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Monday, 30 December 2013

Acorn and the Che Myth (Terry Barker)

Acorn and the Che Myth

            by Terry Barker

            Shortly after the death of Che Guevara in 1967, a biography of this hero of the Cuban Revolution appeared which differed from most of the writing about the guerrilla leader published at the time. This was Daniel James’ Ché Guevara (1969), which deliberately set out to explode what its author believed was a growing international cult surrounding the late revolutionary’s life, death, and exploits. While obviously written from the point of view of an American social-democratic (and anti-Communist) journalist, the book was thoroughly researched and closely argued, and James was at pains to detail parallels to aspects of Guevara’s thought in the Marxist-Leninist tradition and its antecedents, and in plausible cultural influences (e.g. the Jesuits and Don Quixote), in an effort to explain both his subject’s undeniable wide appeal, and ultimate failure (as James takes it) in terms of the structure of his character. In his final chapter, “Does Ché Live?”, James brings this analysis to a focus in a discussion of the guerrilla tradition in Latin America and of the Nicaraguan Augusto “César” Sandino, the anti-U.S. imperialist guerrilla of the early part of the twentieth century, “whose ideas were . . . closer perhaps to Che’s thought and style” than those of any other Latin American predecessor. However, just at the point where the reader expects a revelation of the sources of Guevara’s extensions of orthodox Marxism-Leninism, the author drops this line of inquiry, and no more is heard of Sandino, or of his ideas.

            Both Che’s “extensions” of Marxism-Leninism and Sandino’s ideas (which fused elements of Marxism-Leninism with theosophy, millennialism, Masonic lore, and nationalism) constitute a “spirituality” (in Che, expressed in Socialism and Man in Cuba, as James acknowledges). The “Che myth” (in any sense of the latter word), it would seem, needs to be analyzed spiritually, i.e., from a “religious” point of view.

            Sandino’s “religion”, in which he came to understand himself and his movement as manifestations of a new humanity, returns modern political ideology to its roots in the apocalyptic-Gnostic movements of early modernity, a development which facilitated the spread of these ideologies in the so-called “underdeveloped” world. Sandino’s life and martyrdom at the hands of a U.S.-backed military regime became paradigmatic not simply for Latin American revitalization and revolutionary movements, but internationally; when the Guomintang (Chinese Nationalists) entered Beijing in 1928, one of their divisions was named after Sandino, and the Nicaraguan guerrilla leader was a hero to the interwar U.S. Peace Movement. A revival of interest in Sandino in the 1960s accompanied the rise of “Third World” socialisms, the development of the “New Left”, and the emergence of new international socialist heroes, such as Guevara himself, who combined nationalism and socialism.

            The Canadian People’s Poet, Milton Acorn, whose apogee as a writer and public figure occurred in the 1960s and early ‘70s, captures this new-old socialist spirit, in its form as guevarismo, in his poems about Che, two of which appear in the new edition of Acorn’s selected poetry, In a Springtime Instant (Mosaic Press, 2012). Acorn’s own combination of Marxist-Leninist, Canadian nationalist, Gnostic, and Christian structures of consciousness makes him the perfect vehicle for the understanding of the full amplitude of the “Che myth”, as expressed in these lines from his “Where Is Che Guevara?”:

            These are miraculous days . . . Worms sing! The sound

            from their burrows is as lively as birds

            but not so pleasant. And right now they are singing

            “Where is Che Guevara?”

            Che Guevara is beauty . . . The terrible and persistent beauty

                                                            that’s the end of those who can’t stand it,

            The end of worms.

December 30, 2013

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Dec. 30, 2013

Dear Chris,

            Thank you for posting the Terry Barker piece on Che and Milt. Too bad it was left out of The Ambassador.

Poetry Power!

            . . . James

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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Ice Storm Patrollers

Ice Storm Patrollers
a haibun for Marvin Orbach

For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms, and did my duty faithfully; surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes, keeping them open, and ravines bridged and passable at all seasons, where the public heel had testified to their utility.

