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Category Archives: Genre Non Fiction

Visiting Raymond

I enjoyed the John and Ruth’s Colombo’s hospitality last Saturday night, but Sunday was an even more eventful day. John and I drove to High Park to visit a large private library which holds all the core writings and correspondence of Madame H.P. Blavatsky. It was originally assembled before the turn of the century, and moved from London England, to Victoria B.C, and now resides in Toronto. I look forward to looking through a complete run of Lucifer and The Theosophist later this fall. We enjoyed a cup of tea with the present custodian and we both received an inscribed book of her poetry.

We drove along the Greandier pond to visit Raymond Souster at The Grenadier Retirement Residence. Ray was in fine form, and I presented him with his Battered Box Medallion for publishing Millenium Madness (2010) I took the coin out of its acetate sleeve, so Ray could feel the surface of the coin because is blind, and accidently dropped it on his bedside table, it produced a rolling, bobbly, sonorous sound, which was impressive, and I must purposely do that in the future when other coins are presented. The conversation went back and forth between all three of us. Raymond talked of his projects scheduled for publication — Big Smoke Blues and Rags, Bones and Bottles and Not Counting the Cost (2011) and Easy Does It (2011). I discussed James Deahl’s introduction to the former volume, and we also discussed what to use on the cover. We discussed the founding events of The League of Canadian Poets, and these two fellows were two of the founding members. I took a picture of John and Raymond and both photos are included below.

At mid-day John had to get home for a visit with his grandchildren, and I travelled south to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to attend the 2010 Toronto Resource Investment Conference. It was a good conference, and I came away with a bag full of squeeze balls, hats, pens, night lights, water bottles and great USB memory sticks.

Then off to 2010 Toronto Word on the Street at Queen’s Park. I did the rounds, and it was my subjective opinion that attendence was down for the year. I talked with all the usual suspects, gave and received much information, useful only to me, but essentially not gossip. Got a lead for Souster’s covers.

Adjourned to Charles Pachter’s studio on The Grange Avenue and presented him with a Battered Box Medallion for his cover art “Oscar Wilde Moose Kiss,” and passed along one of those USB memory drives. Charles has a busy fall and we discussed new projects in the abstract. Charles is hosting an open house at his Ice House on Lake Simcoe over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Retired to Chinatown for dinner … and home.

 

4 Macabre Poets: Alive or Passed over?

I have a question — in fact four questions. I have been working on the 1947 edition of Macabre Poetry entitled DARK OF THE MOON edited by August Derleth for a new 2012 edition for Arkham House Publishers. One of the items that needed updating was the series of death dates by a number of the authors including Derleth and Wandrei the
founders of Arkham House. There were four authors that I was unable to establish death dates, and it is plausible that a couple are still alive. Can anyone assist me in this quest? The four poets are: Yetza Gillespie, Duane W. Rimel, Harvey Wagner Flink and Coleman Rosenberger. What say you the reader?

 

“Er … what’s up, Auggie?”

Here’s an item from Auggie’s scrapbook it is undated, but the caption reads “Er … what’s up, Auggie!?” and it signed JC Melendez. Melendez was an illustrator at the Disney Studio and also did work on Charlie Brown. There is no record of correspondence under ‘M’ or Melendez in the Archives, nor Disney nor Warner Brothers. The item is undated. Perhaps it was a Christmas Greeting? It certainly is the Bugs Bunny I remember in my youth in the cartoons that accompanied Saturday afternoon at the movie theatre.
 

