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Monday, 28 May 2012

Launch of Milton Acorn Selected to be at Parliament Street Library (July 12th)

The date and venue for the launch of Milton Acorn's new selected, IN A SPRINGTIME INSTANT, has been changed to Thursday, July 12th, at the Parliament Street Public Library.

(All poets are invited to share their favourite poem by or about Milt during the afternoon visit to Robert Burns' statue in Allan Gardens, where Milt & Joe Rosenblatt led the Free Speech Movement 50 years ago.)

Several of the organizers of this event plan to have dinner after the visit to Allan Gardens at
the Young Thailand Restaurant at 446 Parliament Street (around 5:15 - 6:15) - please join us  :  )

                                                      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Allan Garden’s Free Speech Movement in July 1962, Mosaic Press and the Parliament Street Public Library are sponsoring an evening celebrating that important cultural and political event in Toronto’s history on Thursday, July 12, from 6:30 pm to 8:00pm

The library will host the launch of Mosaic Press’s new selected poems of Milton Acorn: In A Springtime Instant. Acorn, who later read with his people’s poetry colleagues at the Parliament Street Library, spearheaded the free speech struggle in Allan Gardens in the summer of 1962, when along with other Toronto poets and cultural figures, such as Joe Rosenblatt, he was able to change Toronto bylaws to allow poets to read their works in Toronto parks without penalty by courageously reading his politically and socially critical poetry to large crowds in front of Robbie Burns’ statue in the Gardens.

The program will feature a talk on Acorn’s literary contribution by long-time Acorn friend and editor of the new book James Deahl, a background to the Allan Gardens issue by Humber College teacher Terry Barker, poetry about Acorn by poet Anna Yin, music by Toronto Artist Honey Novick, and readings of Acorn's poetry.

Special guests will be include Acorn biographer Chris Gudgeon, and Acorn friend, scholar Joyce Wayne.

There will be light refreshments, and those interested are invited to join Acorn friends for an informal tour of the nearby Allan Gardens site from 4:00 to 5:00 pm.

Parliament Street public library is located at 269 Gerrard Street East at the corner of Parliament Street. Phone: 416-393-7798

The Acorn event will be held in the upstairs meeting room.

link to Canadian Poetry Online home page link to University of Toronto Libraries home page
Milton Acorn
From:   James Deahl. "Introduction," The Northern Red Oak, ed. with intro. by James Deahl. Toronto: Unfinished Monument Press, 1987.

Milton James Rhode Acorn : 1923-1986
He was born in Charlottetown on March 30, 1923. He died of heart disease and diabetes on August 20, 1986 in his home town. He was, and remains, Canada's national poet.

The Northern Red Oak, poems for and about Milton Acorn, is published on the first anniversary of his death. The spirit of Milton touched every person that he met. As Gwendolyn MacEwen has written—"You could go for years without seeing him, and yet he'll always be there somehow, a great craggy presence at the back of your mind, a gnarled tree in silhouette on the horizon." Or, in the words of Al Purdy, "the Acorn-tree always walked on its roots, and always into sunlight. It lifts the heart."

And Milton met a lot of people, especially poets, in his journeys across Canada. Wherever he was he collected people like some sort of modern Pied Piper. Not only did he live from coast to coast, he was a tireless reader, and was always about to hop a train to some new part of the country. He forged strong literary and personal links in each area of Canada he visited.

The Montreal Years

Milton began to focus his attention on the writing of poetry in 1950. His first slim collection, In Love and Anger, was published in Montreal in 1956. It was about this time that Milton's only child was born, a son who was later given up for adoption. Having published sixteen poems, he decided to meet some other poets and he tracked down Al Purdy and Irving Layton in 1957. He was soon deeply involved in the whole Montreal literary scene that included, among others, Louis Dudek and Frank Scott.

Montreal was always an important centre for Milton. Many of the poets he most admired—Dorothy Livesay and the so-called Montreal Group of Scott, A.J.M. Smith, A.M. Klein, and Leo Kennedy—were associated with that city. To Milton, the heart of modern Canadian poety was New Provinces and the long list of poets who had clustered around McGill University since the 1920s. Nonetheless, no sooner had Milton established himself in the Montreal poetry scene than he decided to move to Toronto.

The Bohemian Embassy

The chief poetry reading place in Toronto was the Bohemian Embassy, run by Don Cullen and John Robert Colombo. The most important poetry publisher was Contact Press, founded in 1952 by Raymond Souster, Dudek, and Layton to publish the new Canadian poetry. Milton quickly fell in with Cullen, Colombo, and Souster.

Milton's broadsheet Against a League of Liars was issued by Colombo's Hawkshead Press in 1960, the same year that The Ryerson Press published The Brain's the Target, edited by Al Purdy. Milton set himself up at the Bohemian Embassy and soon found himself at the centre of a sort of informal workshop with a group of younger poets: Margaret Atwood, David Donnell, Dennis Lee, Gwendolyn MacEwen, George Miller, and Joe Rosenblatt. During 1962 Milton was married to MacEwen. After their marriage broke up, he moved to Vancouver.
Souster published Milton's first full-size book, Jawbreakers, through Contact Press in 1963. It remains an outstanding collection and a credit to Souster's judgement.

The West Coast

By the time Milton got established in Vancouver, the BC poetry scene was just getting underway. Milton was a founder of The Georgia Strait, an alternative newspaper still publishing today. Again, he was at the centre of a whole group of poets—Dorothy Livesay, bill bissett, Red and Pat Lane, Maxine Gadd, and Seymour Mayne.

