this collection of essays by Terry is an important document of the People's Poetry movement in Canada. Personally I believe this collection is worthy of three or four books: a chronology of key members of Canadian People's Poetry, a sociological/historical/philosophical study of Canadian poetry and perhaps a study of Terry's mentor (and my bugbear!) Eric Voegelin  ;  )

Sadly, the production quality of this first edition is just a mess. Terry himself jokes about the many problems, which include bizarre overall layout, run together paragraphs and picture captions which defy belief! I'm grateful to the publisher for bringing Terry's collection of essays together, but I hope a professionally cleaned-up second edition is in the works for publication asap. While showing the book around to PurdyFest participants, even people mentioned were reluctant to obtain a copy of this incredibly garbled first edition. Even the lure of possible future value as a collector's item wasn't sufficient to garner enthusiasm for readership. This is just too important a book for bad production and editing to dissuade potential readers and scholars of Canadian poetry. 

Chris Faiers
Marmora, Ontario
    June 28, 2015

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Stone Soup: Kate Marshall Flaherty (review by Katherine L. Gordon)

Stone Soup FC

Stone Soup
by Kate Marshall Flaherty
Quattro Books Inc. Publisher        

Reviewed by Katherine L. Gordon                                                 
Poet, Publisher, Judge and Reviewer.

From a butter-cream background cover an ancient iron pot entices, it has  the four legs: earth, air, water and fire, grounding the circle of the cauldron of life.

Stone Soup is the apt title of Kate Marshall Flaherty’s book, evocative of the cauldron of renewal as well as the brew of soul-food we all share in, each of us unique in the co-operative effort of trying to nourish each other through the rough, the ritual and the jubilation of days. The stones of this book jangle through some of the poems,  each of us surely carrying one, the rough edges, the smooth, even the cutting ones as in Kate’s poem “every boy should have a stone in his pocket.”

These are our contributions to the simmering pot of days: “to purge all that’s not best.” Little events stir profound observations in Kate, in language equally accessible and wondrous: “Like rough prayer beads/to feed his family”  from Light Within, and the amazing “alleluia!” of The God Particle.

The spirituality of diverse cultures is gathered here,  added to the collaborative soup, to nourish with insight not division. Kate begins with a Dragon Fruit section, the taste of the exotic and the plain blending harmoniously.  She has a trick of catching the sublime in the simple, so much sacred in all human action. Much reverence glows in the reference to Native lore, as in Lost: the “migwetch” for all natural beauty.

Her feelings so palpably human as in Mosquitoes, yet so connected to the deeper dimensions we sense.  Next of Kin in the Lost section is a revolution of thought, our beginnings, our shared condition with all creatures. Fairy tales are here, reality is here, all blessed with a light Kate knows and transmits so easily to the surprised and enriched reader.  Her language can leap from literary lovely to playful patois,  entertaining and delightful. It is quite a mix.

As in the original folk-tale, the outcome is up to all those who enrich the meal. The reader will partake and be permeated with the revelation of Stone Soup.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Tuscan House: Katherine L. Gordon


Tuscan House

for Signor Bellini


There is a house in Tuscany
so mellow in time
her stones share secrets,
rose of love, gold of life,
black iron of private endings,
history furls with green vines
around ancient windows
glinting the embrace of belonging
in a country-side steeped in reverence
for ancient gods of earth and water
the wine of communion
with each rock and flower.
Here is the quiet of paradise
a spirit-place that calls me
the pulse of all that beats
    in my centre.

Katherine L. Gordon

Monday, 22 June 2015

And With Thy Spirit: April Bulmer (review by Katherine L. Gordon)

And With Thy Spirit
Poems by April Bulmer

Reviewed by Katherine L. Gordon
Poet, Publisher, Editor, Judge and Reviewer.

