Interview with Canadian poet David McFadden and artist Merlin Homer, conducted on October 12, 2012 at 10am.

The interview took place at Concordia University in the Library Building's Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. The interviewer was Jason Camlot, the principal investigator in the project and an associate professor in the department of English at Concordia.  Ashley Clarkson a graduate student in the department of History took care of the audio-visual aspects of the interview. The interview covers David's life as a Canadian poet and what this title meant to him in the past as well as in the present. David discusses the difference of hearing poetry read out loud as opposed to being read off the page and the significance behind it.

Jason Camlot

00:00:01.29

October 12th, the day after David McFadden's birthday (laughing)

Ashley Clarkson

00:00:21.51

Happy Birthday

Merlin Homer

00:01:16.44

Make sure everything you need checked is checked.

Jason Camlot

00:01:22.85

Great

Jason Camlot

00:01:40.16

So working with audio, I work a lot with sound recordings from the 1890s up until the 1930s, and one thing that is difficult to work with as a research material is often there is no context given for what those recording are. So you have no sense of when these were made, who was there etc. So for an interview like this, which is an official oral history interview, we will begin by announcing the date, the place and who is in the room. Everyone will speak who is in the room so it is...do you want to do it Ashley?

Ashley Clarkson

00:02:16.19

Yeah sure, so it is October 12th 2012, Interviewers Ashley Clarkson and Jason Camlot. Interviewees David McFadden and Merlin...

Merlin Homer

00:02:31.08

Homer

Ashley Clarkson

00:02:31.08

Interview begins

Jason Camlot

00:02:39.65

and we are in the 10th floor of the Hall Building at Concordia University in Quebec Canada

Jason Camlot

00:02:46.16

So I thought we would just start with some really general questions about how you came to become a poet and how you became interested in poetry?

David McFadden

00:02:57.01

Jeez, that's a tough one! (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:03:00.68

I'm sure (laughing) It is a big one, perhaps too big

David McFadden

00:03:02.94

I don't know...I think it was, I guess it was something to do with Jack Kerouac in those days. I just took off from there I think, he just touched me so how

Jason Camlot

00:03:22.67

So reading Kerouac? or...because Kerouac made some recordings of his poetry as well with Jazz music and stuff did you ever hear those?

David McFadden

00:03:29.67

Oh yeah, yes I did, mhmm yeah. Umm...

Jason Camlot

00:03:40.71

Well was it Kerouac in particular that made you feel that you could do this?

David McFadden

00:03:45.14

No idea, I have no idea, it just touched my heart (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:03:45.48

And so do you remember listening to Kerouac read his poetry on the sound recordings?

David McFadden

00:03:58.23

Oh yeah, lots of that and um, a lot of Ginsburg too

Jason Camlot

00:04:06.37

Really the main focus of the discussion will eventually be on reading poetry out loud as well as writing it and I wonder if you remember the and early time or a first time where you heard poetry read out loud?

David McFadden

00:04:25.65

Yes, Yes! Grade 5. Um...we had a teacher who was sitting on his desk and um talking about the squirrels in his backyard and he was just a wacky guy and um, at one point he decided to make a...I am having some problems as you know.

Jason Camlot

00:05:17.79

Yeah take your time, take your time

David McFadden

00:05:17.79

One day he decided to read to us, um...(whispers to Merlin)

Merlin Homer

00:05:28.97

Death of the Hired Man

David McFadden

00:05:29.04

Yes Death of the Hired Man, that's right Death of the Hired Man. He read this wonderfully long poem by...(turns to Merlin) what's his name?

Merlin Homer

00:05:36.76

Robert Frost (laughing)

David McFadden

00:05:40.12

Robert Frost....*Boing* (laughing and making gesture of losing his mind)

Merlin Homer

00:05:42.14

It's a killer because it is actually the names of things and especially proper names that get him.

Jason Camlot

00:05:51.83

Well don't worry about it.

David McFadden

00:05:55.89

Yeah so I was just thrilled. I thought oh my God! This is it! (laughing) I want to be a poet!

Jason Camlot

00:06:03.73

So grade five teacher reading Robert Frost?

David McFadden

00:06:05.05

There were about forty-five kids in the class and I am sure I am the only one who sort of caught on! (laughing) for some reason...!

Jason Camlot

00:06:19.66

Do you remember the way he read it?

David McFadden

00:06:19.66

Yeah, he read it really well...yeah he did.

Jason Camlot

00:06:20.31

And where was this? Where did you go to Elementary school?

David McFadden

00:06:28.99

This was in W.H. Ballard School in Hamilton, Ontario

Jason Camlot

00:06:38.65

So what I have read when other poets have been asked about their first experiences with poetry or hearing poetry it is often in their elementary classroom.

David McFadden

00:06:48.93

Oh is that right?

Jason Camlot

00:06:51.02

Yes, Irving Layton tells the story about his elementary school teacher reading a Tennyson poem and that sort of was sweeping him up and inspiring him now.

Jason Camlot

00:07:05.72

I think there was a way poetry was taught, I think before maybe 1960 or the fifties, I imagine you were in elementary school in the...

Merlin Homer

00:07:16.16

In the forties.

Jason Camlot

00:07:16.16

In the forties yeah. It seemed reading was a big part of teaching poetry, reading out loud and it became less so for a few decades. Then in the sixties poetry readings seemed to become important again as a thing that people did and as a way poetry well was communicated to audiences. Well I wonder, moving from the elementary school experience of listening to poetry read if you could, if any experience from reading poetry out loud later in life, because you obviously did a lot of readings from the sixties on I imagine and also for better or for worse were subject to have to listen to other poets reading as well (laughing). Are there any readings you remember from the period of this recording are from, from the sixties or contemporaries of yours giving really good readings or really awful readings?

David McFadden

00:08:37.43

Well, to start off, it was in the forties the elementary school thing and I just sort of didn't pay much attention to poetry after that until about grade 10 I think. I started to write poetry all of a sudden, I don't know why but I did. I wrote some silly doggerel poetry and I liked it and I started working on it a little bit more and a little bit more.

Jason Camlot

00:09:18.47

Do you remember if you were imitating anyone in particular when you started writing in grade 10? Where was the voice from in grade 10?

David McFadden

00:09:34.13

I think it was before I had gotten interested in Kerouac. I think I got interested in Kerouac the following year.

Jason Camlot

00:09:57.94

Do you remember the subject matter of the earliest poems in grade 10?

David McFadden

00:10:08.12

I think they were sort of imitations of Kerouac to a certain extent anyway?

Jason Camlot

00:10:19.02

Did you admit that you were writing poetry to any of your peers in grade 10? Were you reading your poems to people at that age?

David McFadden

00:10:25.45

Well I started telling people I was writing poetry at that age and they would say like "oh God". So I just stopped, I didn't stop writing but I stopped telling people.

