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Sunday, 29 January 2012

For Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona - Conrad DiDiodato

Saturday, January 28, 2012

For Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona

   Multiculturalism here means          
              I stood
           by an eye
           flaming kameez
           raven hair-

           if in growing love
              I dared
           an umber neck
           a downy arm
               give her


Friday, January 27, 2012

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dinner with an Old Comrade & a Murder Victim Ghost

at the Hanoi 3 Seasons restaurant:

Last Thursday evening an old Canadian Liberation Movement (CLM) comrade and I enjoyed dinner at the Hanoi 3 Seasons Restaurant in Toronto's east end. Our 37 year rendezvous was within a block of one of our old CLM storefronts at 1107 Queen Street East.

Judy has been busily reconnecting with former comrades. I've remained distant and cautious friends with a handful, but she's been dutifully making the rounds, gathering news, updates and anecdotes: Nancy died recently from an illness, Jim B. is in an institution -  a sad punchline, as those of us who knew him had always intuited something was askew, and active membership on the 'fringe' left could easily act in negative ways on anyone's mental health and stability.

Judy was as ebullient and enthusiastic and politikally committed as she had been 37 years ago. We had barely sat down when she barraged me with questions: 'What did we do wrong with CLM? Could we have done better/differently?'

I replied with the stock answers, which I believe are also the most accurate and truthful, 'We became increasingly sectarian and social fascist. We became adventurist and the Canadian public just wasn't ready or interested in our Maoist/Stalinist agenda. Finally we even managed to isolate ourselves and our key cause for Canadian independence from the Amerikan empire.'

Judy's rapid fire conversation turned to comrade Jon Penner. Apparently my poem (at the end of this reminiscence) on Jon's mysterious death in police custody had inspired Judy to research his death in the mid 1980s, about a decade after it had occurred.

Back then, coroner's juries were required for suspect deaths occurring in police custody. Judy had even managed to track down the jury foreman, an engineer who lived in Bancroft, Ontario. The foreman had told Judy their jury's inquest had been "inconclusive" - no decision had clearly been reached on whether Jon Penner had been murdered by the rural police of the Ottawa Valley, or if he had committed suicide by hanging himself in a jail cell.

Jon Penner's ghost hovered still, watching us enjoy chopstick after chopstick of delicious Vietnamese delicacies.  A progressive Canadian martyr, his murder/death still a mystery, unresolved, almost four decades later.

Judy and I hugged, said goodbyes, then ventured into the January cold of Queen Street East.


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



Strange death even the half-tamed winds
off Lake Ontario moan through Toronto ...
Leaves in High Park are telling stories
how trapped hours in your rusting car
the police took you to jail
instead of hospital.

They say you hanged yourself in the night!
You who were a semi-pro fighter
not fighting for glory
but for the peace of a needle in your arm.
This fighter hanged himself?
Cat burglar who clung to life on frozen sills!
You defeated the needle
and forsook the city's catspaw money
to live miles down a deserted road -
alone - in a house so haunted the moon
glowed through cracks at midday.

Strange they feared your politics
of democracy while you lived alone
writing novels and making magic
with your silver chloride half-tones.

T he wind which you now haunt
tells strong tales ...
the leaves are redder this fall.
Your murderers twist and turn
and don't know why
the full moon on the Ottawa Valley
glows brighter than the sun.

- Chris Faiers  (circa 1981)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Larwill-Faiers email rambles: Thaddeus A. Brown/ZenRiver haibun/beavers/ etc.

Hey Chris,

Good to hear from you.... maybe I shouldn't have solved my Raven's Nest
beaver problem by releasing them at Zen River last year??? 

The pic for the message was sent as an attachment so I think you would
have to cut and paste the message and pic seperatly into the blog....
but I leave that up to you.

Actually when you sent me that fairy tale draft (great stuff) it made me
think of a piece of mine (no not a dwarf poem but similar) and I might
send it in a separate email.  It may seem a little politically incorrect
(surprise surprise coming from me) but it has been published in Solstice
and it does in my opinion have a healing and positive message... as one
hopes with seasonal humour that tries to shed a different light.

Not much snow here and a easy winter so far.  I continue to work on my
poetry walk... which is turning into a meditative nature lambent
(spelling on purpose); the poems not being even important at this point
(some hanging and molding) for the path is the poem I have come to learn.