            A manuscript to jolt you from the comfortable edges and spiritual inertia of this hugely selfish and somewhat shallow generation, into the deep and heady seas of vision.   A welcome philosophy for the famished soul to make sense of pain, life, death and rapture.  This book by April Bulmer is a landmark of literature to cherish and reference as we evolve from static views into a discovery
of our own divinity and purpose.
Sections of this work approach multi-layered vision:  in April, Fathers, we catch glimpses
of the Father who dies, returns, companions.   April struggles with the difficulties of rejection in
childhood but the resolution of understanding relationships throughout meetings in many lives,
how the Father’s perceived return “your mind an aura of evergreen” represents the Christ-like relationship:
“there is a god of torn nets and broken vessels.”   The impelling memories of an Ojibway time of fathers/elders/medicine men/  arise.
       In Bernadette, Mothers section the hot immediacy of the body compels with its fullness, desire and pain, fleshing out its command over all:  “the water a shade of wound.”  Women receiving men,
birthing children, fashioning the grit earth of it, the fiery universe of us.  Native visions are palpably real in April’s work, as though keenly there,  lush with longing, Johnny Nanticoke an ever-mate.
In bruising lines the stark appraisal of this life: “I rattle my pills/like lost teeth.”
 Blue, the sacred colour of Mary’s mantle and the sky goddess,  occurs as a theme of cleansing,
“that blue soap” fair linen cloths to purify “the musk/of your land/ on my skin.
“We read souls like poems/ their rhythms/their tears/their bones.”
   One senses that incarnations could alternate between male and female presentation.
The vital gnosis here is that rock, tree, animal, all peoples, intertwine with us in the passionate cycle,
the shape-shifting, “the scent of my shadow.”  There is fierce passion in manifestation, from root
to galaxy.  One begins to discard preconceptions as this work unfolds.
   Mary and Jesus remain symbols of our long conflict with history:  “an apple broken
open”  “before the legend of hurts.” Here is spirit experience as profound as the Nirvana of meditation, like the rapture of the ancients into the presence of god: “My spirit grazes on flowers.”
Not for the timid to open the stars. A whole new assessment of the Jesus vision as fellow sufferer, prophet and partner, who can also be interpreted as a feminine aspect of ourselves.
    Menses blood, as poetisized here is also a force for renewal.  Rudolph Steiner once wrote
that “blood is the bridge between spirit and matter.”  April makes this continuum observation
as well as the link to sacrifice in The Scar, a hint of blood-offering to leap into the ecstasy of spirit-union. Vision becomes fusion.  Jesus, the Moon, gods and goddesses, coalesce into spirit personified through many incarnations, to permeate and celebrate.

         April’s  Contemplations of Moon remind one of the ancient figurines of Neolithic women, emphasis on hips and breasts, the life-force of humanity.
 The constant interplay of light and dark, the snake and the blossom, as in May, Healer, emphasizes the need to recognize both forces as necessary to our existence.  We hold the quality of each: “something howls/
it is my heart/ all that whimper and growl.” 
   Perhaps April has glimpsed the true meaning of our gods, the need for ever-changing
perception, the ringing role of the feminine, the rapture caught in earth, blood, pain and bone,
and the re-creating.
   The language of this book can be like nails in soft flesh, even in the beauty of her spare lines,
an invitation to The Serpent to “nest in my petals,”  “rise in the morning/ with original sin.” also
“And God swells and contracts/ like the waist of the moon.”
   Flashes of vision we need to confront and re-learn.
         Clues in the Introduction and Afterword are an insight into April Bulmer’s current work.
And With Thy Spirit will infuse and excite all the longings to understand oneself, part of the
evolving perspective of every culture.


AprilBulmerApril Bulmer’s poems have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies including Arc, The Malahat Review and Quills. Born in Toronto, Bulmer’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree in English and Mass Communications from York University as well as three Master’s degrees: Creative Writing, Concordia University, Theology, University of Trinity College and Religious Studies, University of Windsor. Women of the Cloth is Bulmer’s newest poetry collection. She has published six other books of poetry and four chapbooks. Her second book Weight of Wings was short-listed for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman. She lives in Cambridge, Ontario.

Click here for all Black Moss Press news related to April Bulmer.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

I was at the '69 and '70 Isle of Wight festivals ...