In Vancouver he organized poetry readings at the Advanced Mattress, and was active in the movement against the war in Viet Nam. Lane, bissett, and Mayne set up Very Stone House and began to publish the new West Coast poetry. blewointment press was founded by bissett in 1967, the same year that Talonbooks started operation.
J. Michael Yates founded Sono Nis Press and Bc was in the midst of a blaze of poetry. Writers from all over North America were going to Vancouver; and, in 1969, Milton left town.

Toronto Again

I've Tasted My Blood, Milton's masterwork, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1969. It too was edited by Purdy, who would later edit his huge collection, Dig Up My Heart (McClelland and Stewart, 1983). Milton, fresh from the West Coast and a sort of local hero, soon became the centre of the Toronto poetry scene. In 1970 he was named "The Peoples' Poet" by a host of writers including Layton (who was now in Toronto), Eli Mandel, Atwood, and Rosenblatt.

He lived in the city for a dozen years, blustering around the downtown core and giving workshops, readings, and talks at every poetry venue he came across. The first press he became involved with was NC Press, which brought out More Poems For People (1972) and The Island Means Minago (1975). In 1976 Milton co-founded Steel Rail Publishing, which published Jackpine Sonnets a year later.

Once again, Milton gathered a collection of young poets. I met Milton in 1972. A few years later he joined the LINK Poetry Workshop, which Mike Zizis and I had founded in 1973. He had an immediate impact on our group and was a source of encouragement and controversy. In September, 1980, Milton, Terry Barker, and I founded the Susan Chakraverty Institute at New College, University of Toronto. Milton also taught poetry at the legendary Three Schools.

Milton and I shared an apartment for two years. His love of poetry and his constant, obsessive work astound me to this day. Among the poets associated with Milton during his second period in Toronto were Zizis, Joe Blades, Michael Dudley, Chris Faiers, Mark Gordon, Bruce Meyer, Ted Plantos, Robert Priest, Margaret Saunders, and Gerry Shikatani. By this time Toronto had become the centre of English-language poetry in Canada. Milton, in declining health, returned to Charlottetown.

The Island

Milton's final years (1981-1986) were largely spent in PEI. There were, of course, numerous trips to Toronto, where he met poets like Bev Daurio, Carol Malyon, and Wayne Ray.
In Charlottetown Milton got to know Libby Oughton and Richard Lemm of Ragweed Press, who published Captain Neal MacDougal & the Naked Goddess (1982), edited by Fred Cogswell. Here, too, he met Valerie LaPointe, who was his steadfast comnpanion during his last years.

At the time of Milton's death, Wayne Ray was about to publish Whiskey Jack (HMS Press); Chris Faiers was about to publish A Stand of Jackpine (Unfinished Monument Press); and I had agreed to edit The Uncollected Acorn for Deneau Publishers. Ted Plantos had a special Milton Acorn issue of Cross-Canada Writers' Quarterly almost at the printers— it would become the Milton Acorn memorial issue.

Acorn and Canadian Poetry

Milton always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He made it to Montreal while that city was still the centre of English-language literature. He moved to Toronto just when the generation of poets who would make Toronto the new centre were starting out. He met them all. He was in Vancouver when the West Coast scene got going. Then it was Toronto again and another circle of poets.

Milton saw himself as following the tradition in Canadian poetry established in the nineteenth century by Isabella Valancy Crawford and Archibald Lampman. He learned much from Crawford and Lampman and from two poets whom he met later: Dorothy Livesay and A1 Purdy. Milton, along with Livesay and Purdy, forms a sort of bridge between Canada's past and the new poets of the 1960s, 7os, and 8os. For the record, Milton saw this tradition being carried on today by Margaret Atwood, bill bissett, James Deahl, Mary di Michele, Chris Faiers, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Robin Mathews, Robert Priest, and Tom Wayman (a list that might amaze many critics as well as some of the poets listed!).
Acorn's opinion aside, his real influence lay in his ready encouragement of younger poets. In Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, or Charlottetown, Milton was always exceptionally generous with his time. He would tirelessly read manuscripts, encourage authors, and give sound advice. He was the most accessible literary figure in Canada.

He would attend poetry readings and almost always stay for the open set. Through the Bohemian Embassy workshop and the LINK Poetry Workshop he met scores of young, mostly unpublished poets. These people learned from Milton his concern for language and sound, his doctrine of hard work, and his love of people. He also gave countless readings. His passionate delivery and personal rapport with his audience helped put the voice back into Canadian poetry. Milton was at all times pro-human or, as Lesley McAllister has written in The Toronto Star, "pro-life". He believed in the human spirit and in the celebration of life in all its forms.

Milton's taste was exceptionally catholic, as long as the poetry reflected a love for humanity and the natural world. He was supportive of Michael Dudley's haiku, Atwood's Canadianism (or, as he put it, "From the Valleyism"), Wayman's work poetry, and bissett's pure energy.

He was a nationalist, constantly recommending the poetry of Livesay, Layton, Purdy, and MacEwen. And he was an internationalist, insisting that young poets read W.B. Yeats, Robert Lowell, Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca, and Andrei Voznesensky. Indeed, one could not visit him at the Waverley Hotel without having a book thrust into one's hands that must be read.

Almost all the contributors to The Northern Red Oak knew Milton personally. Some are old friends like Purdy, MacEwen, and Atwood; some only met him during his final years. Some (Cogswell, Purdy, and I) edited Milton's books, and some were his publishers (Daurio, Faiers, Letore, and Ray). All have been touched in a profound way by Milton and his work.
When Milton died I decided to produce a memorial anthology—so many people seemed to need to express their love and respect for the man who ate, slept, and lived poetry. The call for submissions met with great success. Unfortunately, much publishable work had to be returned because of space limitations. This memorial anthology could have been twice as long had poetry from all of Milton's friends been included.

