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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

PurdyFest #8: Focus on Pauline Johnson and First Nations Art and History

PURDYFEST #8: Focus on Pauline Johnson and First Nations Art & History

This will be the eighth summer that poets will gather on the August long weekend in the greater Marmora area to share and celebrate. Many activities will take place at ZenRiver Gardens in the hamlet of Malone, other events will be held in the Marmora Library Building and on the Marmora dam. Everyone is invited to all these free events, and all participants are encouraged to share their poetry, music and art.

Activities begin late Friday afternoon, August 1st, with a Potluck Supper at ZenRiver Gardens by the shaman shack. Free 'rough camping' is available for the weekend.

PurdyFest Symposiums have been focusing on the life, art and legacies of Canada's major "People's Poets". To date these symposiums have examined the work of poets Al Purdy, Ted Plantos, Milton Acorn, Raymond Souster and Dorothy Livesay. We are working our way back through Canadian history, and this summer we'll examine and celebrate the life and legacy of Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson, who made her contributions a century ago. The symposium on Pauline Johnson will be held in The William Shannon Room of the Marmora Library Building from noon to 2 pm on Saturday, August 2nd.

After the Symposium poets, friends and summer visitors will gather on the islet in the Marmora Dam for ANOTHER DAM POETRY READING. Marmora singer/guitarist/poet Morley Ellis will lead off the round robin readings, with everyone attending encouraged to share their art.

Events continue early Sunday afternoon at ZenRiver Gardens. Tai Grove is both the publisher of Hidden Brook Press and the President of The Canada-Cuba Literary Alliance. Tai will host readings by these two groups, and there is always time for all poets attending to present a poem or two of their own, whether a member of these groups or not.

For further information on Purdy Country Literary Festival #8 please contact Chris Faiers:

Message from CCLA Prez Tai Grove about Sunday readings:

Purdy Fest CCLA Reading – Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 – 1pm to 3:30pm Come early at 12 noon and stay late to hang out. As usual the CCLA reading at Chris Faiers’ ZenRiver Gardens is about communing with friends and fellow poets. It is about camaraderie under the tent of poetry. Come with your refreshments and snacks if you like and re-connect with fellow poets. There is no feature reader. We will read in a round robin. Once all of the signed up CCLA participants have read we will go around the circle as an open non-mic as many times as we still have readers. Some will read from the middle of the river – you are invited to join us. Some might have to leave but we will keep reading as long as we have readers. Come with an entourage and a lawn chair. 

 /prez tai

– John Hamley - 

– Ann Peacock -
– Keith and RenĂ© Inman -
– Tara Kainer -
– Wayne Schlepp -
– Jim Ronson -

 – Patrick Connors - 
– Graham and Stella Ducker -
– Deb Panko -  
– Colin Morton - 
– Mary Lee Bragg -



Tekahionwake ca 1895.jpg

Pauline Johnson

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On 2014-04-30, at 4:35 PM, Lindi Pierce wrote:

Hi Chris
I have had a draft of a Purdy blog post about you and the Purdy Fests going for awhile.
(I've begun a series on Friends of the A-frame, and you are one of the oldest - as in, you've been in the fraternity longest :-)
Can I use the text above as part of a post? - I can give the Umbrella a plug at the same time, to repay the favour.

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Hi Lindi,
Please use it! And any other stuff from my blog  ;  ) 

And I'm proud to be one of the oldest A-framers - both in membership tenure AND human decades!

It's a bit frustrating that QAC is having to cut back on publishing UMBRELLA from 6 to 4 times a year. I feel we're finally starting to crank up the artistic/tourism/cultural/spiritual vibe here in Purdy Country. Chase & I just returned from our riverside afternoon walk, somewhat dripping, & while strolling we met a young local returnee who's now working on tourism promo for the area. Her boss, & her boss' hubby, are both also poets - her boss works for Coach House Press in TO, & I've got some old connections there. So we're getting quite a cultural confab going in - of all places - The Marm!

Lots of local cultural excitement gearing up for this summer - maybe the Great Moira River Flood of 2014 washed away some cultural & spiritual detritus as well as the usual riverbank flotsam & jetsam ;  )

peace & poetry power!
Chris & Chase Wrfffffffffffffshivvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvrrrr  (damn, drizzle on a freshly defurred dog is no fun!)

