Another quiet evening in; Cooley and his wife Diane out for the evening, catching up on weeks of missed television. Why aren’t any of my good shows on?
What can I say about Cooley? Remarkably sweet and generous and humble and just filled with good feeling. It would be difficult not to feel great around such a person. Spending a good deal of the day on campus at the University of Manitoba floating through the Andrew Suknkasi archives, to finish up that book of essays by him for NeWest and the selected poems, as well as (eventually) the book of essays on his work for Guernica Editions. Less a matter of the amount of material but trying to get a shape of it all in my head, somehow. The note taking and almost obsessive revisions to pieces; one in particular I kept finding final after final after final draft without (seeming) end; term papers for his classes with poet and professor Lionel Kearns. What must that have been like?
Things I didn’t know, that he had submitted a piece to the CBC contest; quite an interesting poem. That he was included in the 50th birthday publication (an edition of thirty) made for John Newlove in 1988 by John Metcalf. Including pieces by Judith Fitzgerald, Allan Safarik, George Bowering and others. An interesting list, and almost certainly a Metcalf version of who appreciated Newlove (I would think). There's a great story of Metcalf on Newlove's doorstep presenting the publication to him, and being told, great, now I'm going to have to thank these people...
Fun to even find that Suknaski had published part of that Barry McKinnon long poem, I Wanted To Say Something in 1973 (the only piece not in his selected/collected that needs to be read), the prairie long poem that began a number of other prairie long poems; since it wasn’t available to the larger public until the Red Deer College Press edition in 1990 (where Suknaski tried to give credit in his intro), it got the attention without really getting the attention.
Thinking a lot, going through these essays and pieces by Andrew Suknaski, about that thing called (for lack of a better term), region. The prairie is very much its own geographic thinking space, as are parts of British Columbia, Quebec, the east coast. What does Ontario get? Greg Curnoe played with his southwestern Ontario, sou’westo, notions in the 1960s and further; what do the rest of us get? The only province without a provincial writers guild; if you’re not in Toronto, does any of it mean anything? Is there an Ontario besides Ontario Gothic, moons behind? Thinking about this notion of “region” and “ethnic,” and wondering how they might apply to my Glengarry, my essay/memoir I’ve been five years working on. Are such things translatable? There’s a book Jars Balan gave me from a conference they put together on such, published as a book in 1981 that even referenced previous notions of “ethnic,” including Ralph Connor; does that mean anyone in Ontario (etcetera) isn’t dealt with as such because it’s already been done? Or are there simply other considerations in other places that haven’t been dealt with yet, whether properly or at all?
Tour notes, day twenty-one; November 21, Winnipeg MB
Reading tonight, with Karen Clavelle and Ariel Gordon; I haven’t yet met Ariel Gordon, but I hear she’s quite tall, and recently had a baby. What else will I find out later? Last night drinks and then dinner with Clavelle; she’s done quite a lot of work on prairie lit, specifically Cooley, over the past few years that should soon hopefully catch light. It would be good to have some more work done on him (I know Nicole Markotic did one of those Wilfred Laurier University Press critical selecteds on him, but I don’t know if its out yet…). For the sheer amount of work he’s done, and generated/supported of others, there should be a whole pile more material on him; why isn’t there? Even that Prairie Fire issue on him is nearly a decade old…
I’m only three or four years behind on a chapbook I’ve been producing of Clavelle’s; for some reason, whenever I start working on that one or the Barry McKinnon chapbook (they’ve been waiting the same amount of time), my IQ points suddenly go down about fifty points. I haven’t given up on them yet, though… we spent a few hours in conversation, including brainstorming on a conference happening here next year that Lea Graham and I might come out for. Ended up, after my hours of research (I found some very cool things) and Clavelle drinks/dinner, doing a 9:30pm brief reading and Q&A session for Cooley’s creative writing class. Some interesting folk, and we even went for drinks after, at that usual Boston Pizza joint that Cooley seems to be so fond of (they’ve had a usual Friday afternoon appointment for years, much like the Bowering etc. Tads/Dads stuff in Vancouver at Shenanigans…). Ended up getting a ride from a fella who said he knew Suknaski and Newlove, back in the Regina days (circa 1980); first cousin of David Arnason (whom I haven’t seen here yet).