Jason Camlot

00:10:43.31

Do you remember when you first read in front of an audience?

David McFadden

00:10:43.31

Hmm, jeez that’s a tough one. Yes, yes yes, it was a circle group in Hamilton and there must have been about thirty poets all in a circle and that was the first time, everyone had a little poem to read and it was very silly (laughing) but I loved it.

Jason Camlot

00:11:27.47

So it was like a poem sharing circle? Where you just shared and went around the circle?

David McFadden

00:11:27.47

Yeah something like that.

Jason Camlot

00:11:29.65

Do you remember any of the other people who were there before you got into the circle? or were they all strangers?

David McFadden

00:11:41.29

The were all strangers except for one elderly fellow who was fairly well-known as a poet and I can't remember what his name was now...hmm

Jason Camlot

00:12:01.74

Had you already been publishing poetry before you entered that circle group?

David McFadden

00:12:13.66

I think I was just on the cusp.

Jason Camlot

00:12:14.62

Do you remember the experience of your first publication?

David McFadden

00:12:20.65

Hmm, I think it was around this time. I can't actually remember it.

Jason Camlot

00:12:27.54

Was this around the end of high school?

Merlin Homer

00:12:34.65

Can I tell you something? Something I think you'd love to know?

Jason Camlot

00:12:36.64

Yeah

Merlin Homer

00:12:36.74

When David was in high school he was editing the school newspaper and he was sticking poems he had written into the newspaper (laughing) and apparently they were awesome. We went to a dinner honoring several other people at his high school, which is in the east end of Hamilton Ontario, so the fact that they have illustrious graduates is very important to them.

Merlin Homer

00:13:00.42

And um, every single person that was honored seemed to get up and say that they remembered David and they remembered David's poems. They remember that they would be reading that the cheerleaders had their fundraiser and then there would be this amazing line of poetry at the bottom y'know? Like...somewhere children are crying (laughing) something like that

Jason Camlot

00:13:00.42

Yeah

Unknown

00:13:14.26

Group Laughter

Merlin Homer

00:13:30.09

One of the guys who was receiving an honour for being important in Theatre had actually been David's French teacher and he receiving his honour said that when David walked into the room the first time he saw him he said "Bonjour Monseiur Le Poet"

David McFadden

00:13:46.26

Oh yeah! (laughing) I was thrilled! In French too (group laughter)

Jason Camlot

00:13:54.71

So you were publishing your poetry in high school in your role as editor of the newspaper and you worked for newspapers for years afterwards. How did your newspaper work relate to your poetry writing or did it?

David McFadden

00:14:19.64

It didn't do any poetry when I was doing it.

Merlin Homer

00:14:22.24

Yes you did.

David McFadden

00:14:22.34

did I?

Merlin Homer

00:14:22.38

Of course for years you worked in the big newspaper and also wrote poetry .

David McFadden

00:14:33.67

Did I? No kidding? You mean I would write all day long in the office and then go home and write more?

Merlin Homer

00:14:41.19

Well when was the Great Canadian Sonnet published? I think it was in 78 or...

Jason Camlot

00:14:42.51

Oh yeah it was well before 78 for sure.

David McFadden

00:14:50.27

Oh...Oh well!

Jason Camlot

00:14:56.82

Yes you see this is one of the books of The Great Canadian Sonnet this is part two (picks up small sonnet book on table). That came out and it came out...around 1970. Right around the year you were giving the reading that is why we brought it.

Merlin Homer

00:15:17.37

We brought a copy of the whole thing.

Jason Camlot

00:15:17.37

Oh fantastic, yeah.

David McFadden

00:15:23.48

Authorized for use in Ontario schools. Concordia University libraries...wow...fabulous. (looks through sonnet book)

Jason Camlot

00:15:35.38

I wonder if you, if you remember much about coming to Montreal that time in 1970 for that reading?

David McFadden

00:15:49.13

Hmm, give me a hint.

Jason Camlot

00:15:54.00

Yeah so the reading was in 1971 and it was David McFadden reading alongside Gerry Gilburg and um, I can play you a little bit at the beginning because George Bowering introduced you. When we were talking last night you said that it was very strange because you recognized yourself but you didn't necessarily know where that poetry had come from (laughing). It was in Montreal, at Sir George Williams University and (plays clip)

Jason Camlot

00:16:45.23

That is George Bowering introducing you:

Unknown

00:16:53.58

Clip Plays

Jason Camlot

00:17:02.20

I am going to stop there for a second, so George describes it that you were just going to read your poems back and forth or something. I am not sure--do you have any memory of doing that reading? or being on stage with Gerry Gilbert?

David McFadden

00:17:18.98

It is very very dim...

Jason Camlot

00:17:21.21

Yeah, Yeah it was a very long time ago I am sure. Um, I am going to play a little bit more. Maybe just a little clip from one of the poems:

Unknown

00:17:44.47

Clip Begins of David reading poetry

Unknown

00:17:59.11

Group laughter

Unknown

00:19:53.24

Clip ends

David McFadden

00:20:01.30

Wow, now that's not my mother and that's not me.

Jason Camlot

00:20:11.66

No it isn't your story, but you step into that voice quite convincingly.

David McFadden

00:20:23.67

I met the kid who told me that story and I just made it up after that. I won't mention his name (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:20:26.11

What do you think about that reading? I mean hearing yourself read at a poetry reading?

David McFadden

00:20:32.40

I didn't think very much of it at the time, but right now it sounds pretty good! (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:20:33.48

What do you think um, when you're reading and you're still, I mean you read in Montreal not too long ago when you were launching this book, Why are you so Sad and something happens to you when you get on stage and you give a reading. You really seem to get into a zone, you said that's not me, but it is you in a way. You assume the voice of the poems you write so convincingly. I am just interested in hearing your opinions about poetry readings in general and also about y’know how you give about giving the poetry reading? Do you prepare a lot or do you just find your way into it?

David McFadden

00:20:36.68

I think...probably...I do not prepare very much. It kind of ruins it for me

Jason Camlot

00:21:50.79

So you are sort of discovering the poem as you are reading it on stage?

David McFadden

00:21:54.07

Yeah, yeah it is like that.

Jason Camlot

00:21:55.06

Do you often select the pieces you are going to read in advance?

David McFadden

00:22:05.84

Oh yeah, sure I do that.

Jason Camlot

00:22:09.41

I mean what is interesting about, one of the interesting things about this recording where you are reading alongside Gerry Gilbert is um, one wonders whether he would read a poem and then that would have an impact on what you would choose to read next right? Because he is having one effect on the audience having read that piece and so then you would choose another? So, but I guess it is hard to remember so far back what the experience reading alongside Gerry Gilbert was like.

David McFadden

00:22:44.53

Well I did read all those, I mean I listened to all those when they came across the other day and it was pretty interesting.

