Funny thing, and I hope this doesn't hurt any feelings. Just a point I think needs to be made.
About 15 years ago, I quit doing my hour-long, bi-weekly gospel/doo-wop radio show, "The Upper Room with Brother Stu," at York University's CHRY. It was a volunteer gig I'd been doing for about four years. I gave them my notice and they confirmed the date of my final show so that something else could be put into that slot, but they never thanked me. The volunteer coordinator, the station manager, nobody. Nobody said, "Thanks for your four years of volunteer work here."
I miss doing the radio show, because it really was a blast. I liked spinning my black vinyl black gospel of the 1940s and 1950s.
More recently, on July 19, I sent a note to my editor and publisher at Word that I wouldn't be continuing with my Hunkamooga column, after about four years of volunteer contributions. Now, when I'd broached the possibility of quitting a couple months back, Word's publisher did express appreciation for all my work, in the context of trying to get me to reconsider.
But now that I've actually quit, not a word on the topic. Here's what I'd have written me: "We're sorry to see you go. Thanks for all your good work over the years."
My suspicion is this: Word is run by people who are in the small press for the love of it -- no one's making any money off this thing. I don't think they're ungrateful, but maybe they're just so busy trying to keep things going, it simply didn't occur to them to thank me.
On the subject of thanks, here's another thing that's been bugging me for a while. Last May, I think it was, I invited some Ottawa writer friends to Toronto to do a reading in my irregular Kat Biscuits! series at Yammy the Cat: Peter Norman, Melanie Little, and Stephen Brockwell, all excellent writers and rare readers in this city. Although the previous three Kat Biscuit! events were standing-room only (about 30 or 40 people), I wanted to match them up with a local writer, a) to let our visitors see some local talent, and b) to ensure an audience. I try to book local people who just about never do readings: I asked Sharon Harris, who I knew was wrapping up her first major poetry manuscript, who had just had a chapbook out from BookThug, and who is a tireless documenter of Toronto poetry events on her iloveyougalleries.com website. Out of the goodness of her very big heart, and presumably out of a love for the Toronto poetry community, she has photographed dozens of events over the past several years, archiving them on her site.
So what happens when someone gives so much to a community and asks for nothing in return? Well, we had an audience of maybe six. I think two of them came specifically to hear Sharon (one of them was Word's editor, by the way). Where were all the self-satisfied Lexiconjurers? Where were all the people who are always so happy to have their photos appear on Sharon's website?
The bottom line is this: they should have been there. And not just because Sharon has given so much to the community, but because she's a really good writer and she was giving one of her first-ever feature readings. And because we had three visitors from Ottawa who deserved our interest.
That said, the four writers were very gracious and had no complaints, gave good readings and said they enjoyed themselves, and the small audience that was there had a very good time. I'm the only one griping about this.
I've got a couple friends coming in from England in September, and I promised them long ago that I'd organize a reading for them. I'm going to go through with it, but frankly, I'm very scared that no one will show up.
Over and out.