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On 2014-04-30, at 5:31 PM, Anna Plesums wrote:

I am getting to be 90 at the Purdy fest time, but if I am still as good as I am today I will participate as much as I will be capable.Send me the dates and times for activities. I  am sorry, but I will not bake any bread this time, my hands can not handle anything bigger than a wine glass (ha - ha! I wont miss that).
Hope to hear soon.
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Hi Anna,
That's great that you're planning on attending PF #8! But ... 90 candles on our annual Potluck Supper chocolate cake might risk burning down the shaman shack  ;  )

We'll miss your delicious home baked breads, but maybe someone else can learn to knead the dough. Events start on Friday aft, Aug. 1st.

See you then.
peace & poetry power!
Chris ... & Chase Wrffffffffffffffffffffffffff!   (man, I'm 16 in human years, which is 112 in doggy years!)

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Dennis Robillard has left a new comment on your post "PurdyFest #8: Focus on Pauline Johnson and First N...":

Hi Folks. Im interested in maybe attending the Purdyfest festivities down at the dam this year. Do we have to sign up anywhere to do readings or is that a first come first in rotation? Also do the readings have to center around Pauline? I do have some Purdy-type poems I wouldn't mind reading. Please let me know.

Posted by Dennis Robillard to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 4 June 2014 15:49

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

Hi Dennis,
Thanks for your interest in PurdyFest  ;  )  Everyone is welcome to read whatever they wish to read at ANOTHER DAM POETRY READING on the Marmora Dam. No sign up required. The focus doesn't have to be on Pauline Johnson, or Al Purdy, or whatever - just read what you want to share. The readings are very democratic - we go around & around the reading circle (well, people are spread all over the islet on blankets & lawn chairs, but there is some sense of a poetry circle). Readers are asked to read one poem at a time, or a brief sort story, or even a song. We share our poetry until everyone's read & shared everything they wish to! Often people wander off for a walk, or to find the LCBO & then return ... and informal readings, discussions, singing, guitar playing, story telling & lies etc. continue long into the evening at ZenRiver Gardens in the hamlet of Malone - where the entertainment continues (or devolves!) around campfires, roasting marshmallows, nature hikes,  dinner & refreshments (bring your own, please).   Hope this helps ...
peace & poetry power!

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


Friday, 25 April 2014

Sharing a beer with Souster and Acorn in Sarnia April 27

I've cut & pasted the following from Debbie Okun Hill's excellent blog:

Why I’ll Never Share a Beer with Canadian Poets Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster

Did you choke over my words, spit out gasps into a brown paper bag? Were you startled or just amused? A headline like a poem title needs to grab the reader by the throat and I hope this one does. Still it’s not intended to be disrespectful of two literary giants.  My rationale easily rolls like water from my tongue: I hate the taste of beer and wouldn’t share a bottle or glass of lager or ale with anyone no matter how famous he/she might be.
Learn more about Canadian poets Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster.

Learn more about Canadian poets Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during this free reading in Sarnia, Ontario.

Also it’s too late to cry over any type of beverage including a tipped over bottle of poetic spirits. Imagine the suds sliding across the wooden table and along the pub floor. Okay, that’s moving away from the topic. Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster are both dearly departed and unless their apparitions appear before us, no one will have the privilege of speaking to them again. Sad news indeed! Acorn passed away in August 1986 due to complications of a heart condition and diabetes. Souster died in October 2012. He was 91 years old.

I wish I had met them or at least heard them read.

Celebrating Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during National Poetry Month

Celebrating Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during National Poetry Month

Both are considered legends in the poetry world. Acorn received a Governor General Award in 1976 for his poetry collection The Island Means Minago. Souster received the same award in 1964 for his work The Colour of the Times. Both would have been great mentors. Unfortunately I was a late poetic bloomer; Acorn and Souster escaped my radar before I knew who they were.
Even today, my knowledge of these two poets is limited, gleamed from second hand sources. My goal is to read all their work cover to cover! I wish I had the luxury of time but this is what I’ve learned so far.

Souster’s legacy reminds me that poetry does not make one famous or financially wealthy. All his life, he was considered shy and despite being prolific and leaving behind more than 50 volumes of his work, he remained a banker to pay his bills. According to Canadian poet James Deahl, Souster wrote about “love, nature, war, social, injustice jazz, religion, and beauty. He was also the first president/chairman of the League of Canadian Poets and was a kind and gentle man. As I wrote in my tribute poem “Won’t see his poetic face/plastered on a Canadian bill.” Societies in general scratch their heads when it comes to respecting and understanding poets.

