Category Archives: Canadian Literature

A Green Poetry Project

My friend Bill McCoy lost his wife two years ago after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease, over ten years. I first met the couple through Jean Portugal, and Ann Skein Melvin who was working as the Librarian at The Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto. Jean had been working for many years on her magnum opus — We Were There which was finally published in 1998. Bill edited two of the volumes, and provided valuable proof reading services for the entire project.

Bill and I lost touch for a couple of years, and then we met again after Ann Skein Melvin died. Bill wanted to purchase her volume of poems edited by her husband David Skein Melvin.

Bill and I met with David Clink in mid 2008 and invited him to edit a active anthology of poems discussing the environment and green issues, and hopefully this will be published in 2009. Each poet has been invited to contribute a portfolio of poem or poems occupying eight pages.

Some contributors have backed out and other poets have been added.

The cover and internal illustration will comprise a suite of photographs by Geoffrey James.

Bill plans to dedicate the volume to the memory of is wife Anna.

Green Poetry
An active Anthology edited by David Clink

Dedicated to the memory of Anna McCoy

Sponsored by William McCoy

The environment is in the headlines more and more, with the threat of global warming taking the forefront. This anthology should not only be about this phenomenon, but other issues of the environment, which can include (but not limited to) poems about clear-cutting, pollution, the bee population dimishing, extinct and endangered animals, oil spills, eco-systems, changes to the gulf stream and the ozone layer, man’s encroachment on the wild, nature’s response (Disease, avian flu, SARS). frankenfoods, the introduction of the non indigenous species, migratory patterns shifting, and so on. This list barely scratches the surface!

Contributers: 1.) bill bissett; 2.) Allan Briesmaster; 3.) Jenna Butler 4.) George Elliot Clarke; 5.) Carolyn Clink; 6.) Karen Connelly; 7.) Barry Dempster; 8.) Maureen Scott Harris; 9.) Steven Humphrey 10.) Sandra Kasturi; 11.) Carol Malyon; 12.) Allan Glenn Rose; 13.) Raymond Souster.

I wrote this over a year ago. In the interim, Bill McCoy has passed away. The contributors have shuffled along and I amended the list above. The title has changed at the suggestion of John Robert Colombo. The finished book is now in my hands. I am emptying Bill’s apartment and preparing a presentation for his memorial service which will be announced in a subsequent post.

Life goes on, and alas! we can all look forward to death and taxes!

Here is a picture that I took of Bill on a cement pod, the weekend before Al Purdy’s statue was installed at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Al is installed across the circle from Victoria College, and St. Michael’s College — now is that irony or serendipity? The two of us then had Dim Sum on Baldwin Street and contemplated life.



The Ghost of the Book House

Strange Sounds at Night

I was working late in the Book House last night. It was snowing outside, and the light from its large front windows lent the snow and the shadows of the trees an eerie whiteness in the dark. It was very cold outside, but I was warm inside, with a single space heater that was working overtime.

All was well until I became aware of the sound of muffled tappings from the ceiling above me. I discounted the tappings and continued sorting the series of the four “Macabre Quarto” advertising cards into sets. I sorted one batch of fifty and then started to do the same with the second batch. The tappings persisted and even grew in volume and became more persistent. Had I known the Morse Code, I might have been able to interpret the sounds. All I knew was “S.O.S.” for Save Our Ship and “V” for Victory. But before long the tapping sound was continuous.

I turned the lights down, and when I went outside, I used a flashlight to check the freshly fallen snow for footprints. There were none in the snow that I could spot, human or otherwise. Although outside I could hear no tappings, only the wind, my imagination started to work overtime. What was happening inside? Was there a leak in the roof? That was unlikely because the roof was new and the shingles had just been laid last fall, before the snow, under ideal weather conditions.

Was there, up there, a new nest of some animal or other? A family of raccoons, squirrels, or rats? There were no footprints and there was nor spoor in the snow in the morning, when I walked entirely around the perimeter of the Book House to check. On the roof, the snow appeared to be undisturbed and, more importantly, the eavestroughs and the screens were completely covered in snow.

The next morning the situation remained unchanged. In the light of day I went back in the Book House and I found that all was well. I continued to unpack the boxes of books, one by one. All was quiet; not a soul stirred.

I returned to the Book House after dinner, and all was initially noiseless. But then the tappings resumed. They were exactly the same as they had sounded the previous evening. They were very quiet at first, and then a little louder. The tappings were persistent and suggestive of an unseen hand, some unseen force that was only now manifesting itself. There had to be a natural explanation, I concluded, but up until then I could not come up with it.

What was the cause of the tappings? Was it a ghost? Was it a poltergeist? Was it a shade or a wraith or a spectre? Was it a critter or creature that had lodged between the walls? Was it an eerie being from another dimension trying to communicate with me in some unknown fashion, in some foreign language, Swahili perhaps? Was it the spirit of the books of the fantastic that I was publishing and shelving?

I could not answer these questions but I could come to a conclusion. Then and there I decided that my new Book House was a haunted site. Should I arrange for an exorcism? Should I try to communicate further to find a natural explanation for this unusual phenomenon? Should I
have a colleague visit to see if he could confirm what I heard? And whatever or whoever it is, should I give it a name? Should I call it “BH,” the Ghost of the Book?

Stay tuned! Be sure to read the next thrilling installment of “The Ghost of the Book House”!