Mr. Chang and Mr. Rafferty

E.A. Apple created these two characters to run in the pages of Detective Story Magazine (1919-1931) and reprinted in Best Detective Magazine (1933-1936). Mr. Chang is a Fu Man Chu equivalent; Mr. Rafferty is a Raffles equivalent. Mr. Chang has his headquarters in Montreal with a secret entrance, and travels in Eastern Canada to find his victims and accumulate his stolen fortunes in Quebec. Mr. Rafferty has his submarine-only accessible headquarters on an island off the east coast of America. His headquarters is a repository of vast amount of stolen wealth — cash, gold, precious gems and art. I have been gathering these stories together for the past 4 years with the able assistance of the members of the Sacred Six. I even received 3 stories and covers from Norway late last year; these had previously eluded me. Chang and Rafferty clash with lethal methods and wits in a couple of the stories with no definitive outcome, and certainly no Reichenbach Falls. The entire batch is now off to the proof reader, and the series of covers, including the reprints is off to Pat who will design the Dustjackets for the four folio sized volumes each with >400 pages double column format. After all there is 1.3 million words to deal with. You can find a complete bibliography at my web site, and the proposed covers to be retouched on the DJs. I will not supply the link, othereise WordPress will capture the entire series of covers listed there, and that’s alot of Megs to duplicate.

The son (Barny), the granddaughter (Heather) and grandson (Derek) of the author will contribute an introduction based on their memoris of the author, and the entire collection should add a significant brick in the Canadian Pulps Fiction story, since Elmer Albert Apple (not A. E. Apple, that was his pen name, and he also had others) was a Canadian who lived in Toronto.

And so the beat goes on! A dinner tonight with a special Coeliac Disease compatible cake to consume. Dim-Sum in the morning with a poet who spells his words the way they sound without capital letters. Dinner tomorrow night with an author celebrating his 88th birthday with friends, and he will have a new book to contemplate, and all his friends there to ask him to inscribe their copy, and finally a return Monday to the view of the windswept frozen lake, and the fireplace where I am methodically sorting and burning my friend Bill’s papers.

 

Leacock at the Bat

I just received my invitation in the mail to the annual Stephen Leacock Medal Awards Dinner. It is scheduled for June the 12th in Orillia at Geneva Park, and promises to be a worthwhile event. Over the past number of dinners I have prepared pamphlets with content which may be of interest to Leacock Fans, and distributed to each attendee at their place setting for dinner.

   There are presently four in the series: Two Elegies (2005); Random Rhymes (2006); The Shannon and the Chesapeake (2007); and A Scandal in Montreal (2008).

   I took 2009 off as I was simply too busy being retired to prepare one. I had planned to do one discussing the poem “Casey at the Bat.”  Now I’m glad I didn’t get around to it, because I now have new cover art by Charles Pachter.

   Carl Spadoni mentions in his Bibliography of Leacock, that he found an unattributed newspaper clipping from Montreal relating that Leacock had regailed the audience at a dinner speech with his own personalized version of “Casey at the Bat.” It was unclear from the article whether Leacock had recited E.L. Thayer’s version of the poem, or personalized it for Mariposa.

If you google “Casey at the Bat” you find and audio version with De Wolf Hopper reciting the poem, as he did 1,000’s of times in his acting career. I would speculate that Leacock undoubtedly heard Hopper recite the poem, and was inspired to do it himself.

Leacock was not known to play baseball, but he did pay Cricket, both in school and as a young adult.

Shortly after I retired I received a letter from Martin Gardner, of Annotated Alice fame, in which he congratulated me for the publication of The Complete Annotated Father Brown. I called him to discuss the project and compare notes, and he was also interested about republishing a number of his out of print books. One of these was a fourth edition of his The Annotated Casey at the Bat.

It seemed like a natural next step then for me to work on a Mariposa version of “Casey at the Bat” titled “Leacock at the Bat.”

Next, I was working with Charles Pachter, a Toronto pop culture artist, essentially Canada’s Andy Warhol to develop an image of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson, and this project is still very mcuh a work in progress. But in any case during the preliminary conversation, Charles mentioned that he had a cottage studio on Lake Simcoe located  a 20 minute drive from Orillia. I invited him to do an image of Leacock at the bat, but not baseball, but rather cricket, and I attach his creation for your consideration.

During the same visit, I also spotted two other Pachter images in the studio, and obtained permssion to use them as well. The one is for Raymond Souster’s next collection of poetry entitled Big Smoke Blues. The image itself is entitled “Tour de Force.” and it is neat image of a Moose on a tightrope in the shadow of Toronto’s CN Tower. The other is entitled “Bon Echo.” and it is illustrated elsewhere in this blog as the cover for Walt Whitman’s Canada.

