Monday, November 13, 2006


One of the rewards of coming to New Brunswick for me personally was that I was thrown into a minor renaissance of art. Two years after we arrived from the US, Kent Thompson came from the US with his family. As he put it, he could do immediately what he had only dreamed he would ever be able to do, that is, teach creative writing, edit a literary magazine, organize a writers’ group, and publish. His enthusiasm was embraced by some, satirized by others, but for me, it was catching and exciting. In his first year the Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay was writer in residence, and she began to have students come to her apartment to read their work. Soon Kent was going too, and when Dorothy (one of those larger than life individuals – how she got up out of our basement is a story for another post) left, Kent carried on. I had been writing after the kids were put to bed, and Bill told Kent. Kent invited me to come to the writers’ group. I was having so much fun there that Bill decided he would write too so he could come along. Bob Gibbs, then a graduate student/teacher, also a poet, began to attend. A succession of students, townspeople, professors attended from 1967 until 1983.

At that time, chapbook publishers were springing up all over Canada. Here in Fredericton, Professor Fred Cogswell was publishing the Fiddlehead books, but he wasn’t publishing New Brunswickers, so Kent and Bob decided there should be a chapbook series entirely devoted to the poets of the province. They asked me to be the editor. Without any experience in publishing or editing poetry, I took on the job. I consulted Marjory Donaldson, an artist at the UNB art centre, and she got Bruno Bobak, artist in residence and a major Canadian artist, to design a cover. It was simple but strong – at the top a band of colour in which the title would be embedded and at the bottom a drawing by one of the province’s artists. Marjorie silk-screened the colour band. Someone would type the manuscripts, and they were printed offset at the Provincial Artisans, 250 copies. We would have a collating and stapling party at our house. We didn’t need government money. We sold them for sixty cents. Ah, those were good times.

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