Henry David Thoreau
from WALDEN, first section "Economy", 1854

A major ice storm hit Ontario last Friday, and for several days it was unwise, basically impossible, to drive. Exploring the beautiful results of the storm wasn't possible until yesterday, Monday. Chase & I visited one of our favourite trails on the rocky plateau above the village. I call these the water tower trails.

ice storm
fleshes the bones
of old tipi sticks

Walking was very difficult. Fortunately Chase and I found a snowmobile track sunken under the ice crust and were able to crunch along above it. After a half mile the snowmobiler had circled back, and hiking was far more difficult. I sank heel deep with each step, while Chase skidded on top, enabled by his 'four-wheel-drive'. Walking was so laborious for me we didn't continue far. On the return hike, I noticed an ethereal surprise in the unblemished snow:
each footprint
bodhisattva blue

Day 2: The Reeve's Trail

This trail is part of the greater trans-Canada Trail, which was originally the old CNR railroad tracks. The rails were removed decades ago, but fortunately the rail bed was acquired and turned into long stretches of our national trail. It is extremely rare for Chase and I to encounter another hiker. The only humans we see are snowmobilers whizzing past at high speed in the winter, and ATVers in the milder weather. Chase and I enjoy our daily exercise and appreciate nature at an enjoyable pace. The crazed riders enjoy bruised kidneys and the aroma of small whining engines. The fuel scent lingers for minutes after their passing in cold weather. 


stunted dogwood swamp
magick fairyland today

boring stretch of trail
transformed to crystalline

facing the sun
the whole swamp glistens


Chase & I turn our backs on the sun to start the return hike to the car. Sadly, the magick crystal swamp has returned to its usual dross colour. How can this be? Without the sun's brilliant magnification, the ice no longer reflects. Also the sun has also melted the ice on the south side of the cattails and dogwoods. Same swamp, two visions.


sun behind us
the swamp returns
to dull browns

looking back
crystal magick returns
with the sun's eye

lone black wing
swoops off the slag heap
this magick day

On day two the ice surface has hardened enough to bear my weight. I think of the sweet bread pudding I baked last night with its brown sugar crust. Tonight the forecast is for 25 below - no melt forecasts more ice magick tomorrow. 


Day 3: Water Tower Trails Again

It's a Christmas Day tradition to hike a certain section of these trails before Christmas dinner with my friend Morley and his family. While I hike I remember the image of the Christmas Day Chase & I flushed a snowshoe rabbit from a brushpile on this plateau.

faint sun
makes new magick:
all is silver-white


Even the daily high temperature has remained far below freezing since the ice storm visited. These sub-zero temperatures are tempering the ice crust to a steel-like hardness. Now it is a rare surprise when I fall through the crust. The edges are knife sharp, and I have a gouge on my thumb from one of these stumbles.

I worry that small animals may be trapped in their burrows by this once-in-many-decades ice storm. It would be reassuring to see tracks, but


even humans
leave no tracks now
in the frozen woods


Chris Faiers/cricket
Christmas Day 2013

Sunday, Dec. 29 : Thaw Day

I took Chase for a great ramble at Callahan's Rapids Conservation. Haven't been there in a month. I tried to explore the 'haunted woods' section by the rapids, but the thaw was in effect today, & I realized I couldn't make the round trip I like to do because the little creek was no longer frozen. So Chase & I hiked back to the parking lot, over the bridges, & took the little side trail which comes out in Riverside Pines.

Because of the thaw birds & little animals were finally out & about today. The warmer weather created a mist which made the hike feel like we were walking thru some primordial soup. From the bridges:

thaw day
beaver's slap a monk's tap

Lots of falling ice & snow in the woods. It sounded like large invisible beings were tromping around in the woods, & a few times large chunks fell dangerously close to us.

We hiked for almost 2 hours, & I was so hungry I went to the Ranch by myself for crispy chicken. When I got home at 4:30 there were emails from Jim & Virginia, & another one from Gail. So I left Chase to warm up & drove back to El Rancho for a holiday drink with Jim & Virginia.