Jason Camlot

00:22:57.82

What can you say, if you can offer an account or describe to someone else what you had just heard right? I heard a recording of myself David McFadden reading in 1971 and it sounded like. What is it that you heard when you listened to it?

David McFadden

00:23:14.69

I was just...I just couldn't believe it. It was just so amazing. I had lost all my memories of that particular series of readings, I didn't even know that those existed so it was so strange to hear it coming out. I knew it was me, but where did it come from? It was very strange!

Jason Camlot

00:23:51.73

And when we were just listening to it the first poem that you read you were laughing a lot. So humor seems to be an important part of how you deliver the poems.

Jason Camlot

00:24:04.21

I would be interested in hearing a bit more about, if possible, about what your experience, I mean what you like about hearing poems read out loud? What do they do for you? Why do you think we like to listen to poetry being read out loud?

David McFadden

00:24:36.78

I don't know...what do you think? I don't know how to express that. I mean you just write it. Some of it you like and some of it you don't like. It is hard to say.

Jason Camlot

00:24:58.43

Yeah, well what do you think in your experience is the difference between reading a poem from a book lets say and hearing a poet up on stage reading it. Is it a difference experience? or is it all part of the same thing?

David McFadden

00:25:18.99

Yeah...hmm that's a good one. Well I like to read books and y'know I like to listen to mmm I think maybe I prefer to read books to be truthful about it. To see a guy up there reciting...and even if it is me (laughing) I think well...y'know it just goes by so fast, but if I am reading it I can slow it down a bit and it is a little more interesting that way.

Jason Camlot

00:26:00.02

That's really interesting, we really have more control over the poem on the page for example, we can reread along one hundred times before we move on to the next one while in a performance we are subject to the timing of the reader. Yeah umm it's funny when there is this guy up there, I mean one of thing you do have when hearing a poet read their own work is seeing the poet who wrote the poem up there and hearing their voice. You think the voice, I mean there is the voice of the poem, when speaking in character and then there is the voice of the poet who is reciting, do you think the reading voice is y'know what impact does that have on your experience of the poem? That is one thing you do get when you hear someone read poetry that you can imagine it when you are reading the book, but you are not having it delivered exactly. I am being long winded, but I am really asking a question about what you opinion is about hearing the poets live voice. How does that affect the poem that is being read?

David McFadden

00:27:22.80

Jeez, (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:27:25.87

It is a complicated question maybe.

David McFadden

00:27:27.74

That's a good question! I don't know...it's just…hmm

Jason Camlot

00:27:35.42

You mentioned Allan Ginsberg before and having listened to Ginsberg recordings. I mean you can read Howl and you can read America you know those poems. Yet it is not quite the same as having them read those poems. So I wonder what is it in certain poets and hearing their voice, how does it help them communicate their poetry?

David McFadden

00:28:07.67

I don't know, you know I spent a couple of days with Allan Ginsberg in Hamilton when he was at McMaster. You know we got along really well, we had a terrific time and umm I can still, I mean he is long dead now and I can still hear his voice, yes I know exactly what he'd be saying right now.

Jason Camlot

00:28:41.25

Do you remember what he did when he visited you?

David McFadden

00:28:44.37

Well he was, he was…umm he was doing stuff at McMaster and he wad over at the hotel and he had a room there and I went up with him and we just spent a hell of a lot of time up there. We just had a great time.

Jason Camlot

00:29:07.86

Did you read poetry?

David McFadden

00:29:08.30

Umm, I think. I think he read a lot of poetry to me! (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:29:19.35

That's great.

David McFadden

00:29:22.05

And we talked a lot

Jason Camlot

00:29:24.85

About poetry and life?

David McFadden

00:29:28.00

Yeah

Jason Camlot

00:29:29.55

What was he like?

David McFadden

00:29:32.40

At that phase of his life he was really, really nice a really good guy

Jason Camlot

00:29:42.78

Did he give a reading at McMaster while he was there?

David McFadden

00:29:44.30

Yeah, he wasn't so happy there. Yet we got along really well

Jason Camlot

00:29:52.40

What other poets do you remember from around that period that you had conversations with and shared work with? I mean we have George in town so I assume he is one?

David McFadden

00:30:10.90

Oh yeah, George of course yeah. George was a great guy. There was Irving Layton he showed up now and again. Milton Acorn, he came to my house one day. I was still living with my mum and dad and Milton came and I mean I invited him. My dad looked at him and my dad had a cigar in his pocket and Milton just went up to him and took the cigar right out of his pocket and put it in his own mouth and started smoking it. Later when he went home I said, "what did you think of Milton Acorn dad?" and he said very strange guy

Unknown

00:31:27.35

Group Laughter

Jason Camlot

00:31:28.39

He was a generous guy your father just to call him strange.

Jason Camlot

00:31:35.25

Was your father aware that you were writing poetry? Did you ever read your poetry to your folks?

David McFadden

00:31:35.90

I don't think I did. No. He knew I was writing it, but he didn't want to know what I was writing about.

Jason Camlot

00:31:50.65

What did you dad do for a living? He worked at Stucco he was a clerical worker and he is 98 years old now and still going strong.

Jason Camlot

00:32:11.86

So Irving Layton you mentioned and Milton Acorn. What would the poets do when they hung out together?

David McFadden

00:32:25.51

(laughing) In those days! We were pretty stupid I think, most of us, it seems to me that way anyway.

David McFadden

00:32:50.11

Let me think...it seemed like we had an awful lot of, huge audiences in that era.

Jason Camlot

00:33:04.10

I can confirm that based on student newspaper articles about this series. They said that they had hundreds of people at each reading, which is kind of amazing to think about now. So the poetry readings were obviously and an important thing at that time and people were interested in going to them. Um, why, I mean there was something special about the poetry reading in the sixties and seventies again...it was an event. It was about the poetry but it seemed to be y'know? Maybe we can try to build on that, why were there so many people at these poetry readings? What were the poets doing at them that attracted?

David McFadden

00:33:49.85

I think I can answer that. There weren't very many poets in those days and um we got to the point where a lot of people started to write poetry and read poetry and talk about poetry. Then is sort of like diluted and it wasn't as interesting after awhile.

Jason Camlot

00:34:26.08

Right

David McFadden

00:34:27.80

it seems to me

Jason Camlot

00:34:29.96

So early on where there were fewer poets it was a kind of a special thing

David McFadden

00:34:34.52

Yeah

Jason Camlot

00:34:34.52

So it would attract more people, yeah

David McFadden

00:34:36.81

Nicely put

Jason Camlot

00:34:38.78

What did it mean then to be a poet in that pre-diluted period?

David McFadden

00:34:42.58

Wow he's a poet! (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:34:44.55

No but what did it mean to say he is a poet or he is a...

David McFadden

00:34:53.29

Far out I would like to be a poet too!