Many of the pieces presented here came with the words "For Milton Acorn" attached to them. These have been deleted for cleaner presentation and because, in an important sense, every poem in The Northern Red Oak is for Milton.

A few are o1d poems. Purdy's "House Guest" relates to the time he and Milton lived together at Roblin Lake. bissett's are from his Vancouver years with Milton. "The House", by Gwen MacEwen, recalls the time and mood of their year together in Toronto. Some are elegies to the finest poet ever to write in Canada. And others, like Ray's anti-abortion haiku and Shikatani's anti-war poem, touch on issues that were of great concern to Milton. Still others, such as "1838" (Lee) and "At the Tourist Centre in Boston" (Atwood), are poems that Milton particularly liked.
This collection is but a small gesture from the contributors to one whose gift to poetry and to the Canadian people can never be repaid.

To you, Milton, from your friends, with abiding love.

James Deahl
Toronto, 1987

Milton Acorn's works copyright © to the Estate of Milton Acorn.

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

a deadend hippie job: Twickenham Cemetery

(but I dug it)

Following is chapter 14 from my 1990 haibun which is scheduled for republication this fall by Hidden Brook Press as Eel Pie Island Dharma. The odd line layout is the way most haijin published our haiku in the 1960s. 


Twickenham Cemetery

I got a letter in the early winter of 1970 from my parents informing me that 'for my own best interests' they were no longer going to send me any money.  I held out for as long as I could, and then when starvation became a real likelihood, I began working for temporary manpower agencies.  A day or two's work would supply enough money to last me for several weeks, and then I'd head out in the early morning dark for another menial job, usually with another Eel Pier also on the verge of starvation.

The winter and the spring passed in this manner.  My temporary assignments included work in a book depository, cleaning a filthy flooded basement on a downtown office building, organizing office files and a stint sweeping floors in a textile factory.

It was a hand-to-mouth existence, but it didn't bother me too much, because at least I was alive and not dropping napalm on civilians in Vietnam.  One of the L'Aubergers commented to me one day that I should get a job, as I seemed to be becoming more and more spaced out by the hippie lifestyle.  Roy had been talking about applying at the Twickenham Cemetery, and so I decided to accompany him.  Somehow I managed to get up early for the visit to the cemetery, but Roy didn't.  I decided to go ahead with my plans, as I'd already ruined a good morning's sleep, and I might as well go for a walk on this beautiful June morning.

The Twickenham Cemetery was several miles away, and I enjoyed the early summer walk.  To my great surprise, I was hired on the spot, and a pair of garden shears were handed to me and I was told to clip the grass around the graves in the plot by the entrance.  I realized that this was a test, and I bent my back and went to work..  It was peaceful in the cemetery, and very relaxing stooping among the trees and gravestones, many of which were a hundred years old or more.

The morning passed pleasantly, although I was beginning to feel faint, as I didn't have any money for food, and I hadn't eaten.  I hummed Rolling Stones' songs to keep my mind off hunger, and by the end of the day I'd clipped my way through half the plot.  Just as I was finishing, two of the local schoolgirls appeared - Lesley, of Eve of St Agnes memories, and her pretty girlfriend, Carol.  They had gone to visit me at the Hotel, where someone had told them that I had gone to the cemetery to find work.  The two nubile girls must have made quite an impression on the other workmen, and I sailed off at five o'clock weak with hunger but accompanied by my two sexy friends.

And so began my induction into the working class.  To be at work by 8am required that I get up by seven, and that meant getting to bed before midnight.  No more all night dope sessions.  I bought a second-hand bicycle, and the three mile ride each morning was just about enough to wake me up before I reached the cemetery.

The days fell into a pleasant routine.  A couple of hours clipping the dewy grass, and then into our shed for ten o'clock tea.  A quick flip through the daily tabloids, and then back to the grass and birds and flowers until lunch.  For lunch I'd bike into the nearby hamlet and have bacon and eggs at a workers' cafe.  Some days I'd bring a bag of nuts and raisins and a juice, and spend a relaxing hour lounging in the sun in the park-like setting of the cemetery:

    coal smoke, thermos tea
         tabloid ink
The fifty or so acres of the cemetery were surrounded by a low fence completely overgrown by a privet hedge.  There were five of us working full time, so the grounds were immaculately gardened.

George was the foreman.  He took his job seriously, but he was an open-minded and tolerant boss, and so long as we did our jobs, he didn't interfere.

Fred was a rough-looking character - he had a ferocious look about him, like a living caricature of an axe murderer.  His thick black brows almost covered his sunken eyes, and his body was ill-shaped but extremely strong looking.  Fred was a gravedigger, and he looked as if he didn't wash off the dirt from his labours for weeks at a time.  I soon learned that under his coarse exterior beat the proverbial heart of gold, and Fred wouldn't hurt a fly.

His mate was Tom, a sly character with whom I never established any rapport.  Lanny was our other mate.  He was simple minded and lazy, and the story was that he had never been the same since his father had been blasted to bits right in front of him during the blitz in World War Two.  Lanny was amiable enough if you left him alone, and very quiet.

As the days fell into a comfortable pattern, so the year itself took on its seasonal changes.  After a few months I was promoted from full time headstone clipper to part time grass mower.  As a teenager I had earned pocket money mowing neighbours' lawns, and I had always enjoyed a Zen sense of fulfillment in the work.