The Guardian newspaper in the UK has been publishing archival photos from the seminal hippie pop festivals of the 1960s and early 1970s. Worth checking out - here's another chapter of that time from my memoir.

Ralph McTell plays the festival

EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers

Chapter 4 - The Isle of Wight Concert

After a couple of months of unpleasant co-existence, my cousin asked me to leave, immediately.  I was flung out with nowhere to go in a strange country.  I wandered around the suburban village of Kingston upon Thames for the evening, and finally made a camp out of a suitcase and towels in a vacant lot:

Making camp
in a vacant lot
with outcast cats

I survived the night, and the next day I ran into Martha at L'Auberge.  Martha's parents were going to Ibiza for a week with her younger sister.  Supposedly it was ok for a few of us to stay with Martha for company.  Soon the house was full of hippie crashers.  Martha's someimes boyfriend Canadian Peter, family friend Mark Valiant, myself and assorted L'Auberge regulars took advantage of the of the Holme's hospitality.

The week flew by in a stoned haze.  One night a group of the Richmond dossers dropped acid.  One of them stabbed at the kitchen table with a knife for hours.  So much for peace and love.  A group of us trooped out into nearby Richmond Park, and cavorted in the moonlight all night.

Another memory of that week is of being awakened on the sofa by Canadian Pete sticking a huge joint in my mouth.  I toked and then fell back asleep against the expensive stereo cabinet.

The day the Holmes were due to return Mark organised frenzied work teams.  We vacuumed the whole house, scrubbed floors, cleaned out the roach-filled ashtrays, did the dishes.  For a final touch I decided to have a bath.  While the bath was running, I continued with the massive clean-up.  I was working in the livingroom when someone noticed a strange bubble forming on the ceiling.  It was like something out of a horror movie, and in our permanently stoned state we first thought it was a group hallucination.  And then the hallucinatory bubble began to drip.  Panicked, I remembered my bath filling upstairs.  I rushed up to find a foot or two of water flooding the bathroom.

I cut off the faucets, and somebody tried to lance the huge boil growing just above the dining table.

At this juncture the Holmes arrived!  All our hours of cleaning were destroyed by my forgetfulness.  In an amazingly controlled voice Mr. Holmes ordered me out of his house.  I limped off to Richmond Park, where I sat on the side of a hill overlooking a field and cursed my stupidity.

In this depressed state I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to.  I remembered hearing about a giant rock festival featuring Bob Dylan which was going to be held soon on the Isle of Wight.  Having nothing better to do, I started walking in the general direction of Southampton, the crossing point for the Isle.  I only made it to the edge of Richmond by dark.  A lot of other young people were heading for the Isle of Wight, and I hooked up with a group of guys and walked with them for a mile or so before we decied to kip down for the night beside the Thames.  We washed down sandwiches with a shared bottle of soda, and soon the fog and the darkness surrounded us.  I woke up early in the morning.  Through the dawn mist a pair of Thames swans swam majestically towards us; an omen for a better day:

Through dawn mist
        pair of Thames swans

Someone gave me a lift to Southampton, which wasn't really that far away.  I only had a few pounds left in a post office bank account, and I withdrew my last worldly assets.  I spent part of the day mooning around Southampton, trying to track down a girl I had met at the Plumpton Festival.  Her parents must have got wind of her plans, or else she had lost interest in me, because I wasn't able to arrange a meeting by phone.  So I crossed over to the Isle of Wight on one of the giant tourist ferries.

The whole ferry was crowded with young people on their way to the concert. Hippies, students, and would-be hippies like myself trying to grow their hair.  When the ferry docked, I joined the long trail of hikers winding towards the concert site.  Along the way locals had set up lemonade stands in the British tradition of combining shopkeeper capitalism and hospitality.