Was thinking about that Lea Graham last night, so called; just kept getting her answering machine. She was here in October, and folk like Cooley and Clavelle still talking about her. Even called her from Cooley’s office, with Clavelle right there, and got just the machine. Lots of folk in town I would like to see, not sure if it’ll happen this trip; still have to get in to visit Turnstone Press, CV2 magazine, Charlene Diehl-Jones in the writers festival office. Alison Calder is here somewhere, on-campus; she had the most magnificent poem in the most recent issue of Open Letter; I’m accidentally over a dozen pages into a critical piece responding to her poem that I think I’m going to put out in my issue of Open Letter (scheduled for 2008, at this point). Karen Press and Adam Levin live in this town now; Catherine Hunter is around here too, but haven’t seen her in some time; she keeps telling me I look like her brother Rocky (Rockafeller). Every time I see her, I lose hours rapt in conversation, the most recent time being that League of Canadian Poets AGM back in Montreal, what, three years ago?
Where does the time go…
Realizing that there’s so much unpublished Suknaski material in here that it reaffirms my consideration that I should just be focusing his new and selected on published work; there’s far too much unpublished to simply put on the side. It could easily be its own separate project(s). Here’s an Andrew Suknaski poem included in St. John’s Report, August 17, 1979, with an uncredited article on prairie writing, Greg and George Melnyk, etcetera.
to put aside what you came to
leaving all else
time to unsaddle
this lame horse ridden
into ancestral dust
and cease living like an Indian
time to do things with the hands
working all seasons
and three weeks vacation
time to tie this dream horse to a star
Going through old Sukasnki Elfin Plot issues and Deodor Shadow books he produced, including one called Carbon Copies by Barry McKinnon; the bio mentions too, The Cat Poems of McKinnon’s but a few weeks old from Ganglia/Gronk. Howcum he never mentions these things? It’s fun to see such early work by writers one admires, to remember how young they were, attempting all of these strange things…
Tour notes, day twenty-second; November 22, Winnipeg MB
The reading last night was a lot of fun; Ariel Gordon is taller than I would have expected, from reading her blog. A wonderful energy from her. Good to finally hear both her and Karen Clavelle read, after knowing their work only on paper. My last actual reading on this whole tour thing; what am I supposed to do now? A few days with Andy Weaver doing foolish things, perhaps. Attempted to contact a cousin in Toronto to see what she’s doing this weekend, but nothing yet.
Heard the best phrase last night: “hang a beating off him.” Who says things like that? Magnificent.
Ariel Gordon read some poems abt being pregnant, and apparently a chapbook of such appearing next year with old pal Palimpsest Press; Clavelle read her Mother Goose pieces. There will be a chapbook of hers someday, I swear...
Today my last full Winnipeg day; was hoping to get to Prairie Fire, Turnstone Press and such, but thinking I just don’t have the time; have to spend the day researching. Meeting Cooley on campus at 11:30 or so first…
And tomorrow the 300,000 hour train to Toronto; get on in Winnipeg around noon, and arrive the next day around midnight. Geez...
So worried about working the archival stuff on Suknaski, was forced to say no to a few things, including reading to a couple of Clavelle’s classes at the University, and Ariel Gordon’s kind offer to make me lunch at her house; if I only had one more day I could have done it all. Brief lunch with Cooley before heading into the archive, and found out (from him) that poet Jan Horner works in the library. Spent a while finding her and left her a phone message, and she even came to visit for a few minutes as I worked. I remember having a very good conversation with her after I read at the Winnipeg writers festival back in 1998; some kind, generous comments she had made about my reading, and I remember liking her second poetry collection, then recently new from Turnstone; apparently she’s working on a third; apparently (according to Cooley) she has some great poems in the most recent issue of Prairie Fire. An email thismorning, Karen Press an apology for missing me last night, wondering what the rest of me is doing? I also wonder the same; should be completely here working, can’t imagine anything else. Asking if maybe an evening of drinks? Horner asked same; god knows. One plan at a time... Apparently Cooley a breakfast before train that might include Kroetsch, if we can find him…
Also, wondering whatever happened to Winnipeg writer Todd Bruce? Was a student round these parts same time as Rob Budde and Mark Libin; had a fantastic first poetry collection moons and moons ago, and then a second that was still good, but not as great. Apparently (finally) a chapbook forthcoming from Budde’s wink books chapbook series…
In Suknaski’s correspondence, various letters back and forth, including folders on Eli Mandel, John Newlove, Charles Noble, Monty Reid and piles of others. The end of a letter from Newlove (dated 27.vi.1986) writes:
I begin an Ottawa job with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages the middle of July. Well paid. To hell with poetry.God-damned calling card not working today; all these calls I have to return, and can't afford a new one yet. Calls I can't make now until Toronto; why can't everyone just have email?