The long London fall was spent raking and burning piles of leaves.  We'd load up the hand-pulled cart, surely a relic from another century, and then the lucky assigned person would pitch the leaves and wreathes and dead flowers onto the bonfire.  It was pleasant to work in front of the roaring fire and keep warm while enjoying the aromatic smoke:

Fall bonfire
    crackling leaves
         and dead flowers      
In winter we had fewer chores.  The grass stopped growing, the leaves were all raked, and our main chore was the planting of trees for the spring:

In the dead of winter
    planting trees
         in the graveyard        
Spring comes early in London.  By late January the first bulbs, snowdrops, are pushing through.  Quickly they are followed by the many coloured crocuses.  By mid-March the daffodils and tulips are up, and spring is in full bloom.

A grammar school was across the road from the cemetery.  One of my spring highlights was the day two of the young mini-skirted beauties wandered over on their lunch break to look for rabbits.  One girl was a gorgeous brunette, and her girlfriend was a blonde.  They were all of fourteen years old, and they were as interested in meeting the cemetery "hairy" as I was in flirting with these beautiful distractions.  It became a custom for the three of us to meet on our lunches and talk.

Spring was also the signal for the neighbourhood gardeners to begin work.  The area was a poor, working-class district.  Most of the local houses were council row houses without gardens, but a plot had been set aside behind the cemetery for allotment gardens:

Behind the graveyard
    senior citizens digging   
         allotment gardens

Summer brought a couple of summer student workers.  They were looked upon as a necessary nuisance by the older workers, and so George assigned me to be their "ganger".  We had a great time.  Tony was Anglo-Indian, and an accomplished folk singer who had performed gigs at the Hanging Lantern Cafe in Richmond.  We would trade lines from Bob Dylan songs while we worked, and the days went by more quickly than ever:

Summer students
    shouting Dylan
         across graves            
Working in the cemetery was almost vacation enough, although I did take a month off that spring and fly to the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain.  These adventures are told later.

Eel Pie was also entering its final days.  The junkyard landlord had repeatedly tried to get us out, but to no avail.  However, natural processes were destroying the "commune" both physically and spiritually.  Floor boards had been ripped up for two winters, and the very foundations of the hotel had been weakened.  Lead had been stripped off the roof and sold to metal dealers.  While Eel Piers were slowly demolishing the building bit by bit, more and more wandering hippies, musicians, runaways and finally junkies and bikers moved in.

Most of the original Eel Piers moved on to more secure squats in the heart of London, but I stayed on.  The bikers took to throwing stones through all the windows, and syringes could now be found littering the dirt-packed floors.

Finally I packed it in too, and my final months at the cemetery were spent boarding in a crowded rooming-house for Irish navvies.  I had spent the full cycle of a year working in Twickenham Cemetery.  It was time to take to the road, to find the romance and excitement that had sustained me in other places, with other people:

Green garden hose
         a rainbow
    in spiderweb
         on graveyard gate      

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 (13)   |   next chapter (15)

Eel Pie Island (words & pics)

(Chris's reply to Pearl's comment re prayer flag haiku for Haiku Canada's 35 anniversary holograph anthology) 

thanks Pearl  : )
glad the one in your set brings back happy memories of zenning at PurdyFest ...

This year's fest is nicknamed 'AcornFest' to honour the release of Milton Acorn's new selected (which we're going to feature at the Symposium, etc.)

Hope you & Brian can make it to another fest one of these fine summers ... (there's always a spare campsite ready for you!)

peace & poetry power!
Chris/cricket  ...  and Chase (hey, I left my pawprint on most of those flags!)

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

On 2012-05-25, at 10:56 AM, Pearl wrote:

Pearl has left a new comment on your post "Happy 35th Birthday for Haiku Canada!/memories of ...":

Good to get a bit of zen river in those prayer flag haiku you made.

Posted by Pearl to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 25 May 2012 07:56


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Happy 35th Birthday for Haiku Canada!/memories of founding meeting/1969 haiku chapbook

This Victoria Day weekend Haiku Canada (founded as the Haiku Society of Canada) will mark our 35th anniversary. Some blurry memories of our founding meeting follow:

From: Chris Faiers []
Sent: May-07-12 1:21 AM
To: Terry Ann Carter
Subject: donation for HC silent auction

Hi Terry,
Chris the cricket here. As a founding member & longtime supporter of HC I'd
like to make a donation for the silent auction at the upcoming 35th
anniversary ...

... & can it really be 35 years??? - I  remember the nervous excitement of
meeting other haiku poets for the first time in Eric Amann's small condo at
Broadview & Danforth - even think I remember where I parked. I lugged along
a 6-pack of Budweiser for protection, in case things got uncomfortable or
too stuffy. No worries - Eric, George Swede, Margaret Saunders and Marshall
Hryciuk were only to eager to share my liquid contribution  :  ) Memory has
faded a bit, as I'm sure a couple of other founders were there - some faces
have blurred - guess I can blame the Budweiser!

What I'd like to contribute is an 'illuminated' (illustrated with coloured
felt pens) copy of "ZenRiver: Poems & Haibun", & possibly a couple of other
spare author's copies - maybe "Crossing Lines" & "Tough Times: When the
money doesn't love us". I'll rummage thru some of my stacks & see what else
is there (oh yeah, prob. some Unfinished Monument chapbooks - I published
haiku by Marshall, maybe even a rare chapbook I published of Margaret's &
maaayyybeee even a Shaunt Basmajian book? ... be interesting to see what's
in the Unfinished Monument box!!!)

What I'm planning to do is ship the books to you for taking to the meeting.
I left TO 23 years ago, & have lost touch with most haiku people there.

Hope this is OK with you? (and congrats again on taking on the role of

If it's OK to ship, are you still at the Stinson Ave. address?