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Ancestral Roofs has left a new comment on your post "Ice Storm Patrollers":

Thanks Chris for this lovely wander through the ice storm woods - such dangerous beauty and now all signs gone, just broken branches to remind us where the ice lay heavy.
You two keep well.

Posted by Ancestral Roofs to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 30 December 2013 07:04

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Friday, January 10, 2014: Wraiths on the Water Tower Trails

Hi Marvin,

Thanks for letting me know the 2 UMBRELLAS arrived OK. I'm pleased I was able to feature the work of Martin Durkin in one, & that of Kathy Figueroa & Ursula Pflug in the other.
The small package of ephemera should arrive early next week. Chase & I were finally able to hike on our favourite trails for the first time in a week this  aft - first it was the ice storm & then the arctic vortex making hiking dangerous & unpleasant. Chase had a great time, it's hard to believe he's around 16 years old & not still a puppy sometimes. I'm still enjoying my time with HDT - about 90 pages to go.

Chase bounding
over fresh snow
and scary tracks  

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Arctic Vortex Aftermath

There are no gods in the wilderness
only wolves remain scavenging
in the four corners of the savage winds,
angels are made of black iron
refrain from kissing their frozen feet,
in the tangle of crushed trees
a flurry of fur and tails,
monkeys are returning.

Katherine L. Gordon
frozen January, 2014.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014: Changes

Hi Katherine,
Many thanks for your poem"Arctic Vortex Aftermath". I've done something a little different with it - I've been adding daily haibun to a posting I initially started about the ice storm, but then I have continued adding posts, including my last one about the arctic vortex. So what I've done is add your poem as another link to this 'renku' (linked) sequence. I think it works???
peace & poetry power!

Chris & Chase Wrffffffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  - both very full after a big dinner - today's hike was a major one way back to the 'shaman ponds' on the old quarry properties behind ZenRiver. We encountered a lot of wildlife for a change. Perhaps nature is also restless after the recent overwhelming wintery intrusions. At the start of the hike a young doe, perhaps 3 years old, bounded across the trail within 50 feet of us. Later, another startled adventurer:

ghost rabbit
boots over the trail
ears still brown

When we started the hilly & dangerous return journey from the distant ponds, a pair of crows noisily flew overhead (Milt & Al?). Close to where we saw the first deer 2 yearlings slipped into the woods. By the main quarry a woodpecker was busy tap-tapping for hidden snacks in low lying scrub thorn trees.

both trees I signed
by the shaman ponds
gone this wild winter 


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Sunday, January 19, 2014:  Sewage Bay Swamp

Today I took Chase for an hour hike on the Sewage Plant trails. It was snowing quite heavily, & we enjoyed our first annual visit thru the frozen swamp to 'sewage bay'. It's a haunting place - only accessible in the height of winter freeze-up, & even more haunting in the midst of an increasingly heavy & windy snow storm. There was a very ramshackle lone ice hut on the little bay - it would have made an interesting picture (by the marge/of Lac Labarge).

camo canoe
resting against
winter cut stumps

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Sunday, 22 December 2013

the Peace of Walden Pond

picture of Henry David Thoreau's retreat, Walden Pond

Hi Marvin,
Thanks for your commiseration, it's very much appreciated  : ) I'm not at all surprised that WALDEN is your all-time favourite book!

Last summer I picked up a thin copy of Thoreau's writings at the used book store in the nearby village of Madoc. I think it cost a buck, which went to supporting the Madoc Library. I read WALDEN and "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" in my late teens. Of course both strongly resonated with me - I've always been a lover of nature and a solitary person by preference. But it was especially appropriate and inspiring that I read Civil Disobedience while I was in the process of sorting out my beliefs and course of action during the upheaval of the VN War. I wish this essay were more widely known & read.