Jason Camlot

00:34:58.73

What did it mean to be a poet in Canada? That is another question that comes to mind listening to this series. You have American poets reading you have Canadian poets reading and Montreal poets reading. It is a special time in Canadian literary history right? Where a certain number of Canadian poets are becoming recognized?

Jason Camlot

00:35:16.78

It is not just "he is a poet" what did it mean to say, "he is a Canadian poet"? Did that mean anything?

David McFadden

00:35:25.96

I don't think it means as much anything, as much now. It doesn't really matter if you are Canadian or American or anything.

Jason Camlot

00:35:41.75

Did you think of yourself as a Canadian poet? When you were writing?

David McFadden

00:35:43.40

Oh yes very much so yeah!

Jason Camlot

00:35:45.06

What did that mean to define yourself as a Canadian poet?

David McFadden

00:35:47.66

Well you were even talking about this today (turns to Merlin) or was that yesterday?

Merlin Homer

00:35:56.63

It was some time in the recent past (laughing). Um..

David McFadden

00:36:01.47

You were having some pretty interesting thoughts about that.

Merlin Homer

00:36:02.81

Well I remember...well yeah but they are interviewing you darling (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:36:08.22

Oh but no we are interviewing both of you of course Merlin please share.

Merlin Homer

00:36:12.71

Well I was just thinking, because I am a visual artist and y'know when you look at this (raises the Great Canadian Sonnet book) it is David McFadden and Greg Curnoe. There was quite a clumping of especially in Southern Ontario of visual artists and poets in the wake of the Vietnam debacle in the United Stated where this group of Canadian was really defining themselves as something separate in North America and had great faith in what that meant and I was saying that was a tremendous creative inspiration for people. George would be part of that era too that...I mean there was no Harper then, there was no terrible disillusionment about what it meant to be Canadian (laughing). So it does seem don't you think Jason that in the history of the arts there are times which are especially propitious for something to happen that the people are there and the era is right and the audience is right and suddenly there is a blossoming and it seems like these guys had a moment like that and that they really are something that isn't going to be repeated.

Jason Camlot

00:37:39.46

I think so. I mean it is not just the conditions it is the individuals within the conditions that is a real combination of the two. Yet I think you are right, I think there is something in the historical moment and their Canadianization was also a movement which was defined and there was increasing funding being put in to help the artist and poets to define themselves as something separate as you put it um but at the same time those political events were there to respond to. That is one very interesting thing about the series is that because there are so many American poets, lets say you have Jackson come up and give a performance although it is sort of abstract and performance oriented it is all about the Vietnam War. One sound piece he does just repeats the phrase anti-personnel bombs in different intonations and phonemic patterns and things like that. Yet it really is about, coming back to the size of audience, it really does seem to be about the event as a staging ground for some kind of community that is separate than the formation that lead to the Vietnam War for example.

Jason Camlot

00:39:06.15

So one thing that I hear in these readings is that um, these big audiences coming together, they are there to hear the poet and the poet is a bit of a maestro for organizing a sense of community that they are there together. If you think about it that gives the poet a lot of responsibility and a lot of power as well you know as a way of modeling how we might be able to be together in a community that is somehow different than the world outside. We are in this room now listening to poetry and um...I am talking a lot (laughing). Yeah, but just sort of coming back to what it meant to stand on the stage in front of so many people reading your poems. I mean certainly want to read your work to them, but it seems as Merlin started to say that is meant a lot more then that too. It meant about the historical moment that was going on and y'know these people were there to hear poetry because poetry meant a whole bunch of different things.

Jason Camlot

00:40:24.50

Going back to the Canadian question in the reading that we have that we listened to here the subject matter is so much about just your hometown and the people who live in it and it is very local in a lot of ways. It is about Bob or Joan or whoever it is that you come across and talk to in the bar or something like that, maybe if we can listen to another clip I can find an example of what I am talking about...sorry I am going to take a second to find this...

Ashley Clarkson

00:41:06.89

Um, you mentioned twice how when you were in elementary school how you didn't want to take upon the title of poet and then about with your father you didn't use the title of poet either. I was wondering when you firmly grasped that title as a poet and used it in your identity? When you described yourself to others as a poet like with pride.

David McFadden

00:41:44.79

I don't think I ever did (laughing) I just kept quiet about it as much as I could.

Ashley Clarkson

00:41:55.72

and why was that.

David McFadden

00:41:55.72

I loved to write poetry...but I didn't like to talk about it.

Merlin Homer

00:41:58.11

What about now?

David McFadden

00:42:00.29

Oh well now it is a different story (laughing) yeah...

Jason Camlot

00:42:12.48

I mean there are so many clips I can play, but here is just one example and a very local detail. We are bringing it back to the topic as to what it meant to be a Canadian poet at that time you know?

Unknown

00:42:29.16

Plays clip: Later in the afternoon Joan's parents came by to visit...

Jason Camlot

00:44:34.01

So in a lot of ways you were writing Hamilton and you were writing Hamilton for the rest of the world

Jason Camlot

00:44:48.00

Yeah so in your subject matter do you think that was part of what made you a Canadian poet? That you were writing from your local...

David McFadden

00:44:48.00

(laughing) Yeah I guess so I never thought of that

David McFadden

00:44:59.00

Yeah I think that might be it yes! I don't know.

Jason Camlot

00:45:06.55

So what else do you think it meant to be a Canadian poet? I am just really curious about this question of what it meant to you to be a Canadian poet as compared to just a poet.

David McFadden

00:45:18.41

I can't remember now it seems so long ago and now it is all gone down the drain

Jason Camlot

00:45:30.73

That there is no real identity for a Canadian poet anymore?

David McFadden

00:45:30.93

Yeah I don't think so...maybe, maybe. I don't want to...

Jason Camlot

00:45:44.16

Yeah I agree with you. No I really do think there is a different sense of what it would mean to be a Canadian poet. When Al Purdy reads in the series he opens by saying "when I was young the only one writing at the time was Bliss Carmen so all my earliest poems were imitations of Bliss Carmen" it is kind of a shocking statement in a lot of ways because clearly there were other poets writing in the world then Bliss Carmen. So he is sort of denying European modernism and American modernism (laughing), Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot...but for him Bliss Carmen is the beginning of poetry or the model y'know. So he is sort of presenting himself saying that as a Canadian poet this is where is begins. You mentioned that one of the early influence or poets that made you think about being a poet was Jack Kerouac, who is Canadian from Quebec.

Jason Camlot

00:46:47.88

Oh did you? When you were young you corresponded with Jack Kerouac?

Merlin Homer

00:46:47.88

They corresponded when he was a kid,

David McFadden

00:46:52.87

We wrote back and forth.

Jason Camlot

00:46:58.38

Yeah, do you remember what that exchange meant to you or what you wrote about at all?

