A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman
Blatantly thieving from those magazines that make clever celebrity connections using six or fewer degrees of separation, I offer some connectible dots representing a wealth of poetic types I know.
Triple-threat writer David Helwig edited my second poetry collection in 1974, when I still resided in N.B. We met only after he moved to PEI.
His partner Judy Gaudet was included in Wayne Wright's 1980 anthology, The Poets of Prince Edward Island (a collector's item), published by Libby Oughton's Ragweed Press, marking my own first appearance in an Island publication.
Brent MacLaine, whose Wind and Root was one of 2000's best début collections, and who co-edited last year's Landmarks anthology for Acorn Press, is the younger brother of Wendell MacLaine, whose own poetry can be found in The Poets of PEI.
Laurie Brinklow, owner of Acorn Press, and an award-winning poet in her own right, refined her editing chops at Ragweed.
Acorn Press is launching Dianne Hicks Morrow's first book of poetry, Long Reach Home, on April 25th. Dianne attended UNB when I did, but our paths never crossed...until PEI.
Laurie, who also works for the Institute of Island Studies, is a sometime colleague of Catherine Matthews, poet and a Secret Swarm founder (and editor of Ragweed's New Poets of PEI, 1980-1990), along with John MacKenzie, whose Sledgehammer was another superb poetry début, published by B.C.'s Polestar Press, one of whose editing luminaries is Lynn Henry, another Secret Swarmer.
Dianne, Laurie, and Judy participated in CBC's Live Poets Society broadcast last summer, previous versions of which featured, among others, Ms Matthews, Messrs MacKenzie and MacLaine, Richard Lemm, and John Smith.
John Smith (also published by Ragweed) was all but a stranger to me until we gave a joint reading at Mt. A. in the early 1980s, where I discovered that he was not only a wonderful poet but a masterly performer. His work was most recently published in Landmarks.
Hugh MacDonald, Landmarks co-editor with Brent MacLaine, met his own poetry publisher, Marty Gervais of Ontario's Black Moss Press, at a Milton Acorn Festival on PEI.
Richard Lemm, a chum of John Smith's, who once worked at Ragweed and with the Acorn Festival, did his Ph.D. on Irving Layton, one of Canada's finest poets of the 20th century, to whom I was introduced by Seymour Mayne, a University of Ottawa academic and poet who came to be involved in Richard's scholarly endeavours. I first met the subject of Dr. Lemm's Milton Acorn: In Love and Anger at the Blue Mountain Poetry Festival in Collingwood, Ontario.
Two of Milton Acorn's den mothers were Ragweed's Libby Oughton and the artist Hilda Woolnough. Hilda and her partner, the late writer and publisher Réshard Gool, were the only Islanders I knew before 1979, excepting Ron Irving, who, in 1990, as director of Theatre PEI, brought my book Shaping the Flame: Imagining Wallenberg to the stage.
Réshard organized a now legendary reading at the Rustico Legion (attended by Milton Acorn), which featured Greg Cook, from N.S. and N.B., also a Landmarks poet, who is writing a memoir about the late Alden Nowlan.
Poet Frank Ledwell's new son-in-law, artist Stephen MacInnis, provided the cover images for Shaping the Flame and for Richard Lemm's Four Ways of Dealing With Bullies. Frank, whose poet daughter Jane is in Landmarks (she's profiled a number of writers for The Buzz), also attended UNB, and is published by Acorn Press.
Another UNB grad, Brian Bartlett, who reads here for The Reading Well Bookstore on April 18th, teaches in Halifax but is a Frederictonian I first met at a school poetry reading I gave with Alden Nowlan, who was once almost involved in a TV project being developed by David Helwig, when David worked at the CBC.
Okay, so the lines are being stretched, but April is National Poetry Month-make a connection.