Raymond Souster was “Up To Date” in 2007-2008

John Robert Colombo and I escorted Raymond Souster to The 2007 Toronto Book Awards. The ceremony was held at The Toronto Reference Library on Yonge Street just north of Bloor Street. The nominees all met in an area where there were refreshments, and then downstairs for Mayor Miller to make the announcement. Raymond did not win but he came away with a cheque for $1000, and his picture taken with the Mayor. The assembled multitude then adjourned to the refreshments once again, and the three of us met Geoffrey James one of the other nominees. Geoffrey had know and admired Souster’s work for many years, and accepted the offer to creat cover photographs for Souster’s next series of New Poetry volumes. I was much relieved I had travelled around the city of Toronto trying to snap suitable photos to use on the cover, all with a singular lack of success; Donna Dunlop had also taken some pictures, and while they were much better than mine, but they were still a very distant second best to Geoffrey’s offer. I got a complete set of page proofs to Geoffrey as soon as possible, and he noted that a wrap around cover with two French Flaps would have a proportion of 12×5, and what you see below is the result. The four photographs speak for themselves, but I will add captions underneath.


Raymond Souster is “Getting Ahead”

If you are reading Ray’s poetry for the first time, I would like to offer a few lines of alleged insight. You will find two or three new poems per page, but sometimes up to six! Some are similar and the themes – comments on life, war, governments, the homeless, the underdog, the environment, acquaintances, baseball, friends, writing poetry and especially the infirmities old age, and also Mother Nature just outside his side door of his kitchen on Baby Point Road where he sits every day at the age of 87 and writes his poems every day. Some poems in this book were composed in November 2008.

Ray writes with the assistance of a C.N.I.B writing template in successive notebooks. These notebooks are transcribed by Donna Dunlop and passed along to me on disk.

Beware of the charming simplicity of his writing! Don’t look for a double meaning in his writing and certainly don’t try and complicate the message which you will receive with a less than 30 second read of an individual poem.

Read a dozen poems, and I am confident that you will find, as I have found countless times in preparing this collection, that Ray has something to say, and he will influence your thinking with a poem that sneaks up on you with a profundity that will pleasantly surprise you. Contemplate and savour this kernel of wisdom in your mind’s eye for a moment, and then read another dozen or so, and then – the same thing happens once again. — George A. Vanderburgh, Lake Eugenia, December 2008

"Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto" by Geoffrey James

"Mount Pleasant Cemetery" by Geoffrey James

"Chagrin River, Ohio" by Geoffrey James

"Chagrin River, Ohio" by Geoffrey James

"Scarborough Bluffs, G.T.A." by Geoffrey James

"Scarborough Bluffs, G.T.A." by Geoffrey James

"Lane behind Westmoreland Ave., Toronto" by Geoffrey James

"Lane behind Westmoreland Ave., Toronto" by Geoffrey James

The first two volumes appeared in 2008, and the last two appeared in 2009. More details available on the website.


A Visit to Antarctica in 1948

After I completed the publication of his father’s memoirs entitled Memories of China (1910-1932), Dick sat me down and showed me his two photographic scrapbooks and diary that he kept of his visit to Antarctica between 1946 and 1948, we agreed that I would publish it next. Dick’s father had typed out his son’s hand written diary in its entirety as Dick had written it chronologically by date. I was unable to scan this document, and I made contact with a professional typist who performed the job successfully in short order. Dick and his wife Eileen have proof read the first galley, but they are going over it again for typos etc. Dick also had a set of colour transparencies under glass slides which I had transformed in colour photographs which I subsequently scanned for Dick’s captions. Dick is now busy crating an index for his notes that he wrote over sixty years now. And I am busy scanning some of the more interesting pictures which Dick too himself in the Antarctic and developed there as well. One of them will be used on the cover.

After his return from the Antarctic in 1948, Dr. A.R.C. Butson received a call to attend the King, George VI at Buckingham Palace, in London England; and subsequently Dr. Butson received a second call to attend the Queen, Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1972. Dr. Butson had an impressive career as a General Surgeon in Hamilton, and in the Canadian Forces Medical Services. He has served his country well over the years, and now lives in retirement on Hamilton mountain, or on his farm. He has the longest list of post-nominals that I have ever encountered, and it is pleasure and an honour to work with him on this project entitled Young Men in the Antarctic — An Illustrated Doctor’s Diary (1946-1948).


China in the early 20th Century

When I was a younger man I served as a Regimental Medical Officer with the 11th Field Regiment in Guelph and I also went on exercise with 23 Hamilton Medical Company in Hamilton. This unit was commanded by Dr. A.R.C. (Dick) Butson at the time, and that was in the late 1970’s, so imagine my surprise and pleasure when Dick called me after I retired with a publishing project. He wanted to publish his father’s memoirs. I visited Dick and his wife Aileen at their home in Hamilton which is located on the mountain overlooking the city. Dick has a number of his mother’s water colour painting hanging on his wall, and I suggested we include them in the book as a colour suite, as well as using one of the cover. As soon as this project was complete, Dick had a second project for me, but more about this later.

MEMORIES OF CHINA (1910-1932) by Cecil Walter Butson

ISBN 978-1-55246-822-7 Quality Trade Paperback


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Posted by on February 11, 2009 in Canadian Literature


The Spiritual Basis of Musical Harmony

by Graham Jackson

ISBN 978-1-55246-760-2

Graham is doing a fine job of promoting his book himself, and I get the occasional order from around the world and from the USofA.


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Posted by on February 11, 2009 in Canadian Literature