David McFadden

00:47:01.06

Um, yeah it was pretty interesting you know I was really thrilled I was getting letters from him and I wrote pretty good letters back and forth. even in one of his books there is a reference about me. Then one day something happened, my father didn't like, I was still a kid, my father didn't like the idea of me messing around with an older guy like Jack Keroac, who wasn't a very nice guy according to my father. So he took one of my...I had a letter from Jack Kerouac that I hadn't seen yet and my dad grabbed it and tore it up. He told me that he didn't want me to see it he didn't want me to be...

Jason Camlot

00:48:35.83

Corresponding with him?

David McFadden

00:48:35.93

Yeah corresponding with him and I don’t know--I must have been about eighteen or something like that and I just felt really really terrible but what could I do.

Jason Camlot

00:48:52.00

So was that the last letter? Did your correspondence end with that scene with your father?

David McFadden

00:48:58.09

Well um, yeah I guess it did. I guess that was the end of it.

Merlin Homer

00:49:21.23

I should have mentioned to you that if David can't get a word you can fill it in.

Jason Camlot

00:49:36.94

Oh ok I am not always great at filling it words (laughing). Um, I just want to look at some of these questions that I had written down. I think we have covered some amazing territory, how are you doing are you feeling ok? Can we keep talking?

Jason Camlot

00:49:46.04

Oh ok great.

David McFadden

00:49:46.04

Oh yeah, yeah.

Jason Camlot

00:49:47.90

Um, so just sort of sticking with the period. That is quite an amazing story you just told, it is an amazing story that you were corresponding with Jack Kerouac but also this confrontation with your father over the significance of that correspondence. So obviously your father had opinions about the world and he knew enough to know who Jack Kerouac was as a writer. I wonder...why do you think, what was it about Jack Kerouac that made him respond so strongly?

David McFadden

00:50:36.12

Well he was pretty famous at that time and I don't know. I guess I had been talking about him a lot saying, "boy this Kerouac is a wonderful guy!" Never dreaming that Dad wouldn't like that idea. Yet I think I made a mistake earlier one, he actually didn't tear the piece up he just put it in a drawer or something like that and I found it a long time later it just happened to show up.

Jason Camlot

00:51:24.81

So he didn't even tell you that he took it?

David McFadden

00:51:27.06

That's right he didn't! He didn't do that and I was wondering how come Kerouac didn't write anymore letters and then one day I found this letter I think it was in my dads drawer. I was looking in his drawer for some reason...I don't know why (laughing) and there it was.

Jason Camlot

00:51:48.85

That's interesting, so he ended the correspondence sort of secretly by taking the letter. Did you...

David McFadden

00:52:00.30

I shouldn't be talking like this because he is still alive (laughing).

Merlin Homer

00:52:05.69

Too many stories like that...

Jason Camlot

00:52:07.47

So you initiated the correspondence with Jack Kerouac I am assuming right? What...How you got up the courage to write a letter to Jack Kerouac

David McFadden

00:52:21.52

I don't think it was courage I think I just thought, "Hey that's be a great thing to do!" (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:52:28.33

Do you still have the letters?

David McFadden

00:52:32.71

Um, I don't think I do...I don't know what happened to them. I am pretty sure I don't have them, I wouldn't know where to find them.

Jason Camlot

00:52:48.34

Some of the other poets you mentioned, I am just going to run through some of names you mentioned of some of the poets that you met up with from time to time in that period because a lot of them were in the series they had read in the series. One of them who was obviously very important in Montreal was Irving Layton um, he was one of the original organizers of the poetry series actually he was writer in residence for quite a few years at the beginning of the series and he read a couple of time. Do you remember meeting Irving?

David McFadden

00:53:23.94

Oh yeah sure.

Jason Camlot

00:53:23.94

What was that like?

David McFadden

00:53:24.04

Um, I liked him. A lot of people didn't...he was a bombastic kind of guy. I attended some of his readings in Hamilton even and he gave a very good reading in Hamilton one night. Um, what can I say about him...um, what can you say about, as Al Purdy once said what can you say about Layton!? (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:54:13.01

When he read in Hamilton was there a big audience do you remember?

David McFadden

00:54:19.28

Oh my, maybe 30 or 40 people.

Jason Camlot

00:54:22.92

Do you remember anything about that reading?

David McFadden

00:54:23.82

It was pretty...it was ok he wasn't...he was just going on a little tour and he stopped off from Hamilton and it was pretty...nothing very much happened (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:54:50.94

I want to keep talking about Irving Layton for a minute if you can indulge me if you don't mind. I can play you a clip of his voice too just to hear what he was like as a reader. When he read in the series he was leaving on some Canada council grant to go write. I think the last person he invited to read was Robert Creeley who he was corresponding to for a very long time and so he brought Creeley up to Montreal and introduced him and then he read about three weeks later and it was sort of like a sort of Creeley/Layton love fest. I am interested because there were so many American poets who read in the series um, so far the poets that you mentioned maybe Kerouac aside, we talked about Milton Acorn, Al Purdy and Irving Layton I wonder if you had much contact as a Canadian poet with some of the American poets who were writing around that time? Some of the poets that came up to Montreal, Creeley I already mentioned...Robert Duncan, Gerome Rothenberg um, Michael McClure these are all Gary Snyder these are some of the American poets who came up to Montreal to read in the series and Allan Ginsburg who you already talked about.

Jason Camlot

00:56:47.55

I am interested to hear what it meant for a Canadian poet to meet and hang out with an American poet. Did that distinction mean anything? Do you remember?

David McFadden

00:57:01.50

I was crazy about John Cage. I used to...(laughing) whenever John Cage, John Cage was giving a lot of concerts in Buffalo and every time I knew and found out he was going to be there, I was about eighteen or nineteen and I was going up there all the time. But I never went up to him or approached him, I was just in the audience that's all.

Jason Camlot

00:57:42.20

What did you like about Cage's performances?

David McFadden

00:57:44.11

I can’t remember now, but I just loved him! I was crazy about him!

Jason Camlot

00:57:55.77

Well I guess the poet who comes closest to Cage who read in the series was Jackson McCloud. He uses a lot of the methods Cage does, he learned a lot from Cage and they fed off from each other as well. That was a very different sort of performance, one would think, from what you do.

David McFadden

00:58:18.84

Yes, yes

Jason Camlot

00:58:20.34

Yeah...

David McFadden

00:58:22.70

It's kind of strange yeah, but that’s the way it went (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:58:26.62

SO you would go to Buffalo because yeah there was a lot of poetry stuff going on in Buffalo and poetry conferences and stuff like that. Were there other American poets that you encountered there?

David McFadden

00:58:40.56

No, No.

Jason Camlot

00:58:42.42

So Cage was the one.

David McFadden

00:58:45.69

I was a loner in those days.