I fell in with two girls and another guy.  When we reached the muddy concert site, it looked like a refugee camp.  Thousands and thousands of young people were camping in open fields.  This was just after the Woodstock Festival took place in New York State, and apparently there were more people at the Isle of Wight Festival than there were at Woodstock.  However, as Woodstock took place in the United States, and was thus more important to the growing anti-Vietnam peace movement, Woodstock has gone down in history as the seminal and most important rock concert of the period.  But it also happened, on a possible larger scale, in the beautiful fields among the dramatic hills of the Isle of Wight.

We spent hours helping the girls raise their tent.  Exhausted from the excitement and the trek, we curled up inside.  The girl I was paired with rubbed against me most of the night, but she wouldn't do much more than that.  We probably both found the other only marginally attractive, and I found the experience frustrating.

The next day I wandered off on my own into the huge crowd, and I soon found a welcome place in an earthen hut which housed a whole troupe of early arrivals.  Rhino was one of the leaders.  He was a rough looking but kindhearted guy, and there was also a gorgeous blonde heroin addict from Scandinavia.  For some reason she liked me, and when I told her I was a writer and journalist, she was fascinated.  All night we sat round a roaring campfire, telling our life stories and hopes and dreams:

Talked all night
  ashes at dawn
    girls asleep

The next night was the feature of the festival, Bob Dylan.  I sat at the back of the hundreds of thousands of kids, and Dylan was just a doll-like figure hundreds of yards away, whose music barely reached me.

Crowds, dope, sleeping in the open air, smoke in our tangled hair.  Sexual frustration, still.  Weaving back in a queue of bodies miles long, past the lemonade stands to the ferry.  Back to Southampton, where I again hooked up with the gorgeous heroin addict, who bragged that she was heading to New York, because it had the best smack in the world.  We all piled into a van headed for London, and somehow I was in.  I had survived some rite of passage, and the ten of us crowded in the back of the van sang and banged time on the tinny walls all the way back to Richmond.  My beautiful heroin addict got out first, and I never saw her again.

Eel Pie Dharma is protected by international copyright laws. Individuals may print off a copy of this work for personal use only to facilitate easier reading.

Eel Pie Dharma - contents   |   previous chapter (3)   |   next chapter (5)

Plumpton 1969 (beware popups)   |   Woodstock 1969   |   Isle of Wight 1969
A poster for the festival

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Glastonbury Fayre 1971 - When I was a naked, tripping hippie Starchild!

I was surfing the web last night and read an article in THE GUARDIAN about Glastonbury Music Festival.  Memories! memories! (mine follow) Fellow Eel Pie Island communard Weed posted this online in 2005, from my self-published 1990 book, EEL PIE DHARMA. Tai Grove, publisher of Hidden Brook Press, encouraged me to do a professional reprint in 2012 as EEL PIE ISLAND DHARMA. There's now a great selection of pics online about this seminal festival, and I've pasted one I found of our pyramid below.

EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers

Chapter 24 - Glastonbury Magic Festival

Word went out through the hippie grapevine of a magic festival to be held in Glastonbury.  Glastonbury was a legendary sacred site in England, with a cathedral where one of the apostles had planted a rose bush which bloomed all the year round.  Nearby loomed a mysterious conical hilltop, called a tor, which was rumoured to be hollow.  Glastonbury Tor was said to be a 'sending station' on the system of ley lines, a power grid which lay over the English countryside, and which is the planet's equivalent of the magnetic fields which surround the human body which acupuncturists use.

Jeremy and I had earlier visited another of these mysterious tors, Michael's Mount off the Cornish Coast.  Another such tor is Mont San Michel off the French coast.  In the olden days festivals were held to replenish the 'dragon power', or earth magic which kept fields fertile and the inhabitants prosperous.  Supposedly the twelve signs of the zodiac were laid out around Glastonbury Tor, and from the small chapel on top of the Tor one could see the zodiac's unusual shapes blended in with the English countryside.

This was an event not to be missed.  The festival was to be held for the summer solstice, June 21, and I left my dossing friends in Cornwall and began to hitchhike.  I got a ride as far as Salisbury, travelling quickly through the ancient fields of Stonehenge country.  Walking through Salisbury, a hippie/student came up to me, and gave me a hit of acid wrapped in foil.  He bragged how he and his mates had put hits of acid into the milk bottles which the local police used for their tea, and how that day a couple of cops had gone to hospital with hallucinations, while the other policemen wandered about in a happy daze all day, smiling at everyone.