So that’s the background, and now, all is left to me to redraft Thayer’s poem change Casey to Leacock, change the other characters to the Mariposa Rogues’ Gallery, and of course change the sport from Baseball to Cricket.

I also plan to include the revised version of Thayer’s poem as well as Martin Gardner’s introduction and footnotes in the pamphlet as well.

As far as 2011 Dinner goes, that’s already allocated — “The Innocence of Stephen Leacock” in which Stephen Leacock meets Father Brown, a pastiche by John Peterson.

A mysterious phenomenon, toward which Professional critics are usually oblivious, recurs constantly in the literary history of the United States. A man or woman, with no special talent for poetry, will put together some apparently run-of-the-mill stanzas and manage to get them printed in a newspaper or magazine. The poem is read and talked about. It is reprinted here and there. People cut it out to carry in a billfold, or pin on a bulletin board, or put under the glass top of a desk, or frame and hang on a wall. Thousands memorize it. Eventually it becomes so well known that it is hard to find a literate person who hasn’t read it. (Martin Gardner in his intrroduction to The Annotated Casey at the Bat)

  Just to recall to your memory I include E.L. Thayer’s originally published version of the poem here:

Casey at the Bat

A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows3 did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;4
They thought if only Casey5 could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn6 preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,7
And the former was a lulu8 and the latter was a cake;9
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;10
And when the dust had lifted, and the men11 saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie12 safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher13 ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.14

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire15 said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.16
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.17

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville18—mighty Casey has struck out.

 

Full Moon Rising

Last Friday travelling East on the Highway 401 from Kitchener to Toronto in the late afternoon I saw a pale moon in a clear light blue sky. It was over-sized, and I had to study it, framed  in the windshield to confirm that it was indeed The moon. There was heavy traffic exiting Toronto, and the setting sun was on my back. Next I noticed illuminated orange, Halloween diamond shaped objects along the side of the road in the distance. As I approached them I confirmed that they were only constuction signs reflecting the setting sun.

   The traffic deteriorated to stop and go as I entered Mississauga, and the sun set. The sky then was a blue colour, the moon had risen a little and somehow shrunk but the white colour was much  brighter, and the face of the moon was apparent. I would have liked to study it, but traffic precluded this activity, and I couldn’t pull off to the side of the road! I kept an eye on the moon as I travelled, and noted that it shone through a number of metal grates of hydro Hydro and wereless towers.

   I turned south at Keele Street, the skyw as a darker blue, and the moon was a brighter white. I stopped and tried to fathom the features of the moon’s face, and alas I needed binoculars —  not in the car!

   The next night Ethel and I were guests for dinner at the Rosedale Lawn and Tennis Club in Toronto. We sat at a window table on the second floor. After dinner, my mind’e eyes remembered the visions of the night before, and I peered out the window to see a bright full moon in the Western sky. This confounded me, wait a minute it should be in the eastern sky! I must have got my directional bearing in the parking lot and coming upstairs on the elevator.

   The day I returned to my cottage at Lake Eugenia which faces east on the lake. After sunset I looked for to moon on the eastern horizon, past full, like the shape of an ellipse, yellow-ochre sitting just above the tree line in a clear sky. No construction signs here, only windswept ice with some snow mobile tracks.

   Why will I remember this? well, the car was full of books, in fact four new publications, and during the days I delivered them to their authors and illustrators. Thesse are the high points for me in publishing books, but that moon in its various disguises certainly contributed colour to the memory.

   Now will that be an English (abab) or Italian (abba) Sonnet? with 14 lines and 14 syllables. The work of another day.

 

Toronto Railways Lands on Souster’s Book

I was first introduced to Raymond Souster in January 2006 by John Robert Colombo. Ray had written alot of unpublished poetry since his “fall from grace” from Oberon Press. John Robert Colombo first introduced Raymond to Oberon in 1969. Raymond was now blind and still living at home with his wife Rosalia. He wrote his poe…ms at the kitchen table with the assitance of a CNIB writing tablet — a thick black piece of cardboard and a spiral bound exercise book which were all carfully numbered and set aside for his Archives at McGill University.

His first series of 3 volumes was entitled “Catching Up,” his second series of 4 volumes “Up To Date,” and his third series of 4 volumes entitled “Getting Ahead.”