Jason Camlot

00:58:47.51

Do you have other things you wanted to add? That came up for you that you wanted to ask? (Directed at Ashley Clarkson)

Ashley Clarkson

00:59:01.90

I thought it was interesting how you talked about your Canadian identity as a poet and the idea of at the time of these readings poets were seen as...I forget what you said I think you said like really cool guys or something like that...?

David McFadden

00:59:18.78

Yeah (laughing)

Ashley Clarkson

00:59:18.88

So I was just wondering, because when I asked you if you saw yourself as a poet back then and when you really came into your identity as a poet do you think it might have been around there when the idea of being a poet became such a prominent social role?

David McFadden

00:59:40.41

I don't know...I am not sure that I ever really thought of myself as a poet. I think other people would see me as a poet, but I never really thought of myself as a poet I was just an ordinary guy! (laughing)

Merlin Homer

00:59:57.19

The great persona! (laughing) I am going to re-phrase your question Ashley and see if I can get an answer for you

David McFadden

00:59:59.39

Oh… (laughing)

David McFadden

00:59:59.39

That was a pretty good answer! Come on (laughing)

Merlin Homer

01:00:06.37

From a McFadden point of view it was (laughing)

David McFadden

01:00:11.13

Oh well...

Merlin Homer

01:00:11.13

What point in your life was it when people would ask what do you do? What are you would you have said I am a poet.

David McFadden

01:00:21.55

I don't know if there was one.

David McFadden

01:00:29.99

Because there was a point when you stopped working at the newspaper and said "I am going to be a poet full time.”

David McFadden

01:00:35.07

Is that right eh?

Merlin Homer

01:00:35.47

That's what you told me.

David McFadden

01:00:36.60

Hmm...

Merlin Homer

01:00:40.62

Or did you just mean you were going to be a writer full-time?

David McFadden

01:00:43.66

That's probably it yeah

Merlin Homer

01:00:44.91

Was there a point in which you can distinguish between being a writer and being a poet?

David McFadden

01:00:50.42

I think, I was a writer for the newspaper and then I decided I didn't want to be a newspaper writer I wanted to be a writer.

Merlin Homer

01:01:08.47

and at any point did it change to that you wanted to be a poet writer? Or was it always just a writer?

David McFadden

01:01:08.57

Hmm...

Merlin Homer

01:01:10.87

Cause he has written a lot of travel books and things too

David McFadden

01:01:13.29

Yeah a real lot

Ashley Clarkson

01:01:16.09

Did that all go into you poetry as well? That you'd use in your writing? Coming from a Journalistic point of view, I mean in journalism it has to do with getting the local point across. I noticed in your poetry it tend to deal with people, place and events. So did you really use a lot of that background you had when you were writing your poetry?

David McFadden

01:01:39.69

Yeah I think that the poetry was pretty well, well not pretty well, but to a certain extent it was more...oh jeez,

David McFadden

01:02:07.67

Ah yeah...it wasn't really for public it was just for myself but the books that I wrote, the novels and etc that was a different story.

Ashley Clarkson

01:02:07.67

Was it a smaller area for you is that it?

Ashley Clarkson

01:02:44.56

So when did you first decided that um, was it someone who pushed you to first publish those poems? Because you said that they were only for yourself so did someone really tell you that you should really be publishing these?

David McFadden

01:02:51.74

Well I would sort of like...well some I would publish them and others I wouldn't and that sort of think you know? It was just all very tentative...I think, I may be wrong (laughing).

Merlin Homer

01:03:13.40

So when did it stop being tentative because there are thirty books

David McFadden

01:03:14.09

Oh yes…

Unknown

01:03:14.19

Group laughter

Merlin Homer

01:03:17.96

I'll get you an answer (laughing).

David McFadden

01:03:18.78

I don't know, I don't know. I can't tell you.

Merlin Homer

01:03:24.09

When you published your first book which would be close to this one did you think "I am publishing a book of poetry or did someone break your arm and make you do it?".

David McFadden

01:03:36.33

Yeah I think so, I think maybe so yeah.

Unknown

01:03:38.58

Group laughter

David McFadden

01:03:43.68

Well you know a lot of other people started to tell me that I was a poet and then I started to think that maybe I was.

Merlin Homer

01:04:08.57

Sometimes it takes time to overcome those family prejudices.

Jason Camlot

01:04:14.88

One thing that Merlin said that lead me to think of something else in terms of the identity of the poet, um, there are many more male poets reading in this series then women. There seems to be a great confidence in the voice that the men have as performers and as readers. It was really interesting to me to think about what it meant to be a women poet in this period where the platform seemed to be quite male.

Merlin Homer

01:04:50.26

Male, white and Anglo.

Jason Camlot

01:04:51.20

Yeah male, white and Anglo largely.

Jason Camlot

01:04:54.56

I just wonder if you have any thoughts on the women poets from the same period?

David McFadden

01:05:03.12

Oh they were great! Like Margaret Atwood.

Jason Camlot

01:05:06.23

Yeah

David McFadden

01:05:07.92

and Gwendolyn MacEwan.

Jason Camlot

01:05:14.68

Were those people who also hung out with? Did you hang out with the women poets in the same way you would hang out with the male poets?

David McFadden

01:05:23.78

I think so. As much as I did...there weren't as many…there is no doubt about it. A lot of them weren't very interesting; it seemed to me, although I may be wrong.

Jason Camlot

01:05:44.87

What does that mean? 'Interesting' what would have made someone interesting or not?

David McFadden

01:05:47.51

Um, maybe they were not interested in messing with guys (laughing).

David McFadden

01:06:09.05

Well Gwendolyn MacEwan was a good friend of mine and when she died I didn't realize that she was a really big drunk. Apparently everyone in Toronto knew but I didn't know and she always maintained a fairly ordinary persona.

Merlin Homer

01:06:52.53

So not a drunk an alcoholic?

David McFadden

01:06:58.85

Yeah and I liked her a lot she was a good person.

Jason Camlot

01:07:07.40

What did your friendship consist of with her? Did you write to each other? Talk to each other on the telephone or did you just get together?

David McFadden

01:07:17.22

We'd just meet we wouldn't get together but we'd meet and say hi and eat lunch or something like that. One time we were walking down the street and she saw a...(trails) she sort of coveted this chair in the window and she said, "Oh I love that chair! Do you think I could flag down a cab and you could help me put this chair in?" So we flagged down a cab and we put it in and...no wait a minute…we got the chair out and she hopped in the cab and took off and I was going “wait! wait! wait! You forgot the chair!” She had to get the cabbie to come back and she had to get the chair back in the cab and off she went. (laughing).

Jason Camlot

01:08:52.07

Did you ever read with her in front of an audience like on the same bill?

David McFadden

01:09:02.02

I don't think so, maybe.

Jason Camlot

01:09:04.12

Did you ever hear her read her poetry?