Maybe you and Morley should come for a visit when things are quiet. I
have extra rooms and beer is sold at the corner stores in Quebec.

Livesay might be a good choice for PF because I would like to know more
about her work.   B "B"issett might be a good choice because he is still
alive.  Acorn always good and if that shakes down I could also present a
paper, I have an old essay I could drag out and rework.  Still I will
mention Thaddeus A Browne because my  People's Poetry tradition in
Canada in English goes back 200 years and while our traditions may be
well hidden by the imperial streams and then those who swim in them
looking for "our" influences, we may well have been the tail that wagged
the English and American dogs, for example I believe Thaddeus A Browne's
long poem "The White Plague" (1909) may have influenced T.S. Elliot's
"The Waste Land."  Yet the internet is an interesting development
because even the works of Thaddeus A Browne are available to be read
world wide.  (One of my many ideas for a project is to record Larwillian
readings of Browne's work "Tom Longboat's Victory"  is the victory of
People's Poetry....

"It takes a man to run behind, perhaps 'midst
     scoffs and jeer,
And see the other fellow get the handclaps and
     the cheers;
To hold his head and keep his heart, that
     triumph in the end,
May vindicate his judgement and save his trust-
     ing friend.

..... and yes given the time Browne was writing in he may have had his
contradictions (its not like Acorn didn't) still the reason he is in the
past is because he was way ahead of his times even if it is easy today
to dismiss him for also being of his times with some less progressive
aspects compared to over 100 years latter.

well it is getting cold and I need to go collect twigs in the woods so I
will not break into a long rant....

Good to hear all the news from down Zen River way....

keep up all that you do old comrade


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

From: Chris Faiers <>
Date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:16 pm

Hi Jim,
Thanks for the Solstice greetings - Chase & I went to ZRG yesterday
& lit a bonfire in the drizzle to celebrate the returning of the
Out with the old ... I burned a pile of beaver-chomped apple
branches, as well as a lot of juniper - billows of smoke & apple
scent amid the damp.

hey, that's almost a haiku ...

Solstice drizzle
billows of juniper smoke
spread apple scent

I tried to post your greetings & pics of the Raven's Nest, but
still not quite tech literate enuff. May try again later after
coffee & Chase's afternoon hike. We've been doing lots of long
hikes, trying to get back into winter shape after too much beer
drinking during last summer's long drought. Success not guaranteed  : )

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

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

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)

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

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 ...

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

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



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

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!)

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

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...


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

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?)

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

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


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

----- 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!).


Saturday, 14 January 2012

Canada's Genocide Trophy - Morley Ellis

Canada's Genocide Trophy

A lock of hair and his hanging mask on a wall
upstairs in Casa Loma's museum
of The Queen's Own rifles:
the end of suppressed visionary Louis Riel

Who with pride tried so hard
to give his people a rightful place in Canada:
the Metis: part French, part Native Canadian
who only wanted to own farm land -
contribute to our new society

Riel went so far as to represent his people
in Parliament - stating their case
but They would have no part of it

The Crown decided to get rid of Riel
at all cost - military force!
for Metis were not worthy of even
a Native reserve

A century later in Belleville
Native children tell of teachers
spitting on them
by those deemed fit by the Crown
to teach RACISM and BIGOTRY

So raise a glass to our beloved great victories,
and lead on, great lawyers of Parliament:
a toast to the Genocide Trophy!

Morley Ellis
Marmora, Ontario
Jan. 13, 2012

bio note:
Morley is a popular singer/guitarist who has performed all over the Quinte area. He is also the resident musician for annual Purdy Country Literary Festivals held around his village of Marmora, Ontario. 

As a young man Morley served with The Queen's Own Rifles, and one summer he worked as a guard at Casa Loma, dressed in a period drill uniform. The horrific image of Louis Riel's death mask, and the racism with which it stigmatized a Canadian patriot,  haunted Morley for over 30 years. He wrote this powerful poem to exorcise his painful personal memories and our own Canadian legacy of bigotry.

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

email responses to poem:

thanks, Gail
I knew Morley was onto something crucial - he's been talking about the Louis Riel death mask since I met him 22 years ago. Morley was a young guard at Casa Loma many decades ago - & even then the nasty 'trophy' didn't sit right with him, even in those youthful & naive days.