James Deahl has edited several books to celebrate the legacy of his friends Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster.

James Deahl has edited several books to celebrate the legacy of his friends Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster.

Acorn’s legacy of work taught me that there are different types of poets, just like there are different types of musicians or artists to suit different markets. Acorn was a “people’s poet” who wrote about everyday concerns for the common folks and employed wit, politics and strong emotion in his work. He produced more than 15 books and like Souster, he enjoyed helping younger and more inexperienced writers.

James Deahl is one of those poets who knew and spent time with both Souster and Acorn. He has studied their work and has written extensively about their lives. In 1987, he edited and compiled The Northern Red Oak, a tribute to Milton Acorn published by Unfinished Monument.

More recently he edited In a Springtime Instant: Selected Poems by Milton Acorn published as part of the Mosiac Press Canadian Literature ‘Icon” series.

Reading during the Under the Mulberry Tree (Quattro Books) launch in Toronto, January 15, 2014
David Eso

Michael Fraser enjoyed meeting Raymond Souster.
Michael Fraser
100_3526 - Copy
Joe Fiorito

Laurence Hutchman
Laurence Hutchman
100_3549 - Copy
Carleton Wilson

Anna Yin
Anna Yin

Earlier this year in Toronto, he edited and launched Under the Mulberry Tree: Poems For & About Raymond Souster. Published by Quattro Books, this anthology features tribute poems by those who knew the poet well and those who are just learning about his work. The contributors include: Steven Michael Berzensky, Kent Bowman, Ronnie R. Brown, Terry Ann Carter, John Robert Columbo, Allan Cooper, Robert Currie, James Deahl, David Donnell, G. W. Down, Margaret Patricia Eaton, David Eso, Chris Faiers, George Fethering, Joe Fiorito, Michael Fraser, Ryan Gibbs, Katherine Gordon, Andreas Gripp, Debbie Okun Hill, Laurence Hutchman, Karl Jirgens, Laurie Kruk, Dennis Lee, Norma West Linder, Bruce Meyer, Brian Purdy, Bernadette Rule, Simcha Simchovitch, Glen Sorestad, Lynn Tait, S. J. White, Carleton Wilson, Michael Wurster, and Anna Yin.

Norma West Linder
Norma West Linder

On Sunday, April 27 starting at 1 p.m. at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, seven of these contributors: Berzensky, Bowman, Deahl, Gibbs, Okun Hill, West Linder, and Tait will be reading and celebrating the legacy of Acorn and Souster. More info here. Additional readings are also planned for Ottawa and North Bay in June.

As Deahl wrote in his introduction to Under the Mulberry Tree: “No poet learns the craft without the help and sage advice from those who have already achieved a higher level of writing.”

Steven Micheal Berzensky
Steven Michael Berzensky

Kent Bowman
Kent Bowman

Three cheers to all the poets including Acorn and Souster who believed in the power of the written word and who will continue to leave their mark on the next generation of writers. As an emerging poet, I still have so much to learn. Maybe one day, I’ll acquire a taste for beer or maybe not.

Ryan Gibbs
Ryan Gibbs

Lynn Tait
Lynn Tait

Debbie Okun Hill
Debbie Okun Hill

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Inconvenient Indian, Pauline Johnson, (in) A Fair Country

Front Cover

The Inconvenient Indian, Pauline Johnson, (in) A Fair Country

(a triple book report - a polemic - a vision)

This summer at PurdyFest #8 we are studying the poetry & legacy of Pauline Johnson as we work our way back through the history of Canadian People's Poetry. A First Nations friend & I were discussing preparations for the upcoming symposium on Johnson, & my friend said she doesn't like Johnson's poetry, & that she feels Johnson was mainly known for her half-Mohawk heritage, a 'professional Indian' so to speak. My friend very strongly recommended as a counter to Johnson that I read the recent book THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN by another First Nations author, Thomas King.

I have duly followed my friend's excellent advice, and I have finished the King book & marked key parts for reference. I am also jumping around enjoying FLINT AND FEATHER: THE COMPLETE POEMS OF E. PAULINE JOHNSON (TEKAHIONWAKE). In the back of my mind, while I'm absorbing the King & Johnson books, is another relevant work I read a few years ago, not long after it was published, A FAIR COUNTRY by John Ralston Saul. Saul is a White man (a term King uses), & his book is more formal & limited in scope than King's, but with a very central & interesting thesis.   