David McFadden

01:09:04.12

Oh yeah.

Jason Camlot

01:09:07.18

Was she a good reader?

David McFadden

01:09:07.20

I thought so yeah I may be wrong though it was a long time ago (laughing).

Jason Camlot

01:09:17.47

In your opinion you'd be right one-way or the other (laughing).

David McFadden

01:09:17.67

Right, yeah (laughing).

Jason Camlot

01:09:19.69

Margaret Atwood reads in this series as well, she was actually at Sir George Williams for one year teaching. Did you ever meet with Margaret?

David McFadden

01:09:32.66

Oh yeah.

Jason Camlot

01:09:34.81

What was she like as a young poet? We have some photos which were sort of publicity photos she gave to Sir George when she was reading and it was a very young Margaret Atwood the poet type pictures. I wonder if you have any memories from Margaret Atwood from around that time? Like 1970s when she was really just starting out

David McFadden

01:10:00.77

Oh yes, I remember her very vividly. The very first time I saw her, it might have even been her first reading. She was only a year older then me and I was amazed she was just brilliant.

Jason Camlot

01:10:19.73

Where did you see her read that time?

David McFadden

01:10:23.47

I don't know exactly where it was but it was quite a good crowd and I hadn't heard anything about her and apparently a lot of people had and she was quite brilliant. I sort of like...we sort of had a, had a...we liked each other.

Jason Camlot

01:10:53.25

An affection yeah?

David McFadden

01:10:53.27

Yeah (laughing). I didn't spend much time with her or anything like that but she was a very nice person and still is of course although I haven't seen her for a long time.

David McFadden

01:11:13.39

It was a crowd of people...I can't remember where it was now but I was talking to her and I must of said something that annoyed her because she grabbed me by the ear and laughingly, laughingly but painfully grabbed me across, right from one part of the room to the other a very large room. I am not exactly sure what that was all about, but that was very strange (laughing)

Jason Camlot

01:11:58.99

So that was when you guys were pretty young?

David McFadden

01:11:59.18

I was going "ahhh!” pretending that I was really agonized (laughing). It wasn't that bad, it was just a little bit of fooling around I guess.

Jason Camlot

01:12:15.75

Do you remember what she was like as a reader? Do you have any memories of her stuff? I mean you are another poet listening to Margaret Atwood read and thinking about what she is writing and you're writing your own stuff. What you thought about when you heard her read?

David McFadden

01:12:34.85

I liked her reading. I liked her reading and I didn't want to try and be like her or anything like that but I was really happy that she was there.

Jason Camlot

01:12:52.89

Do you think she was defining herself as a Canadian poet from the very beginning? She obviously had such an important role in defining Canadian literature as a distinct entity you know. Did you sense that from what she was writing from the very start?

David McFadden

01:13:09.00

I think so, I think so. I guess it wasn't as important later on, but at that time it was pretty important I think.

Jason Camlot

01:13:26.60

You talked about your dad a few times, but you haven't mentioned your mom at all. Was she around?

David McFadden

01:13:31.37

Oh yeah she was definitely around.

Jason Camlot

01:13:33.26

Was she a supporter of your writing?

David McFadden

01:13:36.77

Oh she was a lovely person.

Merlin Homer

01:13:39.86

She wrote poems.

David McFadden

01:13:41.38

Yeah she wrote poems! Yes I forgot about that, yes she wrote poems.

Merlin Homer

01:13:43.48

You know about the flowers.

David McFadden

01:13:43.71

Dad didn't write poems...

Jason Camlot

01:13:50.31

Dad didn't write poems?

David McFadden

01:13:50.31

Oh no Dad didn't write poems (laughing) He wouldn't know a poem if (laughing)...oh yes.

Jason Camlot

01:14:00.74

So you could be more forthcoming with your poetry activities with you mother then with your father? Is that accurate that you would share stuff with her more about it?

David McFadden

01:14:12.57

Yes she wrote poems, she was good, she was good. She was pretty sentimental and all that kind of stuff but she was ok and then she died. She died fairly earlier, well compared to my father.

Jason Camlot

01:14:33.10

How old were you about when your mother died?

David McFadden

01:14:35.54

Um lets see now she died around um, I am not very good at dates these days...she would have been about seventy when she died so that's not so bad.

Jason Camlot

01:15:10.95

So you would have been about fifty right? What do you think she thought about your writing? Did she get your writing?

David McFadden

01:15:22.31

I don't think she paid any attention to it, but she thought she better not get to close to it because she was a little bit afraid.

Jason Camlot

01:15:43.54

Did she ever read poetry to you?

David McFadden

01:15:43.74

No, never.

Jason Camlot

01:15:49.05

I study nineteenth century literature and I find that a lot of narrative among Victorian poets about the first experience about poetry is the mother reciting poetry to the son. This is a typical trope.

David McFadden

01:16:06.79

Well I used to find her poems.

David McFadden

01:16:08.77

Yeah she would lie them around.

Jason Camlot

01:16:08.77

Oh yeah?

Jason Camlot

01:16:11.70

Do you think she left them there for you to discover?

David McFadden

01:16:14.33

Maybe, possibly, possibly I never thought of that.

Jason Camlot

01:16:18.87

Did you ever write critiques on them and send them back?

David McFadden

01:16:20.35

(laughing) No, No, No Never. Oh she was a sweetheart. Maybe I didn't think so then but I do now.

Jason Camlot

01:16:34.21

Do you mind if I just name, we can stop at anytime, but I just want to name a few other poets who read in the series in case you have stories you'd like to share about them. Um, I mentioned a bunch of the American poets, even the local poets some of whom are better known than others like Louis Dudek being one of them who introduces one of the readings and was obviously an important figure in the Montreal poetry scene. Did you get to know Louis Dudek at all?

David McFadden

01:17:14.04

I did, um, I attended a couple of his classes in Montreal. I liked him and he was a great guy. I can't think of anything to say about him for some reason.

Jason Camlot

01:17:41.82

When you say you attended his classes you were just sort of sitting in on one of his lectures when you were in town?

David McFadden

01:17:46.25

Yeah that's right.

Jason Camlot

01:17:51.47

I will just name a few of the others; B.P Nichol was another who read in the series. Speaking of John Cage if Jackson Mac Low was the closet to Cage I think Nichol is doing a kind of performance which is again quite different then a poet just going up and reading poetry. What did you think of B.P's work?

David McFadden

01:18:17.65

Oh I loved it! I just…oh yeah...I mean he was wonderful.

Jason Camlot

01:18:26.77

Do you remember any readings or performances of his that you were at?

David McFadden

01:18:34.78

Let me think now um...

David McFadden

01:18:42.55

I can remember. I can remember things that he did and all that but I don't know how to tell you about them all. He was a pretty interesting guy and I knew him so well and it is all sort of falling apart now. My mind is not working very well and I am hoping that I will get it back.