I thanked him for the acid, and not knowing what to do with it, and not wanting to be caught with it in my possession after hearing his story, I put the foil packet in my mouth and resumed hitching.  Rides followed quickly.  First a van full of black musicians on their way to a gig picked me up, hoping to score some dope.  Then a mysterious business-type man in a sleek Jaguar told me to hop in.

As we sped through the darkening evening his conversation became more and more questioning.  He seemed to know a lot about the forthcoming festival, and was eager to know as much as I could tell him about it.  I realized that I was beginning to babble, and then it occurred to me that the acid had been dissolving in my mouth, depite the tinfoil.  So I was starting to trip, and at this point, speeding through the night, my mysterious driver told me he was the police chief for the area, and that he wanted to know what to expect from the festival goers.  I tried to put his mind at ease, that we weren't going to be smuggling dope or sacrificing virgins.  I also realized that I wanted to get out of the car before a full-blown acid trip took over.

He let me out on the outskirts of Piltdown, after pointing me in the general direction of the farm where the festival would be held.  I wandered down the lonely highway in the dark with only starlight to guide me.  The white lines in the middle of the road began stretching and blurring in an effect I knew was the result of a mild acid trip, but the effects weren't overpowering.  At the juncture with the road I was to follow the next day, I slipped into a field and fell asleep, exhaustion overcoming the weak acid dose.

I awoke late the next morning, still feeling some effects from the acid, and lay in the field watching the clouds make incredible patterns in the clear blue sky.

Finally excitement at the thought of the festival overcame my lethargy, and I started to walk down the country road.  Surprisingly I got another ride, this time from a local who also had heard a lot about the festival.  He was dubious about the quality of our hippie magic, as the weather had been overcast for the past few days.  His tone wasn't ironic, and I realized how many of the British, especially in the countryside, still believe in magic and a lot of the Celtic mythologies.

The road was becoming jammed with fellow festival goers, and when my ride let me out, I joined the throng.  This was a more serious and committed type of hippie.  We were the true believers for the most part, not just students growing their hair long for a wild summer.

A local farmer let us use his fields, with his stone farmhouse as headquarters.  By the time I got to the site it was dinner time, and some self-styled diggers had set up a kitchen beside the farmhouse in the barnyard.  I ate some stew dippped from a huge iron pot, and soon was reviving old friendships with people from the Richmond scene and elsewhere.

There was a magical excitement in the air, and the view over the festival site was typical of Somerset's hilly beauty.  I wandered from the throng at the soup kitchen, and fell asleep on a hill in the middle of a field.  A very odd snuffling noise awoke me very early the next morning:

Asleep in a field
 a browsing cow
  my alarm clock

I was too excited, for once, to fall back asleep, and made my way down the hill to where some vans were unloading around the base of an unusual structure.  The rock'n'roll bands were going to play on a platform part way up a scale model of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, which we were going to build with construction scaffolding which an enlightened builder had loaned us.

Everyone was smoking dope and unloading trucks in a flurry of manic activity, and I joined in.  I was proud of the muscles I had developed as a gravedigger, and I spent hours unloading scaffolding.  After unloading, I joined the construction crews, and very quickly the pyramid began taking shape.  One job I had to perch on a rail high in the air and saw off the end of a piece of pipe with a hacksaw.  Halfway through the job, someone handed me a carrot carved into a chillum and stuffed with pungent hash.  We were a crazy looking construction crew, but somehow through the haze of hash smoke, the pyramid grew skyward.  Boards were laid for the performance area, about twenty feet off the ground, and the scaffolding continued to a peak about seventy feet above that.

After working on the pyramid all day, I took off for a tour of the festival site.  The farm was about a hundred acres, with hedgerows dividing the area into several major fields.  Tents were appearing everywhere, and many hippies were building huts in the hedgerows.  Banners and tents and colourful people were everywhere, like some medieval camp before battle.

