22 Oct

Raymond Souster, 1921–2012

This past Friday, Raymond Souster passed away. I became friends with Ray over the last dozen years of his life. I used to visit him at his home in Baby Point and we would discuss poetry or jazz or baseball, the things he loved. We’d also discuss the West Toronto neighbourhoods we called home. He appreciated that I wrote about the Junction in my poems, just as he wrote about Toronto in his many books. By the time I got to know Ray, his eye-sight was going, but that didn’t stop him from writing. He wrote every day in workbooks and for a while I would type up his manuscripts in my computer so he had a good copy to send to his publishers. He also encouraged me to keep working on my own poetry, and was always very supportive of me as a poet. I was very pleased that Ray was able to see my first book published. When I visited him on his birthday this past January, he bought several copies of my book to give out to his friends. I will always remember Raymond Souster as a kind and benevolent person, a true gentleman. Rest in peace, Ray, and thanks for the long chats and the cups of tea and coffee at your kitchen table.


Unlimited Variations on the Avro Lancaster

for Raymond Souster


That evening in your kitchen you talked of the Hogtown

jazz joints you’d once frequented. The portable radio


propped in the counter’s corner sputtered out all the old

war standards, and now and then you’d pipe up about


this certain piece being performed, the instrument

featured and the player for whom you held such


admiration. For my part, I couldn’t add much, just

ask questions and note down the names of musicians


I should listen to, their Vanguard Records I might

find now on CD. This is how I recall that spring night,


with Duke Ellington crowding the elbow room of your

kitchen table all the way back from the 1960s


stage at Massey Hall, and Bobby Hackett hunched over

in the doorway blowing his horn – a song you’d requested


he play once long ago in the Town Tavern at Queen

and Yonge. Earlier, as I read through your Selected Poems,


I’d glimpsed that past world, caught hold of

Old Toronto between the lines, as it had been


back when streetcars seemed red rockets hurtling across

a gridded universe. And there in the radio’s tinny wake,


the electric kettle counterpoint, a low timpani murmur

in the background, I watched as you picked up a postcard


of a Lancaster bomber from amongst your papers,

a picture that reminded you of an American poet,


a bombardier during the war, who’d returned to the village

in Italy where he’d flown, wept on a stranger’s steps


with his wife, as you did then while telling his account.

The water’s boil soon added its breathy, high-pitched


whistle to the evening’s arrangements and you went

to tend to the tea, while I was left steeped in thoughts


of my best friend’s grandfather who flew in the war –

a tail-gunner in a Lanc who’d kicked out the scratched


Perspex panels of his turret just to see the Messerschmitts

better; and my own grandfather who’d commanded a tank


from Normandy to Apeldoorn, and survived the ordeal,

though he left his final battle wounded, a time bomb inside


him that went off seventeen years later. These things seeped

into the mind as you placed teapot and cups on the table,


sat again with me in the kitchen’s warmth, your bungalow

grown quiet, the radio off and the earth waking up around us.

12 Oct

St. Thomas Poetry Series

I will be reading at the St. Thomas Poetry Series next month, organized by David Kent, and I am very excited about the opportunity to do so. I first happened across the St. Thomas Poetry Series in 1996, when my English professor at the University of Toronto, John Reibetanz, launched a book in the series. That publication, Near Finisterre, is still one of my favourite books, for both the poetry and the wonderfully designed and printed book itself, and I am very pleased that John will also be reading at the event next month. I have attended book launches and readings at St. Thomas’s Church whenever possible over the years, and have enjoyed reading all of the publications that I have collected from the poetry series, especially Richard Greene’s Crossing the Straights and Leif Vaage’s Schooled in Salt. Please join me on November 14th at this wonderful poetry series. Cheers.

* * * *

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
8:00 p.m.

The St. Thomas Poetry Series

St. Thomas’s Church
The Parish Hall
383 Huron Street, Toronto, ON

Please join us for poetry readings by

Carleton Wilson, author of The Material Sublime,

D.S. Martin, author of Poiema,

and John Reibetanz, reading from Common Prayer,
a pamphlet by Jeremy Clarke.

Reception to follow. This is a free event.

This event is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts
and the League of Canadian Poets.

04 Oct

Review: Arc Poetry Magazine

The Material Sublime was reviewed by Abby Paige in Arc Poetry Magazine.

This is the first review I have read of the book (I think there is another one out there, but I haven’t read it). If my work does get reviewed, and it is available online, I will post to it without comment on the particulars of the review itself. And I will post a review whether it is positive, negative, or indifferent. There will obviously be different opinions on any writer’s work, and a negative review, though not especially pleasant, is only one person’s response to your book. The exact same can be said for positive reviews also. As a writer, my goal with respect to reviews, or any critical work on my writing, is to take the middle path, and not put too much weight on either the positive or the negative. I know the weaknesses in my book more intimately than any reviewer ever could. And I probably understand the strengths better too. So the middle path seems most profitable in dealing with this aspect of publishing a book that I am not altogether comfortable with.

04 Oct

Another New Dawn

A confession. I am slightly odd about websites. I start one, then delete it several months later after only several posts. I start a new site and decide to include in it all the design, writing, and publishing activities that I do. I manage to get that together, but then a year or two goes by and I’m bored with that site and decide that it’d be better to separate all my activities and to set up a web site for each of them.  But a few years go by before anything happens because I’m too busy to get three sites off the ground, and when I finally do, I immediately begin to wonder whether I can do the work needed to maintain three sites, when I couldn’t manage dealing with just one before. And the cycle continues. Perhaps not quite viciously, but numbingly.

Well, I’m trying to break that cycle now. I’ve got an established portfolio site for my design work that I’ve been pleased with for a year and a half. I’m happy that I finally feel settled with that site. My portfolio site is here if you want to peruse it. And I have also set up a new website for Junction Books, the micro press I started in 1999. Although the activities of the press have been dormant for a while, apart from the Junction Books imprint I publish with Nightwood Editions, plans are in the works to start new projects over the next year, which is exciting. But as for the website, I am not happy with it at the moment, even though it’s only partially up and running. Changes will be made to it shortly so there’s no sense in going out of the way to link to it.

And regarding the site which you are presently visiting? Well, this is yet another attempt at establishing a site devoted to my own writing and the work and activities which surround my writing. My goal is to try to be as forthright as I can with sharing information about my writing. I am a naturally introverted person, so this is not an easy thing for me to do. I hope you will visit me here when you have the odd moment to spare me, and that you will find something worth returning for.