Best wishes for a successful 35th! please give my regards to all ...

peace & poetry power!
Chris/cricket ... and Chase (still going strong at 12+ years) ...

footnote: I'll put in my 2-cents bid here for being one of the first Canadian haijin to publish  collections of haiku: in 1969 I self-published two chapbooks, Cricket Formations and Guest in a Garden. Hope they're in the Haiku Canada archives somewhere. If not, following is the text of Cricket Formations, as put online about a decade ago by webmaster Weed.



    a young boy
        in a skeleton suit

    gray doves
        strung on a wire

Mistletoe falling
    slowly fading
        shotgun blast


In this cove
    waves stirring
        palm frond reflections

Slug pocked sign
    rusting testimony to
        a day's bad hunting

Night wind
        loose weatherproofing


Blue sea
    bobbing red and white
        lobster trap buoy

Tree covered campus
    is this the same park I dreamed
        in childhood dreams?

Light breeze
    striding across campus
        a thin professor


Christmas vacation
    tame ducks starving
        by the campus lake

New Year's Eve
    moon shining on tinsel
        Christmas tree wake

Spring sun
    melting children's snow fort


First spring rain
        crossing the road

First green appearing
    buds on the new stake hedge
        and chameleons

Bay wind blowing
    Coconut Grove sailboats
        tinkling rigging


Lobster antennas
    waving from the twin caves
        of a cement block

The flower
    of this old tree
        a treehouse

green garden hose
        a rainbow


stone house
    the roof demolished
        wallpapers flowers sun

Tropical gardens
    in rough patio stones
        gray sea fan fossils

Cavern pool
    tourists watching
        blind fish


Easter Love-In
    a longhaired child
        handing out fruit

Summer moonlight
    rotting on our roof
        a starfish

Summer rented house
    behind closed windows
        a mummified frog


    butterflies, flowers

    leaves pressing
        church window


T V A lake
    beneath calm water
        Almond City

    these clouds reveal too much

    sheep grazing
        among gravestones


Piccadilly Circus
    Cupid's fountain spraying

Mounted sailfish
    lining the walls
        of Nassau airport

    black paint on pink brick
        U.U. swastika A.. A.


Brighton Beach sharp rocks
    stumbling bather reveals
        smooth round young breasts

Channel marker
    and perched birds
        pointing home

Night beach
    lovers sharing
        lifeguard stands


Western version "LSD" haiku

the writing on every wall
messages growing on every tree

and in a water crystal strung sky
iconic clouds shift to clearly reveal

                                                        the moon


Time for Peace Poems

Ceremonial Smile of the Flower Children

    glimpsed Shantih* lightens my mind
    allswell allowing a smile
    which remains without remembering why

            * Shantih, the Peace Which
               Passeth Understanding


                Full Lotus

Lethe, body resting
the thin white stream
released like spider strands
(another of nature's soft ladders)
climbing higher to its source
        subtly      expanding




There is something between a flower and a gem
    something between love and fidelity
           your eyes in mine

eyes are both gem and flower
part iris and part calcite smooth eyeball
           and more
the yearning pupil opens to the mind
where we can see into the depths of each other
like the many meanings in the multi-faceted crystal
the black passage opens to the eternal
living eons longer than doomed diamonds
and brighter than short lived color reflecting flowers
               Your eyes
               Yon eyes
           must be mine sometime

                Poetic Conclusion

Aye, for we are flowers all
Aye, for we are priests all
Aye, for we are poets all
Aye, for we are poet-priests all
Aye, for we shall soon be gods   All


Chris Faiers (home)   |   biography & bibliography   |   Eel Pie Dharma

"Cricket Formations" © Chris Faiers 1969
originally printed in England by C&O PTO, Richmond, Surrey
comments to
revised 4 December 2007

Monday, 14 May 2012

James Deahl on Acorn's "Jackpine Sonnets" (Poetry is Dead magazine)

May 14, 2012

Dear Chris,

     Here is a copy of my interview that was published in Poetry Is Dead magazine.

. . . James

Poetry Is Dead is working with Geist magazine on the Jackpine Sonnet Contest. Milton Acorn, who coined the Jackpine Sonnet, has left behind him a legacy in form. Poetry Is Dead met up with Acorn’s longtime friend and fellow poet James Deahl to talk more about his work and what he left behind.

Poetry Is Dead: Where did you and Milton Acorn become acquainted, and how did each of you affect each other's poetry?

James Deahl: I met Milton in Toronto on November 25, 1972 at the “Revive the Spirit of ‘37” festival. A photograph of Milton Acorn and Cedric Smith performing at this festival is on the cover of The Island Means Minago. We were friends until Milton’s death in Charlottetown on August 20, 1986. From Milton I learned what it means to be a poet dedicated to the Muse or, as he would say, the Goddess. He illustrated in his life and work what is means to live a life in poetry.

I think he learned from me that a poet can have a life outside poetry.

PID: Can you recall how the jackpine sonnet came about?

JD: While Milton and I were friends for almost fourteen years, there was a period when we saw little of each other. This was because he was having psychological problems and I was coming to terms with the breakdown of my first marriage. At this time he developed his jackpine sonnet. I do know, however, that Milton was inspired by the irregular sonnets of Robert Lowell. Lowell had first published Notebook (later republished in two volumes as History and For Lizzie and Harriet) in 1970, which was followed by The Dolphin. These publications introduced the Lowellian sonnet to the world. Milton was quite impressed by this approach. Lowell described his new sonnet development as: “unrhymed, loose blank verse sonnets, a roomier stanza . . . It can say almost anything conversation or correspondence can.” Milton would agree. The difference is that Lowell varied the stresses in his line. Milton also varied the stresses in his line as well as the number of lines in his sonnet.

PID: From yours and Milton Acorn's past, there shows a lot of success in starting awards, organizations and print-based mediums. What was it like for Canadian (or in your case, American/Canadian) poets in the 70's to 80's?