For a bunch of spaced-out freaks, things were amazingly well organized.  Six-foot deep latrines were dug, and metal pipes were laid across them.  Another free kitchen sprung up towards the bottom of the site, and everyone looked like they were going to be housed and fed.  At the bottom of the hilly fields, the pyramid stretched into the sky, and after several days of building, the musical part of the festival was about to begin.

I settled in a giant wigwam tent, at the bottom of the fields about a hundred yards from the pyramid.  Quickly our tent became a family, and I met a blonde girl who hitched into Piltdown with me to buy food for our tribe.  That night about ten of us dropped acid together while we sat huddled in blankets before the stage.

Arthur Brown was the first performer, and he tried to bum people out.  He sang about how the Aquarian dream was a fake, and that we should all examine our consciences.  We countered his rock star negativity by staying in our group, and whenever one of us looked a little uncomfortable, the rest of us would put our arms over them and tell them they were in a big egg and about to be reborn.

The positive group dynamics soon had us all on great acid trips, and we felt free to wander as a group.  We danced and listened to the music under the stars with hundreds of other stoned worshippers, and all was at peace.  Someone had gotten hold of a jug of scrumpy, a strong local cider, and that also helped ease any acid paranoias.

Later in the evening, one of us had to take a dump, and so the whole gang of us dutifully trooped over to the open air latrines, and all of us sat in a long row on the poles and had a good shit or pee, men and women, young and old.  It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life, all of us sitting there in the open air under the stars, making the natural and rude noises we all must make every day of our lives without any embarrassment.  Some of us got the giggles from the acid, and the relaxing sound of laughter mixed well with the rock music and the sounds of nature.

We all stumbled into the wigwam and fell asleep in each others' arms.  I slept with the blonde girl, but we wanted to remain celibate to keep the spiritual atmosphere.  In the middle of the night there was a commotion outside, and when we went to investigate, we noticed a giant shining star.  On acid it hung in the sky like a space ship  -  it was the morning star, and we all stood in awe for several minutes.

After a week of wandering in the fields, listening to music around campfires and eating with our fingers, we were incredibly dirty.  I decided to walk the mile to a little pond where there were thirty or forty skinnydippers splashing around.  I slipped off my dirty bellbottoms, and swam around in naked bliss, the water cool under the high afternoon sun.

Late the next morning a hippie gave me a hit of acid, and then suggested we walk across the fields to Glastonbury Tor.  It was a long hike, and after the usual hour the acid started coming on.  It wasn't enough to overwhelm us, though.  After several miles we came to a country road with a pub, and we stood and watched the swaying patterns the wind was making by sweeping through the ivy on the walls:

   through ivy mat
      pub walls

Finally we reached the Tor, and began the slow hike up.  After twenty minutes we completed the steep climb, and there below us was laid out the Somerset countryside.  Try as I might, I couldn't make out the mythical zodiac patterns, but the old chapel on the top of the Tor had a very magical aura about it, and the view itself was enough to make any other kind of magic irrelevant.

The festival had lasted over a week.  It was much written about in the British musical and countercultural press, and I believe that the festival is still being held annually, almost twenty years after our inaugural event with the great pyramid.

                                * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Ed Baker has left a new comment on your post "Glastonbury Fayre 1971 - When I was a naked, tripp...":

those WERE the daze.... eh ?
and the festival... there in England...
did you know, that England is the northern-most
point of land that is above water of what was Atlantis ?
(see Donnelly)
so... this kind of celebration/festival is fitting.
a fun read. cheers, Ed

Posted by Ed Baker to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 9 June 2015 at 13:25

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On Jun 9, 2015, at 4:39 PM, Chris Faiers <> wrote:

thanks, Ed  ;  )
It was kinda sad finding the article in The Guardian about the current state of the Glastonbury Festivals - it's VERY commercial now - believe it's the largest muzak fest in the English speaking world. But ... once upon a time ... at the northernmost edge of Atlantis, 7,000 stoned hippies celebrated the Summer Solstice the way we used to millennia ago!!!