So it's been almost half a century since I first explored Walden Pond and its surrounds with HDT  :  )  I admit that long stretches of Walden can still be a bit tedious, but on a more relaxed re-reading I'm finding there are many nuggets of wisdom scattered on every page, which I would have glossed over in my teens.

I'm also surprised at the breadth of Thoreau's knowledge & imaginings - wisdom. Much of the tone & tenor of Thoreau's writings reflect what I consider to be Hindu/Buddhist principles. HDT even mentioned the Bhagavad-Gita in the section I read last night.  HDT praised simplicity, reverence for nature, respect for one's fellow humans & neighbours, but with a healthy dose of New England Yankee distancing, which some might consider standoffishness.

The iconoclast in HDT is something which also resonates with me. I could perhaps interpret it as  'save yourself first', before you try to save the world. Keep yourself apart from the world as much as possible, & if the world & its craziness impedes too much on you, well, you have to take a moral stance, even if it means going to jail for the night in Concord for not paying your poll tax! Thoreau was an avid abolitionist of slavery, and he did occasionally break his own guidelines by giving public lectures against this.

Yes, on re-reading WALDEN I see that HDT had a much greater influence on the young me than even I realized. I had one very supportive English prof at the University of Miami, & every paper I turned in he'd praise with the suggestion that my newest production could be my Master's thesis. My thought was to do my thesis on HDT, but three draft notices in a week cut short my academic career, & a few months later I found myself living on Eel Pie Island in the middle of the Thames River on the outskirts of London, England! Living on Eel Pie Island wasn't exactly retreating beside Walden Pond, but it was one heck of an experience!

HDT's youthful influence is still reflected in my life. Now I've got my own quirky version of HDTs retreat with ZenRiver Gardens.  I'm 90% joking about going to live a Thoreauesque life at ZenRiver Gardens, but there is a 10% temptation to follow HDT's fine example. His cabin was 10 by 15 feet, while my shaman shack is an even more modest 10 by 10 (but then I do have the luxury of a 60 square foot deck!). It was a hoot to again read HDT's penny by peny accounting of the cost of building his shack, & the same New England penny-pinching accounting of his personal income & expenses. On further thought, in the warm months I do spend more than 10% of my time at ZenRiver, so I'm living a life at least partially in accordance with HDT's high standards.

Thank you Henry David Thoreau. Almost unknown and unread in your time, but a bellwether writer & thinker for the current state of life on our shrinking hillbilly planet.

peace & poetry power!
Chris/cricket and Chase Wrfffffffffffffffffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  

On 2013-12-21, at 10:35 PM, marvin orbach wrote:

Hi Chris,
   I am sorry to hear about all the problems you are having. I hope the new year brings   some relief.
   I send you happy solstice greetings.
    BTW,   Walden is my all-time favourite book. I worship Henry  David Thoreau.
     Cheers, from Montreal West.

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 Dec. 22/13

Hi Chris,
    I am not all surprised that Thoreau had such an important influence on you.   I was profoundly affected by his writings when I was a student. 
    As a matter of fact,  in my mind,  you are to some degree a Canadian Thoreau.
    Peace, Shalom.

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Dec. 22/13

my Walden Pond ? the puddle I make when I piss of of the deck !
I call it Mellow Yellow Pond !

ciao, Ed

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Dec. 31/13 (email excerpt)

Hi Gerry,
I'm still plodding my way thru WALDEN - I'm finding I can absorb just a few pages a night. There are more parallels with my life & HDT's WALDEN than I first realized - even his cabin has similar surroundings to my shaman shack at ZenRiver Gardens. There are sumacs in his side yard, white pines at the back, & of course the pond at the front (while I have the river). We both share visits from many of the same species of birds and mammals.  Some of Thoreau's descriptions of his day-to-day life have probably subconsciously influenced my haibun/blog postings. Of course I'm a fan of the Quakers - it was the Miami Friends Service Committee who offered me the most support with resisting the Vietnam War, & they let me print my underground newspaper, PAPERS, at their headquarters.
 - Chris