No, I don't have a personal Facebook account, altho I believe there is one in my name online (vaguely remember giving permission to the head of the Can. Poetry Association to do this, for some forgotten reason, several years ago).

Blogging is great. As Morley observed after I posted his new poem, 'Your blog is like an online magazine.' Exactly ... blogging gives each of us the opportunity to share worldwide ... my blog has many daily hits all over the planet - including the former USSR, China, India - many places where freedom of speech is just a dream - but the internet & our blogs let us interact - worldwide - what an incredible concept - good old Canuck Marshall McLuhan predicted the Global Village about 50 years ago, & now we're living in it ...

It took about 15 minutes for me to set up my blog late last Feb. - & I'm not much of a techy, to say the least  :  )

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

On 2012-01-14, at 6:44 PM, Gail wrote:

Hi Chris,
It is awesome!  You were right; I love it.
Do you have a Facebook account?  I have been putting my I am sorry on Facebook, but I feel like there should be a better way...for all of us to get our message out.  Should I do a blog?


Thank you so much Chris!     There is some hope that all over the world and even in Conservative Canada,
we are recognizing blatant unfairness and discrimination.     Maybe it is a frail but beautiful start to a better way.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Happy Birthday, Raymond Souster! - Joe Fiorito, Toronto Star

Fiorito: Happy birthday, Raymond Souster

Published 14 minutes ago
By Joe Fiorito City Columnist

The poet had a cold, wasn’t well, couldn’t come; and so it was that Raymond Souster did not attend a tribute in his honour at the Runnymede Public Library.

A tribute to Raymond Souster?
The League of Canadian Poets, which Souster helped to found, has announced an annual prize in his name, to honour the best book of poetry by a League member.
The prize is apt and overdue.

But Souster is not just a champion of the league; he is also this city’s life-long laureate and the reason why so many people, including those who don’t read poetry, smile if you mention these words:
“Ten Elephants On Yonge St.”
Souster will be 90 years old on Sunday. He continues to write short, sharp poems; a lesson in this for all of us, and for some of us.

Greg Gatenby — you remember him from Harbourfront, and the International Festival of Authors — smiled somewhat wryly when the poet’s absence was announced. “A cold? That’s what he says. He’s very shy.”

Gatenby should know. He organized the last tribute in Souster’s honour, in 1998. Ray didn’t attend that one, either.

Donna Dunlop, Souster’s friend, editor and right-hand woman, produced a modest letter of regret from the poet, who asked that two of his poems be read.

One of these was, naturally enough, written to celebrate the appearance of the Runnymede Public Library on the Canadian $1 stamp many years ago. The second poem was a blistering anti-war poem, written in 1966 and still topical today.

If the lack of a guest of honour caused the packed house to groan in disappointment, it did not dampen the enthusiasm of those who came to pay homage.

John Robert Colombo spoke wittily and fondly of Souster’s work as an organizer of poetry readings. “He knew every poet worth reading in Japan, Canada, the U.S. and Britain.”

Terry Barker and Anna Yin mounted a kind of poetical, two-handed power-point about Ray, and we watched an NFB animated film of Souster’s poem, “Death By Streetcar.” Oh, children, gone are the days, not when we get run over by streetcars, but when films are made of the resulting poems.

Gatenby offered a charming story: “Ray held a reading for Alden Nowlan at the Isaacs Gallery.” You may know that Nowlan, a poet almost as shy as Souster, is also in the Canadian poetic pantheon.
“The reading was late. Nowlan hadn’t shown up. Ray told people to go home. A voice from the back of the room said, ‘I’m Alden Nowlan.’”

Then, echoing Colombo, Gatenby added this: “Ray ran that reading series for five years. The readers he brought in: Margaret Avison, Phyllis Gottlieb, Jacques Godbout . . . Robert Creeley, Charles Olsen, Frank O’Hara.”

We have nothing like it today.

Hugh Cook, who wrote a dissertation on Souster’s work said, “He wanted to make contact with his readers.” On the page, readers, on the page.

Kent Bowman told the assembled that he’d brought a card for everyone to sign, and everyone did.
Mick Burrs — I know him from the Prairies — read a couple of Souster poems. Norma West Linder was right to compare the poet Souster to the painter Colville.

And then James Deahl said this of Ray: “He teaches you how to live: honest, faithful, hardworking, dedicated, truthful, courageous; I wish I were half the man he is.”