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On 2015-06-10, at 12:04 AM, Dr. John wrote:

Great memoir, Sensei. You vividly recreated the early 70s for those who, ahem, don't clearly remember them. And yes dammit, there WAS a pyramid. I thought for sure you had conjured that up in a flight of poetic fancy. But no, the latter day Druids built it, and come they did.

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Conrad DiDiodato has left a new comment on your post "Glastonbury Fayre 1971 - When I was a naked, tripp...":
This is the best protest song ever by 10 Years After
Your haibun kinda reminded me of it

Posted by Conrad DiDiodato to Riffs &amp; Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 11 June 2015 at 04:59

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Celebration of People's Poetry founders at Parliament St. Library

When Canadian icon and original Canadian People’s Poet Milton Acorn was passed over for the Governor General’s Award for his 1969 collection I’ve Tasted My Blood, several of his peers, including Margaret Atwood, Pat Lane and Mordecai Richler, established the People’s Poetry Award, which they presented to Milton at a ceremony at Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto in 1970.

When I’ve Tasted My Blood was re-issued in 1978 by Steel Rail Publishing, Milton wrote corrections and edits for the new edition on a copy of the original book. Milton Acorn: The People’s Poet reproduces that copy of I’ve Tasted My Blood with Milton’s handwritten notes, offering readers an intimate look into the work of one of Canada’s most important poets. Also included are never-before-published photographs of Milton taken by Kent Nason, a studio recording of Milton reading many of his poems and a 1971 documentary film about Milton Acorn made by Kent Martin and Errol Sharpe.

Errol Sharpe is a publisher at Fernwood Publishing. He holds an ma in Atlantic Canada Studies from Saint Mary’s University and is co-author of In Pursuit of Justice: Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op and the Fair Trade Movement.

Continuing Chesterton is a collection of essays on People’s Poetry which goes well beyond the conventional territory of literary criticism to produce a fascinating set of perspectives on the nature of Canadian identity.  It offers a case study of the cultural crisis of the ‘gnostic’ culture of late modernity.

Terry Barker studied political theory and philosophy at McMaster and Oxford Universities, and taught Liberal Arts at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Toronto.  He is the author of After Acorn:  Meditations on the Message of Canada’s People’s Poet (1999) and Beyond Bethune:  People’s Poetry and Milton Acorn’s Metaphor for the Canadian Fate (2006).

With poetry by Anna Yin, and music by Tom Smarda.

Pat Connors

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report on evening to Mary Hooper, Milton Acorn's sister and literary executor:
June 23/15
Hi Mary,
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the double launch featuring Milt last night in Toronto. I did have a long phone chat with Terry Barker this evening, who told me the event was a real success and a tribute to Milt & his poetry. A number of old CLM comrades showed up, including of course James Deahl, who will likely report to you personally on the evening, and Olino Cappaccione (spelling?). Of course Errol Sharpe and his son were the other presenters, with their film on Milt.

Terry said he'll write you in a couple of weeks when he returns from his trip to New York to care for his sick and elderly aunt. Terry was very positive about the evening, and he wanted you to know how pleased he was with the turnout at the Parliament Street Library. There is a real legacy of People's Poetry associated with the Parliament St. Library, as this is where Ted Plantos ran his Cabbagetown Poetry Readings for many years. When I founded the Main Street Library Poetry Series in the late 1970s/'80s, also in east end Toronto, it was as a continuation of Ted's legacy.

Oh, Terry said the film was highly enjoyable, and perhaps a more thorough, honest and down-to-earth tribute to Milt than the later NFB film. Damn! wish I could have been there to see it.

peace & poetry power!
Chris (Faiers) ... & Chase wrfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!  (my shih-tzu on steroids)

p.s. Terry said things are still moving along (but slowly) with the Mosaic Press tribute book to Milt, ACORNucopia
p.p.s. Terry reported there's an article in the current issue of NOW magazine about the Waverley Hotel, with major mentions of Milt