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 from Wikipedia:

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau.jpg
Portrait by Benjamin D. Maxham (daguerreotype) of Henry David Thoreau in June 1856.
Born July 12, 1817
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died May 6, 1862 (aged 44)
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.
Era 19th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Transcendental idealism[1]
Main interests Ethics, Poetry, Religion, Politics, Biology, Philosophy, History
Alma mater Harvard College
Notable ideas Abolitionism, tax resistance, development criticism, civil disobedience, conscientious objection, direct action, environmentalism, anarchism, simple living
Signature Appletons' Thoreau Henry David signature.jpg

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Northern Winter Solstice - Sheila Martindale

Northern Winter Solstice

Sol sistere
sun standing still
on its polar axis
poised midway
between darkness
and light

as if one degree’s shift
would plunge the planet
into endless winter
as if one divine breath
would blow the world
off its perilous progression
change its direction
turn it
to face
eternal night

We crave stillness
on this the shortest day
even if we never pray
for that pendulum to begin
its infinitesimal reversal
its slow forward swing
its painstaking passage
another spring

                                    Sheila Martindale

winter solstice photo:  Winter_Solstice.jpg

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

"Little Acorns and Milton" - Robert Acorn's memoir

Hi Robert,
The package with your three books arrived today. Many thanks! And thanks for signing all of them, especially the copy of LITTLE ACORNS AND MILTON which you dedicated to me.

After opening the parcel I immediately began browsing LAAM. I love the stories of your childhood adventures with Milt. The image of you chasing Milt around with a hammer as a small lad keeps playing in my imagination ;  )  I can remember a time or two, especially when Milt was my house guest on Rhodes Avenue, when I considered doing the same! The book is a real family treasure of the Acorn family and friends. So many stories - you & Milt going for a hike, & then hitchhiking for the first time. Your dad tying Milt's hands at night so he couldn't pleasure himself - these are priceless insights.

There is something for everyone. Terry Barker will love "The Cross Bearer" chapter for many reasons, one of which is that it gives him fodder for his belief that Milt retained a lifelong devotion to high Anglicanism  :  )

I believe memoir writing is extremely important. Who knows a person and the times they live in better than the person himself, or perhaps his siblings? There are lots of people who wish to re-write history for their own agendas, literary and otherwise. So reading a family history 'from the horse's mouth' establishes a baseline for the truth.

There are other benefits to memoir writing. A quarter century ago I wrote and self-published EEL PIE DHARMA,  my memoirs of living on the streets of England as a hippie draft dodger. My initial intentions were to write a traditional autobiography, but the manuscript turned into one of the first English language haibuns (prose interspersed with haiku). EPD remains a poet's memoir of course, but it has became a lot of other things over following years. It's been used as a reference for the hippie era on Wikipedia, for a BBC documentary on the Thames Valley Music Scene, and a biography of Peter Townshend. It was also a reference & seemingly an inspiration for Hari Kunzru's novel MY REVOLUTIONS, about the Angry Brigade in the UK in the early 1970s. A side benefit of publishing a memoir is we no longer have to keep our memory banks plugged up with these stories, and we can finally refrain from annoying our closest friends with our constant retelling of these adventures.    

I am sure we'll want to use at least a chapter, and perhaps more, of your book in ACORNucopia. Your story(ies) will add a strong dose of authenticity and background to our tribute to your brother. I'm so pleased that Terry Barker remembered you had written it.

After I browsed LAAM and thoughtfully sipped on a beer, I realized that Terry Barker would love to receive the second copy asap, so my little dog & I slipped off to the Marmora Post Office. Terry & I shared one of our long 'editorial' chats tonight, & I assure you he's thrilled that his copy of LITTLE ACORNS AND MILTON is on the way to him.