So this is a real reading mash-up, which should answer the smaller questions, for me at least, about Johnson's poetic & political legacy & modern relevance. But these books & authors will also help us to frame the much larger issues facing Canadian society, & even the planet. With global climate change bearing down on our tiny blue marble with unforgiving speed, it may well be First Nations & their control of key territories which will help block & stop transnational pipelines, dams, reckless mining & other activities which are the key contributors to this human-caused planetary blight. Rethinking & reforging centuries old alliances among all Peoples is fast becoming a necessity for all human survival. It is obviously the duty of People's Poets to tailor our work & visions for the survival of our planet, or we won't have any future generations around to admire our brilliant poetics  ;  )

So shoot me for cribbing the following. It's been 3 or 4 years since I read A FAIR COUNTRY: TELLING TRUTHS ABOUT CANADA. This back cover blurb does a great job of summarizing John Ralston Saul's central thesis, & it's in his own words:

We are a people of aboriginal inspiration organized around a concept of peace, fairness and good government. That is what lies at the heart of our story; at the heart of Canadian mythology, whether Francophone or Anglophone. If we can embrace a language that expresses that story, we will feel a great release. We will discover a remarkable power to act and to do so in such a way that we will feel we are true to ourselves.

A central theme of THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN  is land. Indians (King's preferred term for First Nations) have been & continue to be inconvenient because they are the original owners of North America. Although most of their territories and nations have been stolen through murder (genocide), forced relocations, deliberate poisonings & sickness, assimilation, Christianity & outright trickery & theft, large swathes of North America remain in the control of First Nations Peoples.

There are many other themes winding through King's blackly humorous historical account of Indian/White relations. King even has ironic fun describing three categories of Indians - those DEAD (e.g. prone to wearing headdresses & feathers), those LIVE (the most inconvenient & annoying, because, well, they're just too damn real & ubiquitous), and those who are LEGAL or STATUS.     

I find the Saul & King books a dyad - they should be read back-to-back. Saul's book gives a reasoned and entirely credible basis for Canada being a society largely culturally created & oriented around First Nations concepts. King adds the flesh & bones & white hot anger to Saul's somewhat dry analysis.

What I'm finding intriguing is that King posits the circularity of Indian/White relations, the devastating repeating patterns. I'm finding the same angry references to the White abuses of First Nations Peoples in Pauline Johnson's poetry of a century ago as I've just read in King's book. Saul ties the pieces together in his awkwardly professorial (White?) way. In Canada we have been going through a so-called process of Truth & Reconciliation. The terrible old patterns repeat, & who cares who is the better or more accurate author? I vouch for all three of these authors & their profoundly important & urgent books.

The past keeps repeating, it's just observed through different lenses, as King might say. It's time for us as People's Poets to help break the patterns, to write poetry on the front lines, in alliances with all Nations against climate change, while keeping our vision clear & focused.

Chris Faiers
April 20, 2014

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April 20/14

Hi Chris,
     I just now read your last blog on your up-and-coming PurdyFest.    A well-written piece on an important subject.  Three cheers.  
     It will make a great addition to the collection in Calgary. 
     I trust you are enjoying our spring weather.
      Marvin, in Montreal West.

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Jim Larwill's email (April 20/14):

"Thomas King, CM (born 24 April 1943) is a noted American-Canadian novelist and broadcaster who most often writes about North America's First Nations. He is an advocate for First Nations causes. He is of Cherokee and Greek/German-American descent. In 2003, King was invited to give the Massey Lecture in Canada, the first person of aboriginal descent to be chosen. He has dual United States-Canadian citizenship."

Johnson was Canadian and Mohawk as far as I know.  Or even pure Canadian given she was born in 1861 six years before Canada was born, so technically, like any Canadian at the time she was writing, could only be, 100% Canadian as much as any other Canadian at that time.  So maybe SHE was the first "professional" Canadian!

Double Wampum.  Song My Paddle Sings.

Double Wampum is the first articulation of the concept of multiculturalism in the world I know of.