JD: It was a richer, more exciting time during the 1970s and 1980s. When I moved to Canada in 1970, the giants of Canadian poetry — Kenneth Leslie (a great sonnet writer), Frank Scott, A.J.M. Smith, Ron Everson, Earle Birney, A.M. Klein, Dorothy Livesay, Irving Layton, Louis Dudek, Al Purdy, etc. — were still alive. I heard readings by most of them, and got to know poets like Birney, Livesay, Layton, and Purdy. And major trade publishers were issuing books by emerging poets. Doubleday, Macmillan, McClelland & Stewart, Oxford University Press, and Stoddart/General Publishing were all actively publishing Canadian poets. Now all are out of the poetry business entirely or only publishing authors they have already published. Today, there is no opportunity for a poet under the age of fifty to have a book with a major trade publisher.

Sales of poetry books both to libraries and to the public have fallen to very low levels. This is because the literary publishers cannot market nationally. As a direct result of this, poetry is much more regional these days. Aside from Ray Souster, Margaret Atwood, Pat Lane, and Joe Rosenblatt, there are no national poets.

Of course, I do not wish to disparage the literary press. Milton co-founded Steel Rail Educational Publishing while I co-founded Mekler & Deahl, Publishers. But these did not replace Stoddart/General, Doubleday, or Macmillan.

PID: The jackpine sonnet, turns form on it's head. Was this a playful action, or was this a comment on form poetry?

JD: Milton had always written sonnets, but they were formal, rhymed poems. And he continued to write formal sonnets until his death. Starting in the mid-1970s he also wrote Jackpine Sonnets. In this development, Milton wanted the sort of freedom Lowell spoke of.

In Milton’s view, as well as in mine, the Lowellian sonnet allowed Robert Lowell to address topics in a direct and, to a degree, non-poetic manner. Both Lowell’s sonnet and Acorn’s sonnet speak to the public in a way not common in their other poetry. If you consider Robert Lowell’s Poems (Faber and Faber, 1974) you will see a great change in the poetics when Notebook is published. The same is true of Milton’s work. After Jackpine Sonnets (Steel Rail, 1977), there is a very noticeable change.

This begs the question: Is this a change for the better or not? But that must be left to each individual reader. I would like to note that several Canadian poets, Jeff Seffinga, Mark Gordon, and myself among them, do write Jackpine Sonnets.

PID: From what I can gather (and from what poems I have read of yours and Milton Acorn's), there is a lot of playfulness in subject and theme. Was this a common occurrence in yours and Milton Acorn's poetry?

JD: While Milton is better known for his nature poetry, his political poetry, and his love poetry, he wrote many wonderful humorous poems. These are, in my opinion, undervalued. Milton and I shared an apartment for a couple of years prior to his return to Prince Edward Island. I can tell you he had a great sense of humour. It shows in his poetry.

PID: What are your thoughts on the Canadian landscape of poetry today? Has it changed? For the better or for the worse?

JD: As I have indicated, Canadian poetry is in poor shape these days. During the last half of the 20th century there were more major poets writing and reading all across Canada. There was more trade publishing. And, I would argue, there were more first rate magazines open to poetry, and not just literary magazines. The CBC had a program called “Anthology” — a lot was happening in the mass media. Not so long ago there was a lively national literature here. This was, of course, in addition to lively regional literatures. Very soon Canada will have no national literature because our national writers are seventy years old or older.

While Canada does have some very good poets, today we have no Milton Acorn, Dorothy Livesay, Al Purdy, or Irving Layton. I believe that we enjoyed a Golden Age of poetry from about 1960 to the turn of the century. The death of Purdy brought the curtain down on this era.

The fact is that regional poets and regional literary presses — as interesting and vital as they may be — cannot replace national poets and national publishers.

Like most Canadian writers, I hope for the best and await developments.

Friday, 11 May 2012

ZenRiver May 11/12~~Chris & Chase on deck of shaman shack

                                                                click on pics to enlarge

Many thanks to our ZenRiver Gardens neighbour, Warren Fraser, for taking these pics!

Tai Grove, publisher of Hidden Brook Press, was so impressed with the pic of Chase & me he has requested it for the author photo for the forthcoming reprint of Eel Pie Island Dharma.

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On 2012-05-12, at 2:03 PM, Conrad DiDiodato wrote:

Conrad DiDiodato has left a new comment on your post "ZenRiver May 11/12~~Chris & Chase on deck of shama...":


today I saw a dog with owner coming out of Horton's with a donut in its mouth...

so who drank the beers at the shaman shack??

Posted by Conrad DiDiodato to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 12 May 2012 11:03

                                                            .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

we'll never tell!
Chris & Chase ... wfffffffffffffffffffffff!


~ ~ News on PurdyFest #6 = AcornFest ~ ~

This summer's Purdy Country Literary Festival is named AcornFest in honour of Canada's People's Poet Milton Acorn. Events will take place over the August holiday weekend, beginning on Friday, Aug. 3rd. 

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Update on Hidden Brook Press anthology launch from publisher Tai Grove:
Hi Chris

I just heard back from Bruce Kauffman the editor of the north shore anthology that will present at the Purdy Acorn Fest

He sent out an email to all of the authors and he got a YES reply from 40 saying that they are going to come and read. That is aside from the CCLA reading.

Let’s hope it is sunny again
For your promo info you can put – Authors will read from the North Shore Series anthology, That Not  Forgotten published by Hidden Brook Press, editor Bruce Kauffman. The almost 400 page book includes poetry and prose by some of the finest authors in the north shore geographic area between Kingston and Port Hope on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

Gotta run


This message is being sent from
Hidden Brook Press, or the personal email of Richard M. Grove / Tai
109 Bayshore Road. Brighton, Ontario, Canada, K0K 1H0  1-613-475-2368
                                        ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Directions to ZenRiver Gardens:

ZRG is located in the pioneer hamlet of Malone by the millpond bridge on the Upper Moira River.

