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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Milt and Gwen to have plaque on Toronto Islands Aug. 29

Heritage Toronto honours Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen

Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwan
Acorn and MacEwen, 1960 (photo courtesy of the Estate of Raymond Souster and Heritage Toronto)

Heritage Toronto is due to honour poet and playwright Milton Acorn and his former wife, author and CBC radio docudrama writer Gwendolyn MacEwen*, with a plaque on Toronto’s Ward’s Island.
Acorn (1923–1986), a Charlottetown, P.E.I., native and a Second World War veteran, produced multiple volumes and poetry and other writing that garnered international attention. He was the recipient of a Canadian Poet Award in 1970 and a Governor General’s Award in 1976 for The Island Means Minago. The Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award was established to commemorate the author in 1987, and two biopics about his life and work have been produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

Toronto-born MacEwen (1941–1987) published more than 20 books in her literary career, and was the winner of two Governor General’s Awards for her poetry – in 1969 for The Shadow-Maker and posthumously in 1987 for Afterworlds – and a Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for her contribution to the arts in 1977. She also served as writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, and twice at the University of Toronto in the 1980s. The former Walmer Road Park in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood was re-named for MacEwen in 1996.

The two were married briefly in 1962, during which time they resided in a Toronto Island home at 10 Second Street.

The plaque will be unveiled at a public ceremony on the island at Lakeshore and Second Street on Aug. 29 at 1 p.m.

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Thanks, Penn  ;  )
Looks like there'll be a sufficient gathering to honour the day! I came across the announcement on the Quill & Quire blog while late night surfing Sunday, & worried that the news might not have been widely circulated on the CanPo scene. Cool that your kids still live there.
peace & poetry power!

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On 2015-08-26, at 8:17 PM, Penn Kemp wrote:


Thank you, George, for your skillful shepherding of this timely plaque from concept to reality... Gwen's birthday is September 1.

 Anna, thanks so much for posting the link to the doc which I hadn't seen in years... So moving.... and still so brilliant. Poignant and powerful. Another look at TVO's fabulous film by Brenda Longfellow. 

Throughout the decade of the 70's, I lived on Ward Island, almost next door, at 11 Third St. and 14 4th St.   But that was after she and Milt had separated: I only knew her in the city.

 I wish I could join you on Sat., but I'll tell Island folks, including my grown kids, who both live there still.

Have put a poem and videopoem honouring Gwen along with all the info up on


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At 11:51 AM 25/08/2015, Chris Faiers wrote:
Hi Anna,
Thank you for finding & forwarding this hourlong doc on Gwen. I immediately clicked on the link & have been sitting here transfixed ever since. A very powerful memoir of Gwen (& Milt) and of that special time when CanPo began to flourish. I'm so pleased you've decided to attend the Saturday plaque dedication on Ward's Island at the cottage that Milt & Gwen shared. I didn't know that it was George Elliot Clarke who encouraged this dedication with Heritage Toronto - please express my gratitude to him from me, & on behalf of many others!

It was a trip down memory lane seeing people in the doc I came to know or at least make passing acquaintance with on the TO poetry scene. The Bohemian Embassy was before my time in TO, & for reasons unknown I never visited The Trojan Horse Cafe on The Danforth, altho just about every street shot of TO was familiar. It was fun seeing a very young Don Cullen read poetry (well, shout it out!), & Gwen reading Milt's poem "You Growing" at his wake brought a tear.

Again, it's so good that you and George will be there Saturday. Honey Novick also plans to attend, & I hope it's OK for her to sing one of Milt's songs as part of the dedication. Perhaps you could bring this up with George beforehand. Kent Bowman is the other poet I know of who has expressed plans to attend, & perhaps Kent can share something as well.    

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

p.s. fun to hear a young Joe Rosenblatt, & Penn Kemp gave some good insights in the doc

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Dear Chris:

Thanks for this! I never really met Milt! But I did
come out on a frigid Sunday night in March 1983
to hear him read from the new Cap'n MacDougall
at the Free Times Cafe. The audience was very
enthusiastic, but folks cheered lustily when he recited,
from memory, "I've Tasted My Blood."



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On Fri, Aug 28, 2015 at 12:58 AM, Chris Faiers <> wrote:

Hi All,
I don't have a Gwen poem, but lots for Milt:

The Uncles are bird spirits now                                                                                                                                                              

For Milt & Al                                                                              

the Uncles are bird spirits now
flying thru realms
tricksters, obvious in their choices

Milt, the raven spirit
and Al,
the gawky blue heron

your poems foretold this
Milt cawing angrily at the dense humans;
Al, more sanguine
more grounded,  multi-dimensional:
heron lives in water
air the daily flightpath home

these only two of the incarnations
you love to fool us with now …
Uncles, so many days you visit
flying, laughing free
through the spirit world
only poets & shaman
can begin to comprehend

we earthbound beings
yearn to fly with your flocks

raven, heron floating above
trickster turtles swimming with awkward strokes
sun basking in A-burgh’s millpond

poet friends transform
before my inner eye …
Jim D. chooses heron
as does John B.
while Larwill is the new raven king

the sun shines too brightly
through your new kingdoms
water transparent
as these words

heron zazen stalks
while turtles meditate
all deeply carved
into the teaching rocks
at Petroglyphs Park

we would miss you
except you visit so often
you are almost as annoying
in the next world
as you were in this one

Chris Faiers


Saturday, 22 August 2015

People's Poet nominee posthumously: Ian David Arlett

Hi Chris,

I was recently seeking out an old friend who exhibited at my gallery,
Ian David Arlett. I learned he died from a heart attack a while back and I mourn him.
He was a phenomenal painter but more so, an astounding performer poet.

I'd like him to be granted the title of People's Poet Posthumously. He truly is the heir to Milton Acorn.

Here's the only video recording I have located online- he is a young man here. A little inebriated. He would have been around my vintage I think, maybe younger. I'm curious---where is that CBC footage?

There's an Ottawa poet blogger Ward Maxwell (blog "Spring") collecting reminiscences of him and if you are sufficiently intrigued by Ian you could contact him for more information. I'd be happy to give time to this effort so he won't be lost.


Ian Arlett at City Stage: two poems
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