Subject: Another slice of Eel Pie
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000 20:44:42 -0400
LAST DAYS OF HIPPIEDOM
After Eel Pie was evacuated, I moved into a boarding house for Irish navvies while I continued to work as a gravedigger & laborer at the Twickenham Cemetery. Got busted in a raid at the 3 Fishes tavern in Kingston for warning everyone the raid was about to happen. Lived on a boat on the Thames for a while, & then attended the first Glastonbury Festival. English John was there living with Arabella Churchill. Irish roots called, & I walked across most of Ireland. Landed in a gorgeous Welsh village named Llangollen in North Wales. Archeologists now believe that Llan, & not Glastonbury, is the site of Camelot, & that the English appropriated the site for their glorification. I lived there for most of a year, with side trips to Balearic Islands. Then roamed around SW England, settling in Portsmouth for a summer. (There's more details on this in "EPD".) People kept asking where I was from, usu assuming London. When I would say originally from Canada, the usu response was, "What are you doing here?" By then the magic had worn off. The hobbits had turned into trolls, unemployment & smoking dope was getting more boring than the "straight" life, & tired of being a street hippie I started feeling homesick for North America. Decided to visit the country of my birth & begged & borrowed enough cash for a flight to Toronto. Canadian immigration wasn't pleased to see me, but they had to let me in as I was born there.
"If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao..."
Was pretty displaced when I landed in Canada (to say the least). Landed in Toronto in Sept., '72, with a garbage bag of stuff my only possessions, hair halfway to my butt & a workingclass accent half Welsh/half Cockney. Started courses at the University of Guelph, but was too confused & isolated after 3 years on the streets to fit in with a bunch of young & naive middleclass Canadian kids who were just leaving home for the first time. Got recruited by a front group for the Canadian Liberation Movement, a Maoist group committed to furthering Canada's liberation from U.S. imperialism. Got involved in organizing a Canadian splinter union to counter the U.S. Steelworkers union in a steel plant I worked in for a year in Guelph after dropping out of school. Lived in Guelph for about 2 years, & then was called up by the "central committee" of the CLM to Toronto to work on the group's newspaper. The group collapsed from internal pressures & the lack of popular support for Maoism around 1975. The '60s were definitely over. In the group met one of Canada's leading poets, People's Poet Milton Acorn.
Returned to Poetry
Encouraged by Acorn as a role model, returned to first love of writing bad poetry. After several years began getting published in small magazines. To eat, worked in the kitchens at Univ. of Toronto, first as a delivery driver, then as kitchen help & cook. Led a union organizing drive around 1977. Almost won, but the company pulled usual dirty tricks & we lost the vote. To get me out of the way, the company sent me to school to complete chef's apprenticeship.
Libraryland / Poetry
Around 1978 I started a monthly poetry reading series at my local library. A buddy had decided to try working as a library tech, & so I decided to try & get hired as a library worker. Got hired by Toronto Public Library in '81 as a desk clerk. Loved the job & wrote lots of pootry & got lots of it published. Had started my own small literary press in '78, Unfinished Monument Press, which is still going, and self-published several chapbooks of poetry reminiscent of the haiku booklets produced at Eel Pie. In 1981 had poetry collection published by bill bissett's very underground blewointmentpress. In 1986 had "major" collection published by Aya (now Mercury) Press. Received semi-prestigious first "Milton Acorn People's Poet Award" for the book.
"Goin' to the country......"
After 6 1/2 years of working for Toronto Public Libraries started getting restless. Oops, forgot I had lived in a housing co-op for 7 years, & had bought a rundown house in '85. The Toronto housing market had gone nuts, & I was able to sell the house & buy another rundown house in an old mining community about 100 miles east of Toronto in the very rural Kawartha Lakes area. This is when I wrote the Eel Pie memoir, "Eel Pie Dharma". The money ran out after a year or so, & unsuccessfully tried to sell real estate (capitalist cop-out). Was hired as village librarian in town I had moved to, Marmora, when I got tired of drinking polluted well water & the septic backing up in my old farmhouse. Got driven out of job by tin-pot mayor of village. Got hired a year later in much more progressive village of Stirling (just north of Belleville on Lake Ontario), where I've worked for past 6 years as the barbarian/librarian. So that's my life history in a nutshell. Never got married or had kids, but have been going out with same woman, Sylvia, for over a decade.
"WHAT A LONG, STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN"