11 October 2012

Montreal & Dave & George & Greg & Jason &tc

When I was a teenager, I wandered into North York Central Library, which was just a few blocks from the alternative school I was attending, and I found on the Canadian poetry shelf a book called Intense Pleasure. It was by a guy named David McFadden. I'd already been writing poetry for six or seven years, and I loved E.E. Cummings and Stephen Crane, and I had apprenticed John Robert Colombo for a while, but McFadden was a revelation: you could write in plain language, and be funny, and be deeply weird, and still tackle serious stuff.

McFadden quickly became my favourite Canadian poet, and it wasn't long before I'd discovered Ron Padgett's Toujours L'Amour and saw that there were American poets doing something very similar. These guys were the most welcome discoveries. They were decades before their time.

I would never have imagined that, 35 years later, I'd be on a train to Montreal to introduce McFadden at Concordia University, where he's reading tomorrow night with George Bowering, as part of an historic event organized by Jason Camlot. The event is called George Bowering & David McFadden: Performing the Spoken Word Archive, and you can read all about it here. It's gonna be a heckuva time. And I'm honoured to be part of it.

Last year, when I nominated Dave for the Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts (he was shortlisted, as he's also been for the Griffin and the GG), I wrote to the committee: "David W. McFadden, now in his sixth decade of writing, is that impossible mixture: he’s not only a people’s poet — writing accessible, enjoyable works — but he’s also a deeply serious writer: in fact, a literary giant. Somehow he manages this without pretension or obscurity, and his readers never need a degree in semiotics or literary theory to derive huge amounts of pleasure from his writing. In fact, David is one of those rare poets whose work appeals not only to poetry lovers, but to those who think they don’t like poetry."

So I'm glad to see Dave getting the kind of recognition Jason has put together. Even better, it's happening alongside his friend of many decades, George Bowering, about whom I could also rave for many pages (and whose startling little book At War with the U.S. I found at the same library the same year).

I'm also excited about this trip because on Saturday night I'm reading at Argo Bookstore with Greg Santos, who, like me, has a poetry book out from Jason Camlot's Punchy Poetry imprint with DC Books. Greg's book, The Emperor's Sofa, is my kind of book. In fact, I wanted to publish it through my own imprint at Mansfield, but I wasn't quick enough on the draw. You can't hesitate with that kind of thing. Anyway, Greg and I are furiously working away on a collaborative poem by email, and I hope we can read it on Saturday.

Over and out.

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