From Highway #7 turn north at the flashing orange lights onto the DELORO ROAD (about 1 km east of Marmora or roughly 12 km west of Madoc traffic lights at intersection with Highway #62 north).

Follow the Deloro Road to the hamlet of Deloro (turn north, left, onto O'Brien Street when you reach Deloro). Continue thru the hamlet and continue along the Deloro Road about 5 or 6 kms until you reach the hamlet of MALONE. Malone is tiny, just several houses. Turn right onto MALONE QUARRY ROAD (dirt) and follow it a hundred yards to the bridge over the Upper Moira River.

The millpond is on the right (west) side of the bridge, and ZenRiver Gardens is on the northeast side of the bridge. There are prayer flags, the rainbow-hued Jimi Hendrix treestand, etc. which make ZenRiver Gardens pretty obvious!



Free rough camping begins at ZenRiver Gardens several days before the more organized activities. There is an outhouse, campsites, firewood & the river - the rest is up to the campers.

'Formal' events begin late Friday afternoon, Aug. 3rd, with the POTLUCK SUPPER. Bring what you wish (fast food welcome, home made preferred, chips-dip-snacks appreciated). The Friday nite campfire/reading is not to be missed ...

On Saturday professor/philosopher Terry Barker hosts the SYMPOSIUM on Milton Acorn (coinciding with the publication this year of the new selected of Milt's work, IN A  SPRINGTIME INSTANT James Deahl, editor, Mosaic Press, publisher). The Symposium runs from 12:30 to 2:30 pm in the William Shannon Room of the Marmora Public Library (by the only stoplights in Marmora!).

Later in the afternoon local musician/singer Morley Ellis will kick off ANOTHER DAM POETRY READING on the islet in the Marmora Dam (less than a 10-minute walk from the library - through the Lions Park and along the paved riverside walking trail). Most years CELEBRATE MARMORA coincides with our festivals, and there will be booths selling food & local produce, as well as face painting for the kids, etc. in the park. In the evening a traveling Shakespearean company performs in the park.

The ANOTHER DAM POETRY READINGS are very freeform & democratic. Poets read one poem at a time, round robin style, around and around the blankets and lawn chairs on the islet, until everyone has read/said/performed everything they wish to. Musicians & singers welcome! This can last from an hour+ all the way until dusk ... Morley energetically kicks things off with his broad repertoire of songs and singalongs  around 3:30 pm - leaving time for a snack & a wander thru the park displays after the Symposium.

On Sunday afternoon Tai Grove wears two hats. First as President of the Canada-Cuba Literary Alliance (CCLA), Tai will host a group reading by CCLA members at ZenRiver Gardens. Then he'll don another hat as publisher of Hidden Brook Press and host a reading by poets included in his latest HBP anthology, THAT NOT FORGOTTEN. Readings are anticipated to start after lunch - maybe 1 - 2 pm? (people will be tired after several nights of camping & Saturday's featured activities).


Recommended Area Activities

Although not specifically scheduled or promised, on the Holiday Monday festers often make the hour drive to Ameliasburgh to visit Al Purdy's grave and his historic A-frame cottage.

There are also many beautiful spots near Marmora, including Callahan's Rapids Conservation Area. Last year a gang of festers spent an afternoon wading upstream in the Crowe River in this magical spot. Poets have also visited Petroglyphs Provincial Park, a sacred First Nations spiritual teaching area, and Bon Echo Provincial Park, another sacred First Nations shamanic locale.    

As poet Anna Yin so aptly noted last year, PurdyFests are vacations for poets. You will be inspired, we promise!

peace & poetry power!
Chris Faiers/cricket  ... and Chase, my shih-tzu familiar on steroids ...WRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF! (welcome to AcornFest!)

keep current on AcornFest at the blog Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens:


Anthology of PurdyFest poetry????

Yes, brother Junebug,
James suggested this after the first PurdyFest ... I've got some poems in the annual PurdyFest files, & I'm sure if we sent out the word, we'd be inundated!

p.s. also perhaps poems inspired AT ZRG and PurdyFests - might make for a broader list of topics (e.g. Stan White wrote some intriguing ones about the early inhabitants of Malone hamlet)

p.p.s. and perhaps also poems READ at PurdyFests (thinking of CCLAers, etc.)

(To start spreading the word, I'll put this on my blog on the announcement for AcornFest)


On 2012-05-12, at 12:32 AM, Richard M. Grove wrote:

Hi Chris

I think we should spread the word that one day – when there are enough poems we will publish a collection of poems about ZRG. You have enough poets visiting year after year that there should be enough for a book one day.



Sunday, 6 May 2012

Renaissance: poem by Patrick Connors


Integrity turns to courageous hope
Vision of what is and ought to be
Only if and when we are ready to
Believe there is no fear in perfection

Audacious belief in what seems unlikely
Fierce like the fire which consumes me
Blazing the trail as I follow it
Though I would rather not, I’ll go it alone

Sorrow will surely lead to temptation
Reason to artfully dwell and wallow
We cannot beholden to the bottom
For from there is nowhere to go but up

Allowing the bounty of limitless grace
Growing in love we grow with each other
Bonding together, made ever stronger
Instruments of the divine by way of the sublime

The race we run, not a sprint,
But for the distance, we breathlessly seek
And find in each other by want and need
Delight and share as we follow the path

Does my heart seem to be open again -
After ages alone drifting in dreams
Of a time when anything could matter -
Breaking the barriers holding it down?