A best selling First Nations Canadian author 100 years ago?? Oh we couldn't have that!  If SHE was best selling SHE obviously wasn't First Nations.  Peter Jacobs?????  A first nations writer published by Thomas Bentley in England in the 1850's before Susanna Moodie is then later published by the same publisher and Susanna Moodie goes on to do a veiled parody of him her book Roughing it in the Bush ???? Ah yes... the parody continues, but Peter Jacobs is forgotten or dismissed as a professional Indian... as all Early First nation's writer's are of course professional Indians and not professional writers...  and Susanna Moodie wasn't of course a professional Brit in Canada...she was a "Real" writer.... of course... of course... of course... and so goes the course








.... this is the song my paddle sings...

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On 2014-04-22, at 5:08 PM, Katharine Beeman wrote:

Great reflections, Chris! Sure, sure, sure hope to see you this summer, hugs and scritches, Katharine

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Hi Katharine,
Chase & I feel the same way, hoping that we'll see you this summer. Chase is getting verrrrry long in the tooth  - he's 15, maybe 16 or more years old now, so he may not be around for another winter.

I'm pleased you  like my piece on the 3 books. I think it'll be my presentation/intro for this summer's Symposium.

scritches & scratches delivered  ;  )
peace & poetry power!
Chris ... & Chase Wrfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!

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Friday, 4 April 2014

readings for PurdyFest #8: Pauline JohnsonFest

Hi Katharine, Manuel, Marvin, James, Tai et al.  ;  )

I'm hoping to clear a growing number of backlogged & overdue emails with this one email, so my apologies if this is a bit crammed.

Firstly, congrats to all involved with producing the Milton Acorn issue of THE AMBASSADOR! It's a great feeling knowing that Milt's poetic & political legacy is now available in Spanish.

And it's a major honour & a compliment to learn that the next Canuck issue of THE AMBASSADOR will again follow our PurdyFest selection, this time with the focus on Pauline Johnson. It also gives us all a sense of accomplishment & some small sense of contributing to posterity knowing that Marvin Orbach is carefully preserving our poetic activities with his collection at the University of Calgary Special Archives. Katharine, I hope you'll be able to contribute reprint copies of your chapbooks; if not, I'm willing to send Marvin my personal copy(ies).

The choice of Pauline Johnson as the focus for our eighth PurdyFest came about when Pearl Pirie observed we were focusing on male Canadian People's Poets, & we began rectifying this by featuring the life & poetic legacy of Dorothy Livesay at last summer's PurdyFest #7. Choosing Livesay kept an historical accuracy to our exploration of the chronology of Canuck People's Poets.

The choice of Pauline Johnson for Fest #8 was initially decided because of our wishes to continue honouring more  women People's Poets, but this choice has also added the very relevant matter of First Nations political & cultural issues to this year's Symposium agenda. Almost every recent major Canuck literary award has been justly garnered by a First Nations author. The list includes Joseph Boyden's THE ORENDA for the CANADA READS AWARD and Katherena Vermette's collection, NORTH END LOVE SONGS, which received Canada's highest literary award for poetry, The GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD.

My friend Gail has expressed concerns over Canada's ongoing exploitation & discrimination of First Nations, and my recent order from Amazon included her choice of Thomas King's historical overview THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN. A few year's ago I read philosopher/academic John Ralston Saul's treatise, A FAIR COUNTRY. Now that I'm well into THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN I'm finding the two books make for perfect parallel reading: FAIR COUNTRY now appears a rather bloodless historical analysis, while INCONVENIENT INDIAN adds the missing blood, guts, horror and humour. I strongly suggest everyone read all these books, if they haven't done so already, as well as Pauline Johnson's FLINT AND FEATHER: THE COMPLETE POEMS OF E. PAULINE JOHNSON.  

Things are coming to a head for our small blue planet. Climate change threatens the very continued existence of humans. After centuries of oppression, much of the leadership in opposing the many abuses to our environment, such as opposition to the transnational North Amerikan pipelines, is being led by our First Nations.

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

Silence, they say is the
voice of our complicity.
But silence is impossible
    Silence screams.
 Silence is a message,
 Just as doing nothing is
           an act.
Let who you are ring out
          & resonate
  in every word & every
Yes, become who you are.
 There's no sidestepping
        your own being
           or your own
   What you do is who you
     You are your own
   You become your own
     You are the message.

     in the spirit of Crazy


Leonard Peltier
13,937 days, 19 hours, and 40 seconds of ILLEGAL IMPRISONMENT.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

spring strolls in ... (Ed Baker art)

spring strolls in
perky red breasts
skinny black silk

haiga art by Ed Baker
bad senryu by cricket