Thanks also for your other two books, BLACK RASPBERRIES and WHITE STRAWBERRIES. I now have enough reading material to get me through the holidays  :  )

peace & poetry power!
Chris ... and Chase wrfffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

p.s. I'll do a posting on my blog about your books - it's fairly widely read among the PurdyFest poetry community

Oak branch with acorns -

On 2013-12-18, at 9:09 AM, Ron Dart wrote:


do you order a copy of Robert's book for me?--seems like a keeper and


Hi Ron,
Perfect description - "a keeper and charmer"! To request a copy you should contact Robert Acorn yourself, by email or even snail mail - Robert isn't addicted to email the way the rest of us are  :  )

TWiG Publications
R.S. Acorn
763 Brackley Pt. Rd.
Route 15
Prince Edward Island
C1E 1C4

LITTLE ACORNS AND MILT is a very well written and published book. Perfect bound, beautiful cover, some nice b&w photographs, 150 pages, no price given. Robert has divided the book into 3 sections: 1.) Milton and Me  2.) Milton's People  3.) Me.

Last nite I read the first 5 of the 6 chapters about Milt:  Tasting Blood, Ice, The Cross Bearer, The Fire, Hotel Fire (Milt's poem), & tonite I get to enjoy the final piece in this section, "Scout's Pace".

Last nite I jumped ahead and read "The School Street Gang's Slingshot Caper", which is sans Milt. It's a hoot as well. I'm sure Robert has created a valuable piece of literature which will transcend his initial intentions & which will go into the annals & canon of PEI literature. There is a lot of PEI history recorded in LAAM, and the book is extremely readable and enjoyable. These are the kinds of books which are slow burners - like Robert himself, who is a late bloomer to literature compared with his older brother. There is an almost dreamy quality to the writing, perhaps because it is a reminiscence of times long past. But there are hints of that sly Canuck humour which Robert shares with his famous bro, & several times I made a mental comparison with SUNSHINE SKETCHES. I suspect LAAM will enjoy a longevity and eventual readership which will surprise the author, Robert, most of all. 

I'm starting to feel we should include a substantial number of chapters from LAAM in ACORNucopia (if Robert's willing). Howard gave Terry & me carte blanche when I asked several times how long ACORNucopia should be. Howard repeatedly replied, "As long as it needs to be." Perhaps ACORNucopia needs to be long enough to include all or most of Robert's 6 chapters on Milt.

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


Friday, 6 December 2013

my anti-apartheid poem from 1978

The Red Menace

(Dented a Daimler)
By Chris Faiers

South Africa is very much in the news these days
invading my consciousness again
like when I was a longhaired hippie
idealistic gravedigger - 22
and summerstudent Brian
who shared Bob Dylan graveyard duets
and was Anglo - Indian
recommended other culture to me
and so I went to see ‘End of the Dialogue’
about South African apartheid
alone, one hot summer night

That was 7 long years ago
all I remember of that smuggled movie
is British-made RB'47s loaded with napalm
based 10 minutes flying time
from black African compounds
tales of murder, passes, degradation
reminded me of 5 years in Georgia
prison gangs amplified
Lester Maddox controlling a country

I am proud that sitting there alone
my anger built and built and built
until neatly filing out of the cinema
into London streets
a big white curbside Rolls or Daimler
or to me a 'Cadillac'
I freaked — I went completely fucking bananas
class elites — imperialisms — socialisms unheard of
I saw the enemy
and in my workboots I kicked the shit
out of that car
right in front of the theatre.
No one stopped me
nor applauded
and I didn't look back
as I strolled away
but I remember hoping
that the rest of the departing viewers
were kicking shit out of that car
in the calm and business-as-usual British way
as they streamed by

Later at Richmond station
I met a young black friend and I told him, shaking a bit
what I had done.
'Congratulations, Chris', he said,
'but that's not like you. You're
so peaceful.'
Right fucking on, brothers in Soweto!
I'm getting even more peaceful.
I'm trading my boots for a 303.