Jason Camlot

01:19:10.80

You were good friends with him though right?

David McFadden

01:19:15.11

Yeah.

Jason Camlot

01:19:16.61

Are there, I mean I will just remind us that one of the main focuses of the interview is just to remind us about the poetry reading as a thing. Are there other things that I missed or simply not asked that would be interesting to have on record? Simply thoughts about just what reading a poem out loud means? Or just other things I didn't think of asking you that I should have?

David McFadden

01:19:50.19

I get up on stage, open up a book and start reading...that's all there is to it...that's all.

Unknown

01:20:00.87

Group laughter

David McFadden

01:20:00.87

That's all I ever did!

Jason Camlot

01:20:01.77

That's wonderful.

Jason Camlot

01:20:08.39

Do you have any other questions Ashley? Cause I think I have asked almost everything I wanted to.

Ashley Clarkson

01:20:11.71

No it was very interesting.

Jason Camlot

01:20:13.53

Yeah fascinating.

David McFadden

01:20:13.53

Really? You think so? (laughing)

Ashley Clarkson

01:20:16.55

Really interesting

Jason Camlot

01:20:16.55

Really

David McFadden

01:20:20.75

Wow

Jason Camlot

01:20:20.95

It was great.

David McFadden

01:20:21.75

Thanks, thanks. Not to bad for an old fart

Merlin Homer

01:20:27.64

Stop it please.

David McFadden

01:20:30.19

Oh sorry! Me I am the fart.

Jason Camlot

01:20:33.80

Maybe, would you mind reading one piece for the camera before we stop here. We have a few books, a few selections for you to chose from. This is the latest so maybe something from there or if you want to read something from the great Canadian sonnet. I have a favorite.

Merlin Homer

01:20:59.23

You have a favorite?

Jason Camlot

01:21:00.82

I have a favorite from here if you want and you might not even remember it.

Merlin Homer

01:21:08.85

Let Jason pick his favorite.

David McFadden

01:21:09.05

Sure.

Jason Camlot

01:21:23.96

If there is one in there that you want to choose first then I will have you read another one (laughing) we'll really work you.

David McFadden

01:21:27.00

Ok, this is a series of sonnets. There are 129 sonnets but this is the one I want to read to you. It goes like this:

David McFadden

01:21:41.04

Reads from: Be Calm Honey: 129 Sonnets, Toronto, Mansfield Press, 2008.

Sonnet: *Like lots of us the box Jelly fish feeds lazily on small fish and crustaceans...*

Jason Camlot

01:22:40.60

So this is a much earlier book so I will just throw it at you.

David McFadden

01:22:49.70

Yeah wow, this goes way, way back.

David McFadden

01:24:15.92

Reads from: The Poet's Progress, Toronto: Coach House Press, 1977.

Poem: *I was sitting in the garden admiring the apple blossoms but a high wind came up and one by one the blossoms broke from their bows and blew away until each bow was bare of beauty...*

David McFadden

01:27:25.90

Bob Phones drew that, Robert Phones (referencing book illustrator for Poet’s Progress)

Merlin Homer

01:27:26.07

Robert Phones did that drawing?

Jason Camlot

01:27:30.49

Who is Bob Phones?

David McFadden

01:27:35.03

He is a Vancouver no Toronto artist.

Jason Camlot

01:27:37.33

Were you friends with him?

David McFadden

01:27:41.45

Yes I don't see very much of him nowadays, but he was originally from London Ontario. The Poet's Progress by David McFadden…you know he liked these little guys?

Merlin Homer

01:27:56.86

Cartoons?

David McFadden

01:27:57.06

No, um...those little candies.

Jason Camlot

01:28:01.38

Oh yeah, the licorice candies.

David McFadden

01:28:09.16

He was crazy about them! He was a great artist, I don't know if he is still is but I suspect he is.

Jason Camlot

01:28:18.54

Were you friends with a lot of painters and artists?

David McFadden

01:28:18.74

In those days yeah...not so much now y’know?

Jason Camlot

01:28:24.43

It was a much more integrated into the writing scene with the mixture of different kinds of arts?

David McFadden

01:28:30.52

Yeah we would…we used to be y’know…the poets were all hanging around all the time and it's not like that much these days as far as I can tell. Maybe I am just...I don’t know.

Merlin Homer

01:28:52.13

It is a much bigger world now then it was a smaller world.

David McFadden

01:28:57.19

Yeah.

Jason Camlot

01:28:59.30

Merlin are there other things you wanted to add to the discussion today?

Merlin Homer

01:29:09.49

Hmm...

David McFadden

01:29:10.53

Now look who is not talking (laughing).

Merlin Homer

01:29:11.63

Well, I wonder about this because the first time I heard David read was actually a few years ago because Sam Zelecki had invited him to come read to his quite large class at U of T. They were studying the book Why are You so Sad, a point that David had completely missed in the emails coming back and forth from Sam and there were lots of screw ups from Sam's part as well (laughing). So he walked in with this book and started reading from it, but one of the kids asked for a particular poem from Why are You so Sad and David asked if anyone had a copy of that and he read it. Yet, what I noticed because I was sitting at the back of the room, I mean I didn't like him for being a poet, I mean I didn't dislike him for being a poet either you know what I mean right? It was just that I liked him. So David was standing in front of the room and I was thinking, "Oh my god this is a rock star!" you know this great big room full of kids absolutely gripped, I was gripped and he was so confident. You are harking back to this era when they were rock stars and there he was you know, oh my god this is a real rock star. It was a very, very interesting and an amazing experience. Now that you are asking those questions I think this persona harks back to that era.

Merlin Homer

01:31:15.24

I mean I remember from the visual arts side and the question about the women. I was thinking about the women in CAR the artist organization also realizing that the women didn't have much voice and Susan Cream was quite active in that so yeah. It is very interesting because they were guys together, but I suppose that it was a time when it was unconscious enough that it wouldn't, it wouldn't make them...it wouldn’t mean that they were consciously being chauvinistic or anything like that it was just how things were. They were all men from a very specific ethnicity too.

David McFadden

01:32:23.08

Phew can't help it (laughing).

Merlin Homer

01:32:23.08

Nobody choses that ( group laughter).

Jason Camlot

01:32:26.57

Thank you so much. I guess we will stop it there for now but it was really fascinating.

David McFadden

01:32:39.14

Well I am glad, I'm glad.

Interview: David McFadden – October 12, 2012

Interview
SpeakersDavid McFadden & Merlin Homer, interviewed by Jason Camlot (Interviewer) & Ashley Clarkson (AV)
VenueConcordia University, Hall Building, 10th floor, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling
Date2012-10-12
Recording
NotesDavid speaks about his life as a poet
Labelspoetry, spokenweb, oral history
Duration01:32:39
Sound qualityFair