Some 700 poets, members of the League, will be eligible for the $1,000 prize, which was established by an anonymous donation.

The best part of the evening?
Souster’s books were on sale; he asked that the money raised — more than $300 — be given to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Joe Fiorito appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Email:


“The Fire In The Tenement”

After the fire in the tenement,
besides the four closets of garbage,
six dozen wine bottles, eighteen gas cookers, seven wood-burning stoves,
three charred bodies found in a room,
which made it a little embarrassing
because not even the landlady
could remember their names.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

reflections on "MY REVOLUTIONS", novel by Hari Kunzru

Several friends and old comrades have been informing me for years now that I'm mentioned in the novel My Revolutions by esteemed British author Hari Kunzru. Last week I visited the Chapters bookstore in Belleville, where I found a copy marked down to $5 from the original price of $28.50. The omens were obvious - it was time to read this fictionalized account of Britain's radical 1970s revolutionaries, The Angry Brigade.

My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru
published by Dutton, Penguin Group
January 2008/copyright 2007

isbn 978-0-525-94932-9
280 pages


barebones of the plot:
A member of the late 1960s-early 1970s British revolutionary group, The Angry Brigade, has lived underground for 16 years. Over the years he has drifted from the revolutionary vanguard of squats and Marxist-Leninist politics and activism, including bombings, to accepting an awkward, and secret, middleclass existence. Then circumstances suddenly force him to surface.
- added Jan. 7/12


I'm going to type away, Stones blasting Let It Bleed in the background, while I sip Triple Sec and swig a Zywiec beer or two to stimulate reflections on the book and those distant, terrifying but beautifully inspiring, times  : )   ... bear with me ... if you dare ...

(The reference to me comes under the heading Historical Note on pages 279 - 280. "I have drawn on Ron Bailey's account of actions by London Squatters and Chris Faiers's account of the occupation of 144 Piccadilly by the London Street Commune, among many other sources.) - I wish Hari had given credit to my 1990 book,  Eel Pie Dharma: a memoir/haibun, as well as to me. In a conversation with friend Terry Barker, he suggested the publisher's lawyers would likely have had a say in who, and how, sources were referenced in the credits. I am most grateful, no matter, to Hari, for receiving mentions both in his book and on his interesting blog.


Canadian literary icon Josef Skvorecky died today. In 1968 he fled the brutal Soviet invasion of his country, Czechoslovakia, following the Prague Spring. It was 1969 when I left the U.S. of A. forever to avoid conscription in their brutal imperialist war against the Vietnamese.

It's an ironic historical confluence that so many writers, poets esp., escaped these two dominant Cold War imperialist superpowers at the end of the 1960s and converged in Canada. Josef was escaping the Iron Curtain, while I, and tens of thousands of others Amerikan residents, were escaping the viciousness of the Amerikan imperialist war on Vietnam.

Capitalist & Communist escapees converge in Canada - late 1960s!

Oh, Kanada, (OH WORLD!), what lessons you have received from your literary escapees! Are you even fu**ing listening!?


Yeah, back to the book, my memories ... (too many hits of Triple Sec already?) ...

I had problems with the first 50 or 60+ pages of the novel, and the protagonist, Chris Carver (hmm, interesting name choice) had become a middleclass Brit, very boring, and I couldn't feel any empathy, much less sympathy, for him. I almost gave up reading the book.

The next night I gave the novel a final chance. And then the power of the story kicked in, and I couldn't put the book down!


Like the novel's protagonist, Chris Carver, I've been a progressive "radical",  political activist, eventually a Marxist-Leninist, and an occupier of 'hippie' squats in the 1960s-70s, even a meditating Buddhist. I don't know of any other literary protagonist who has shared these seemingly disparate belief systems, lifestyles and practices.


break and dinner time - back later - will post what's written so far ...

- Chris 

parallels with Earle Birney's novel Down the Long Table

Once I got into the book I was struck by the similarities between Kunzru's narrative and that of Canadian poet and novelist Earle Birney's semi-autobiographical novel Down the Long Table (1955). Both books share a very similar narrative arc, in which the protagonist, a somewhat callow and disaffected youth, joins a Trotskyist group to gain the attention and affections of a beautiful young woman.
It's been about 35 years since I read Down the Long Table. I read it after spending three years as an active comrade in the Canadian Liberation Movement, which finally dissolved in sectarian squabbles around 1975. I felt very naive and foolish when I finally read Birney's account, but while reading My Revolutions I recognized this same pattern repeating itself with this story of the Angry Brigade - a socially idealistic political naif becoming sucked into a Marxist-Leninist cult.

I strongly recommend the next generation of young political activists, the "Occupy People", read both these novels. Doing so may save them much time and angst.


... more to follow

what was I thinking back then?

After my mother read my late 1980s memoir of those times, Eel Pie Dharma: a memoir/haibun,  she asked me what I was thinking during those troubled times. Perhaps Kunzru's novel better answers this question  than my own narrative. In EPD I wrote thumbnail sketches of my life squatting in the abandoned Eel Pie Island Hotel, my impressions of other hippies, narratives of various travels to exotic locales like Formentera, Wales and Ireland. But WHAT was I thinking?

Kunzru has protagonist Chris Carver reflecting from time to time on the horrors of the Vietnam War. I shared this dominant thought during that period - basically, "Thank God I'm alive and not dropping
napalm on innocent women and children and the courageous fighters of a third world country being invaded by a vicious imperialist power!" 

The Vietnam War, and our opposition to it, the collective horror those of us with a conscience, this we constantly felt and experienced as our primary and ongoing thought. Kunzru captures this well. This was my personal mantra back then, & over 4 decades later, I still reflect from time to time that Thank God I didn't participate in that evil war.

I first opposed the Vietnam War with a mimeographed 'underground' newspaper cleverly titled Papers (more of a leaflet), organizing a campus group, the Student Action Committee (SAC - get the pun? - same acronym as Strategic Air Command) - then finally and desperately leaving the U.S. when I received 3 draft notices in a single week in early June 1969. These are the proudest things I've done in my life. From discussions with other Vietnam War resisters, 'dodgers', and deserters, this was the proudest and most defining action of all of our lives.

added Jan. 7/12


Hyper social conscience* as pathology?

I read very little fiction these days, after having been a confirmed bookworm since a young age. Several years ago I decided to take an extended break from this lifelong addiction, and  one benefit is I have far more time to reflect on the few books of fiction I do carefully choose. I'm finding My Revolutions was a wise choice and is worthy of continued reflections and analysis.

                                                        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

The protagonist, Chris Carver, and the other main characters who are members of the Angry Brigade, perhaps share what I'm naming a "hyper social conscience". Perhaps this psychological condition can most easily be explained by its counterparts, sociopathy and psychopathology. The Angry Brigaders care too much. If such a thing is possible, they have developed far too much of a social conscience. too much geopolitikal awareness, to function "normally" in their society. This hyper sensitivity and awareness is the complete opposite of sociopaths and psychopaths, who lack any normal feelings of empathy and concern for other human beings. 

*hyper social conscience:  I believe I am coining the term in this piece - maybe not? As a widely published poet I've coined many neologisms (new words/terms) over the years, including the term emotional IQ in my 1983/84 poem Five Minutes Ago They Dropped the Bomb. A decade later I was browsing a Belleville, Ontario bookstore and came across a best seller with this very title. Coincidence? Appropriation of intellectual property? Who knows, who cares? Some clever psych grad student may find this term and expand it into their thesis, or a better-connected popular writer may publish a bestseller with this idea. Power to you - but I'd appreciate a credit  :  )

note: I Googled the words hyper social conscience, and altho there were almost 55,000 hits, none of these were exact matches for these three words (at least in the first 3 pages I looked at). So maybe I have coined a new term!
added Jan. 8/12


Monday, 2 January 2012

Open Book Newsletter: best of 2011


Dear Readers,

Happy New Year! For your reading pleasure, we have assembled for you a list of 2011's most-loved articles and features on Open Book: Toronto and Open Book: Ontario.

In 2011, we welcomed new contributors, we were dazzled (again) by the incredible talent of our Writers in Residence, we continued to map literary Ontario and we worked hard to keep you in the know about Canadian authors, hot topics in the Ontario lit scene, exciting new Canadian books and literary events in your neighbourhood and across our fine province.

This year, we will celebrate our fifth anniversary. Thank you, dear Readers! Your enthusiasm and curiosity about all things literary in Ontario is what keeps Open Book going. We couldn't do it without you.