The latest single volume of poetry entitled “Millennium Madness” There are over 600 poems with an index.
Raymond style has evolved over the years, but he now predominately write a 20-second poem — a poem of from 2 to 8 short lines. The reader can read a couple and its like rain off a duck’s back, but then the next one is a zinger.
Raymond published and was paid for a poem that appeared in “The Toronto Star” in 1936. It is collected in Volume 1 of the Collected poems published by The Oberon Press. Now this means that Raymong has been published in 9 (that’s nine) decades! If you don’t believe me count them on your fingers — I just did to double check that the figure 9 was correct. Not many authors can make such a claim.

The cover is a wrap around with French flaps featuring “The Toronto Railway Lands” by Geoffrey James. The tall towers are reflected in a mud puddle, and the condo towers are under construction with cranes with a view of the Rogers Centre before it was so named, formerly The Sky Dome I think.

 

Six New Titles in 2010

It’s snowing here today overlooking the ice on Lake Eugenia. Standing on my veranda overlooking the lake I can see some fishing shacks in the channel beside the island. I am holding a fresh, hot mug of coffee in my hands, and many projects at hand to occupy the day. Later in the afternoon I will drive up to the post box where 3 days mail still waits in Post Office Box 50. I am also trying to prepare for a read trip to Sauk City Wisconsin; I am looking forward to the visit very much. Finally I am posting the front covers of the six books that have been published so far in 2010 (and it’s only January) — and time permitting each will require a separate blog post, but maybe not enough time. Yes, a good day lies ahead of me.

Reporter's Notebook -- Volume 11 -- by Vincent Starrett

A Verdant Green: A Florilegium of Poetry for Anna & Bill McCoy

The Greatest Canadian Love Poem and Other Treasures of the Heart by Allan Glenn Rose

Walt Whitman's Canada compiled by C.Greenland & J.R.Colombo

Millennium Madness by Raymond Souster

War Christmas by Dwight Whalen

 

A Verdant Green – A Memorial & Book Launch

A Verdant Green: A Poetry Anthology to Celebrate the Lives of Anna and William McCoy

When? Thursday, March 4th, 2010 — Memorial Service (5:30 p.m.) and The Book Launch (7:00 p.m.)
Where? The Manulife Centre — 44 Charles Street West – Room 3110

Master of Ceremonies: John Robert Colombo

A Verdant Green
A Florilegium of Poetry for Anna & Bill McCoy
Edited by David Livingstone Clink

A florilegium is an unusual but beautiful word for a compilation of passages of poetry. This florilegium consists of poetry inspired by the natural world and the human need to appreciate and preserve life on this planet rather than despoil and destroy it. That need has never been greater than at the present time.
It was with this signal imperative in mind that William McCoy, a Toronto businessman, sought to celebrate the memory of his late wife Anna who deeply loved the world of nature. Alas, Bill himself died in the fall of 2009, before he could realize this dream. But he lived long enough to read many of these poems and to approve of the spirit of this anthology. Suitably, A Verdant Green is appearing bearing a dedication to the memories of Anna and William McCoy.
The general editor is David Livingstone Clink. He has sought out thirteen contemporary poets from across Canada and invited them to contribute from their own work poems that celebrate the world of nature and draw attention to the need for men and women to respect it. The collection is rich in such feelings and insights.
Here are the names of the thirteen contributors: bill bissett, Allan Briesmaster, Jenna Butler, George Elliott Clarke, Carolyn Clink, Karen Connelly, Barry Dempster, Maureen Scott Harris, Stephen Humphrey, Sandra Kasturi, Carolyn Malyon, Allan Glenn Rose and Raymond Souster.
David Livingstone Clink, the compiler, is known for his own sly and innovative poetry and for his work on behalf of fellow poets by organizing readings in the Toronto area and by operating the small-press called Believe Your Own Press.
Geoffrey James has contributed to the project a set of his evocative photographs to enrich the natural beauty of this florilegium and contrast the ravages of man.

Quality Paperback with colour cover, 166 pp. ISBN 13: 978-1-55246-845-6 $20.00

 

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.