Universe which defines and shapes me
I long to fill you with how I feel
Boundless energy towards your creation
As you make me a part of your all

Long have I waited to be completed
Grown and felt and prospered and made ready
Every different day I approach the same
Until the one which makes everything new

Patrick Connors

note from poet and bio:

My poem, "Renaissance" was named after The Renaissance Cafe, where I did my first featured reading in October, 2008.  It is very important to me, because it portrays my relationship with Jesus Christ, and also the folly of trying to get through the struggles of life without totally relying on Him.  This poem is also important to me because I tried to get it published a number of times without any success.  However, it is now a Juror's Choice in an innovative project by Scarborough Arts called Big Art Book 2012, where two other of my poems are also posted:

Bio:  Patrick Connors recently featured at Sunday Poetry at Ellington's, and  was the inaugural guest speaker at the Toronto Poetry Club.  He is shortlisted in a poetry contest out of County Cork, Ireland, and is Co-Chair of the 4th annual International Festival of Poetry Of Resistance.  This past Thursday, he hosted the highly successful event, "Occupy the Poetry", at the Queen Gallery.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Buddha Full Moon Tonight - Stupa plans for ZenRiver Gardens

The special close full moon tonite marks Wesak, the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha.
As usual, synchronicity: this afternoon writer/artist Jim Christy and I will finally meet at ZenRiver Gardens to select the site for a stupa Jim will create. We'll wander over the property, burn some incense, and test our feng shui abilities ... and maybe drink a beer or two as well!

(I cut & pasted the following site on Wesak as it looked the most colourful and the info seemed fine - no other endorsement on my part.)

The Temple of The Presence®

The Wesak Festival

In 2012, the Wesak Festival occurs on Saturday May 5.
(celebrated in some Buddhist cultures on April 28, 2012)

wesak valley When the moon is full in the constellation of Scorpio and the sun is in Taurus (usually the full moon in May), a world-wide event takes place that is oftentimes referred to as Wesak (also known as Vesak, Sanskrit Vaishakha, Pali Vesakha). In the East, this date also marks a celebration of Gautama Buddha's birth, attainment of Buddhahood, and His departure from the outer physical body.

He was born Siddharta Gautama in northern India at Kapilavatthu on the border of modern Nepal in the period between 623 B.C. and 563 BC on the day of the full moon in May. He was the son of the king and queen of the Sakya kingdom. Receiving an education befitting a royal son, Prince Siddharta married and had a son. He led a luxurious life at home and was blissfully unaware of the sufferings and sorrows of life outside the palace gates. In his twenty-ninth year, realizing the fleeting nature of physical life and the vanity of material pleasures, he resolved to leave his palace in search of Truth and Peace.

It was on the night of the full moon in May that Siddartha sat on the grass under the famous fig tree (Bodhi tree) at Buddhagaya. He entered into a very deep meditation, during which veil after veil was lifted that covered the face of Truth. Finally, He beheld the fullness of that blessed Truth, which completely transfigured Him. He obtained perfect Enlightenment (Samma Sambodhi) in his thirty-fifth year. Gaining the attainment of "Buddha" (The Awakened One), He was thereafter known as Gautama Buddha (Buddha Gotama).

Having successfully completed His noble mission in His eightieth year, He retired to Kusinara, a small hamlet, and lying on a couch between two Sala trees, passed out of physical limitations and Ascended in a peaceful state of mind on a Wesak Full Moon Day more than 2500 years ago.

In some parts of Asia, the Wesak Festival has been regarded as a public holiday for centuries. It is a day of reunion, of pilgrimage and of joyful expectancy. Devotees believe the most important things to practice are the good virtues of kindness and generosity to all living things. There are stands by the sides of some roads from which free food or drinks are given to people walking by. The streets are filled with entertainers, pageants, and happiness. The celebration begins at dawn when devotees gather at the temples to meditate on the Eight Precepts. Common traditions include the giving of donations and food to the needy, as well as the offerings of incense and prayers in the homes and temples. The Sutras are chanted in unison by monks in saffron robes. The celebration is highlighted by a candle light procession. In Sri Lanka, Buddhists dress in white and carry baskets of flowers to the local monasteries. Buddhists all over the world decorate monasteries with Buddhist flags, lanterns, and flowers. Some people donate blood to hospitals, while others hand out free spiritual books. It is considered a very holy day. However only a handful of the spiritually minded recognize the Inner Significance of the day.

The dates of Christian holy days are established by past events or by happenings which occurred centuries ago. The Wesak Festival is in recognition of a present living event. This Heavenly Event takes place annually at the time of the full moon of Taurus (often called the "May Full Moon"), and at that event there is released upon Earth (according to the measure of man's demand) the Blessing of God Himself, transmitted through Gautama Buddha and Lord Maitreya, the Cosmic Christ. This happening has its physical / etheric counterparts. Paralleling the spiritual ceremony, an event of importance also takes place simultaneously in a little valley in Tibet, on the further side of the Himalayas. It is there that the earthly ceremony of blessing takes place, and to that valley many people in and around the district find their way as pilgrims towards the Light. There a solemn ritual is performed, which can be as definitely seen and heard as can any ceremonial in any of our great cathedrals.

Now with the advent of the Internet, Gautama's Address to the world can be heard world-wide. You are invited to be present in Tucson, Arizona for the Service at The Temple of The Presence, or to participate on the live Internet Broadcast.
  • Huston Smith, "The Religions of Man" Harper and Row, 1965 (pages 90 - 159)
  • Charles W. Leadbeater, "The Masters and The Path" The Theosophical Publishing House, 1925 (pages 265 - 274)
  • Esoteric Publishing, "Wesak Valley"
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