And now, the Best of Open Book for 2011.

Each month, Open Book: Toronto welcomes a new Writer In Residence who lends his or her wisdom, charm, talent and wit to the website. A round of applause, please, for our 2011 WIRs, whose smart, timely and intriguing posts made OBT a destination for book lovers from all over the world: Kate Pullinger, Jeff Latosik, Angela Hibbs, Ian Daffern, Amy Lavender Harris, Devyani Saltzman, Jessica Westhead, Fraser Sutherland, Liz Worth, Farzana Doctor, Dorothy Ellen Palmer and John Brady.

Since Open Book: Ontario launched in fall 2010, we've been busy highlighting Ontario's Literary Landmarks on our detailed online map of the province. Readers can click on Landmarks to learn more about the history, present and location, and can also login and contribute words, images, video or audio to the Landmark scrapbooks at anytime.The Map is an opportunity for Open Book readers, staff and contributors to work together and map Ontario's literary places.

In 2011, together, we've added the following Landmarks: House of Anansi Press, Grey Borders, Eden Mills Writers' Festival, Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour, Heart of Niagara Writers' Festival, Dr. Pollard Poetry Park, Backbeat Books, The Bookshelf, Spring Pulse Poetry Festival, Richard Outram's House, Words Worth Books Knowledge Bookstore The Muskoka Chautauqua Reading Circle, The Ontario Writers' Conference and Wayzgoose.

We also added Port Colborne's Bookmark, Mississauga's Bookmark, Hamilton's Bookmark and Midland's Bookmark in collaboration with Project Bookmark Canada. Thanks to Kate Burgess and Elizabeth Hilborn for their remarkable work on these Landmark pages

We look forward to all reader suggestions and contributions to the Map in 2012!

"A fitness freak, I'm not. A book fanatic, yes. This fixation naturally suggests unhealthily long hours in a sedentary state. Books and physical activity seem mutually exclusive, and I've learned from sad experience that reading and any kind of sport — even walking — can be dangerous to your health." Kingston WritersFest Producer Barbara Bell entertained readers in the fall with her account of staying in shape by coordinating the well-attended literary festival. Read "Festival and Fitness."

"It's one thing to have an albatross around your neck, and then there's the next worst thing, which might be carrying school textbooks on your back." Columnist Dalton Higgins makes a fun pitch for ebooks over textbooks in his widely read article, "Cro-Magnon Kids and David Letterman." Discover his "Top Ten Reasons Textbooks Bite."

What do you get if you bring together twelve talented Ontario poets and one exceptional photographer? A gallery of stunning portraits of members of the CanLit community. In the latest installment of Open Book's Spotlight Series, you can peruse beautiful photographs of some of our country's finest poets enjoying the cool spring air in Toronto.

"Now, I am no graphic designer. Nothing about my history dictated that I would become involved in re-branding one of the most tenacious and long-standing presses in Toronto — especially the one that publishes me, but I couldn't resist the ideas forming in my head." Melanie Janisse's article "Dancing Seahorses" provides a fascinating account of the process of book design and discusses Guernica Editions' change of ownership and style.

In "Opening Up About Suicide," Stacey Madden writes about the launch for Pop Sandbox's latest book, The Next Day, an intensely moving graphic novel about survivors of suicide attempts. Madden article is thoughtful and empathetic. He writes, "As a rule, Open Book doesn't post reviews or recommendations, but I am going to break that rule. If you are someone who is prone to moodiness, if you sometimes feel like life has kicked your ass so hard there's no possible way you could ever recuperate, if you've ever felt so profoundly alone that, even for a moment, you questioned your own tangible existence — in other words, if you're a human being — I urge you to buy a copy of The Next Day."

In the spring, Toronto high-school students conducted interviews with some of Canada's most exciting and inspiring poets. The interviews feature the savvy journalism of two Writer's Craft classes under the collaborative tutelage of teacher John Ouzas and poet a.rawlings. We were delighted to be able to share the 28 thoughtful and whip-smart interviews with our readers, who were in turn delighted to read them. You can find the interviews on the Writer's Craft page.