Vorster may get mandate to turn to dictatorship

Published in The Red Menace, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1978

A Libertarian Socialist Publication

Monday, 2 December 2013

Gwen Hauser, 1944 - 2012 (James Deahl)


         Gwen Hauser, 1944 – 2012

What you remember from the farm

is the annual slaughter of steers,

the screams of pigs being castrated,

your father’s blood-streaked hands working

the sausage machine, is your own mother

reduced to someone less than human.

And being piss-poor, always piss-poor.

Of your high school years in Medicine Hat

you remember — can never forget —

the provincial mental hospital,

whose doctors prescribed medications

you refused to take. You fled the Prairies

and that hard-scrabble farm for Toronto,

running all the way, to find what?

A girl does not run from something;

she runs to something. Toronto.

In the Big Smoke you found Bergman’s Silence,

that pervasive Swedish despair.

You found men who would not love you enough,

and a hard-scrabble life on the streets.

Poor Gwen, we sympathized, poor Gwen,

but sympathy and gentle thoughts

have never healed a broken heart.

And, yes, you found poetry and courage

to speak it: a strong voice, and true.

Early this morning I learn of your death

and watch winter’s rain soak the fallen leaves.

You hammered out poems laced with pain

— yours and the sufferings of those you loved —

a poetry of survival on the margins;

I pray your divided heart’s been healed.

James Deahl

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December 7, 2013
Dear Chris,

         Late last night this came in from our old buddy Krisantha. Best thing that has come my way since I spread the news of Gwen's death. It captures Gwen and her total commitment to poetry. Thought you might like to post it.
         . . . James

Dear Jim,

I woke up this morning in Colombo to this, telling me of Gwen's possible 'cease and desist'.

Still trying to digest. Are you sure she has passed away? She has a way of showing up in unexpected ways and in new disguises.......:)

I guess I first met her in 1976 at the Parliament Street Library where Ted Plantos would do a regular gathering, and she was an active presence.

Funny but I had a dream just the other day of another PSL poetry partaker who I barely knew who then jumped off the Bloor Viaduct. I remember Gwen talking about her situation and writing about what may have driven a young woman to do such. She had truly 'Canadian experience' of the horrible treatment of 'mental' patients. She also would openly take on those who wrote sexist or fascist crap.

I also remember an argument between her and the CP cartoonist Mike Constable (with Mike arguing Canada was 'liberal' and Gwen insisting it was truly 'fascist'!)

Gwen wrote about the city, and about work in factories and laundries, and yes, of Toronto and Alberta and Canada in ways no one else did. Ardent is the second word that most comes to mind. And yes, it's a tribute to Fred Cogswell, that despite the wasteland of vapidity of what he or others usually published, that he published her).

We worked together putting readings at the grey 519 (former Granite Club!), (in fact, Partisan organized an early gathering there where I read) and then together we did a huge (100? I exaggerate perhaps) Toronto Festival of Poets in 1978 (?), and also did another (crazy) day long fest called the Goldflower Festival (named after a Chinese red feminist) in 1979, but was ahead of its time in the sheer compass of the people involved.  We also helped facilitate the set up of the women's poetry sessions at the 519 as well... And it is through her I met Himani Bannerji and Dionne Brand, etc......and then came the 'multivultural' 1980s.....

After I launched my last poetry book, Cheqpoint in Heaven, in Toronto in 2005, she came and read some poems, brilliant in many ways and as always – but I did disagree with her take on history ( I thought she had taken to defending the Nazis versus the Soviets!) ..she had also taken to going to church, which I thought odd, even tho it was the MCC....

Still, her commitment to writing about the here and the now and what she thought would come next, was truly inspiring, and regardless of who remembers her and how, she was more than anyone I knew a truly 'Canadian' and 'Toronto' poet, for she talked of real people and real things..

I hate writing about people after they have passed away. But I do think she will still jump out of bush and hit someone with one of her many bags overflowing with poems.

Funny, I am about to go to a monthly poetry gathering Poetry P'lau we organize in Colombo (called by most people, Kolamba) and I woke up early to send a final note about it, and now, I am not sure I can go back to sleep....


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