"In June, 2011, the afternoon before the spring edition of the Toronto Small Press Book Fair, Christine McNair and I went to visit Aaron Benson and Deborah Barnett at Someone's new storefront at 1691 Dundas Street West, just by Lansdowne." In rob mclennan's engaging interview with Barnett, we learn about the history of Someone, which is important to the history of CanLit. Read "Four Questions for Deborah Barnett, Someone."

Notebook and pen in hand, Michelle Medford bravely followed paranormal investigator and author Richard Palmisano on his ghost walk around the CNE grounds in order to write about it for Open Book. While many of the ghosts were "polite," others weren't as friendly, but when leaving the grounds, Michelle and her tour companions were reassured by the medium that their visit wasn't entirely unwelcome: "there's a little boy looking down from the second floor, peering out of a window with a bright light. His name is Oliver and he's waving goodbye." Read "Searching for Ghosts at the CNE with Richard Palmisano" and prepare to have your hair stand on end.

Nathaniel G Moore's October installment of his Conflict of Interest column, "How to Be Your Own PR Book Dream Team," quickly shot to the top of our "Most Popular Reads list." Readers wanted to know about "The Camilla Gibb Effect," how to work social media, planning the launch, the time between publication and review, how friends can lend a helping hand and about the "afterlife" of a book. Moore's column answered pressing questions about book publicity.

"Where do your stories come from?" Shaun Smith asked Douglas Coupland, Terry Fallis, Edeet Ravel, Sean Dixon, Emma Ruby-Sachs, Trilby Kent, Patrick deWitt, Jon Evans and Ken Sparling in "The Story of Stories," the May installment of Smith's ever-popular Fiction Craft series. "The Story of Stories" quickly became one of the best-read articles on the Ontario site, and readers learned the origins of many of their favourite books. We'll tell you this: deWitt's "impetus for The Sisters Brothers was the two words 'sensitive cowboys' scribbled in a note pad." You'll have to read the column to find out where the other writers' stories came from.

"In deepest Parkdale (literally — it lives in the basement of Capital Espresso), a new project is taking shape..." writes Becky Toyne in her article, "A Library in the Palm of Your Hand. An Artwork in the Pages of Your Library." The Book Bakery is now a well-known publisher of fine books, but back in March when Toyne wrote her column, she was one of the first to explore the exciting new publishing venture.

George Murray's weekly series, in which he gets famous and fascinating literary types to finish statements about books and publishing, has a seriously devoted following. Visit Murray's Author Blog page for a full list of the interviews (you can also find them in our archives), and find out how the literati finish this statement: "A manuscript that's ready to be read has...."

Coming up in 2012: More engrossing articles, intriguing interviews and photo galleries, fun videos, on-the-scene event coverage, up-to-date book news and engaging and provocative blogging from our Writers in Residence. There's also going to be this great new app....

Best Wishes for 2012!
Open Book: Toronto & Open Book: Ontario

Copyright © Open Book: Ontario, 2010.


Following is my email to Open Book suggesting the listing of Purdy Country LitFests (PurdyFests) on their Literary Landmark map. Hey, the A-frame and Big Al's grave should be on the map as well.
- Chris

Hi Amy,
How about adding Marmora and our annual Purdy Country LitFests (PurdyFests) to the map of Ontario Literary Landmarks? 2012 will mark our 6th PurdyFest. We've had readings by dozens of Canada's finest poets and several novelists, as well as Symposiums on major literary figures such as Al Purdy, Ted Plantos, and Raymond Souster.

Last summer's feature on Ray Souster resulted in a larger Tribute Evening in Toronto at the Runnymede Public Library. This event was considered auspicious enough to be filmed by TPL, and Quill & Quite did a nice piece on the evening.

Several anthologies of poetry, and many individual books of poetry have also been conceived, negotiated and finally launched at our PurdyFests. The fests are held in the tradition established by Al & Eurithe Purdy at their A-frame cottage in Ameliasburgh, and we're doing our best to continue their hospitable bucolic practice of encouraging 'big city' writers to take their vacations in rural Ontario - on the edge of the Canadian Shield - to experience firsthand the power and beauty of our natural heritage.

Prior to last year's PurdyFest #5 I did a 5-question interview with Open Book about PurdyFests, so there is quite a bit of info online & in your files on the fests.

Best wishes for 2012, and please continue promoting the incredible literary heritage we enjoy in Ontario.

peace & poetry power!
Chris (Faiers)
Marmora, Ontario

my blog, Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens: