Interview with Frank Davey, Canadian poet, on September 10, 2013

Interview with Frank Davey, Canadian poet.  Davey was one of the editors of the influential and contentious poetry newsletter TISH.  He served as Writer-in-Residence at Sir-George Williams in Montreal in the late 1960s early 1970s.  The interview explored his time at Sir.George Williams and his experiences with the Poetry Series.

Interviewer: Jason Camlot
Second Interviewer and audiovisual technician: Ashley Clarkson

Frank Davey Interview September 10th, 2013

 

Jason Camlot

00:00:01.32

It is Tuesday September 10th 2013, a little after 10 am, this is Jason Camlot speaking and we have the honour of having Frank Davey here to talk to us today about whatever he might remember from the 1960 and early 1970s, especially about his time in Montreal when the Sir George poetry series was taking place. Ashley Clarkson is operating the video camera and audio equipment and also may jump in at anytime to ask questions. I have sent Frank just a basic outline of some of the things I hoped to begin talking about. So I am going to start simply by asking some basic things, before we even get into 1969-1970 I have been beginning these interviews by asking people what their earliest memories or actually hearing poetry read was and what role the oral recitation of poetry might of played in your formation as a poet and critic interested in poetry/poetics. Whether you were forced to recite poetry in school/elementary schools or whether your parents read poetry to you or maybe you listened to records or other poetry recordings at the time. Are there any instances that come to mind as encounters with poetry orally rather then on the page?

 

Frank Davey

00:01:39.65

Yes, we had a talent competition when I was in grade 2. In an elementary school that had eight grades. So the talent competition was for the whole school, but you didn't compete against grade 2, you just competed against everyone there. I did two things; I played two pieces on the piano. I played the evening star from Vaughners and English Country Gardens and I also recited a poem that I had found in a magazine and I won the entire competition.

 

Jason Camlot

00:02:28.45

Wow that's amazing. Did you win it for the combination?

 

Frank Davey

00:02:31.64

I think it was for the combination, no one specified which element was particularly more responsible. Yet then any other...

 

Jason Camlot

00:02:43.91

So do you remember the poem that you recited?

 

Frank Davey

00:02:49.34

Yeah it was called "How to Succeed" (laughs). I was probably; I think it was from my British bag- Hit the nail of life boys! Hit with all your might! Strike with al your might boys while the iron is red. When there is work to do boys do it with a will...and I forget the rest (laughs).

 

Jason Camlot

00:03:06.66

It is pretty impressive that you remember that much. So it was in a children's periodical? I am very interested in the history of periodicals that were-you know some where often very specifically or peripherally interested in presenting materials for recitation. In the 19th century there were a lot of recitation scrapbooks, or recitation series for people simply to use for parlor recitation, etc.

 

Frank Davey

00:03:31.92

Yeah well the main influence in my family was my mother's mother. Umm, who was born in 1882, she was the most intellectual of the members of the family. My mother often referred to her even in that as that as housekeeping, so it was an unusual family. So she was the one who ordered these magazines, she was the one who knew these magazines were available while my mother didn't

 

Jason Camlot

00:04:02.38

Right

 

Frank Davey

00:04:02.38

She was the one who ordered these magazine first of all this magazine called We Wisdom and another one called Open Roads for Boys. These were British magazines because this was the world she was familiar with

 

Jason Camlot

00:04:15.03

Right

 

Frank Davey

00:04:15.03

And I think she was also familiar with the tradition of elocution and elocution lessons children received during the 1910-20s. She was familiar with that tradition although I don't remember if anyone taught elocution where I was growing up, it was a small dairy-farming village.

 

Jason Camlot

00:04:37.71

So did she come from England?

 

Frank Davey

00:04:53.71

She was born in Sutherland and her family was actually residing in more Hamsterly and she spent a lot of her childhood in Hamersley in county Durham.

 

Jason Camlot

00:04:54.38

Ok

 

Frank Davey

00:04:57.51

Her father was a pub keeper there. She trained as a telegraph operator, now I have checked the census records and most of the women in her family before that, her aunt and great aunts etc. had trained as chambermaids, as house servants. That is what they did before they were married, but she became a telegraph operator and her brother became a ships engineer and went tall over the world. So this was the movement during the industrial revolution when children were learning new trades.

 

Frank Davey

00:05:35.90

Yeah

 

Jason Camlot

00:05:35.90

Absolutely

 

Jason Camlot

00:05:37.44

I spent, this past summer I was in British telecommunications archives in London reading on the history of the telegraph and

 

Frank Davey

00:05:48.73

Well her village was on the first railroad line in the world. The one that ran from Darlington up to the colonies in county Durham

 

Jason Camlot

00:05:59.33

So she would have had early exposure to the technology then, yeah absolutely that's really interesting. Yeah, also the journals such as the Boys Own Journal and these um, young journals, these were often illustrated as well; I don't know if you remember?

 

Frank Davey

00:06:16.26

Yes, yes they were illustrated

 

Jason Camlot

00:06:16.46

Would she actually sit down and read through them with you?

 

Frank Davey

00:06:21.41

Oh yes, yes

 

Jason Camlot

00:06:21.61

Your introduction to reading poetry out loud was almost atypical Victorian one in certain ways

 

Frank Davey

00:06:34.55

Yes, and a second thing that happened when I was in grade 12 in this village, the senior English teacher who was in charge of the advanced courses was an ex-student of Earle Bernie’s. Then actually, I published poems as a student writer and even taken an non-credit creative writing course with Earle. He was also interested in folk songs; he collected the LPs of Richard Dire Bennett and of Led Belly and sometimes played them in the class. We'd guarded...um, he also had a guitar and he would sing these songs himself and ones he composed himself. He definitely treated poetry as an oral medium.

 

Jason Camlot

00:07:49.49

So you remember hearing Lead Belly recordings in this classroom?

 

Frank Davey

00:07:55.37

Yeah in this classroom in grade- when I was sixteen or seventeen

 

Jason Camlot

00:08:00.00

An interesting thing for me about the Lomax recording is that obviously he was collecting these materials as an ethnographer of sort’s right? He was creating a kind of persona for Lead Belly as well. Yet, those recordings are a combination of performance and narrative speech that contextualizes the performance. So it is not just an album of songs, but it is an album of say, a particular art form contextualized by the performer by his own personal story explaining his process and all the kinds of things that became so typical of the poetry readings in the 1960s. Which was an event of context for the vent which was happening, there was always a combination of whether it was an introduction to the poem I am about to read or the poets banter or is it the Vancouver's poetry conference with poets interviewing each other on stage as a kind of performance, you know?

 

Frank Davey

00:08:58.81

Yeah, long ago this teacher also introduced Pete Segar. So many of the things he sang were almost poems, you know? There was Cotton Hill Blues and the Ballad of Sigmund Freud

 

Jason Camlot

00:09:21.57

Did you ever, since you played piano, did you ever write songs yourself? When did you start writing poetry?

 

Frank Davey

00:09:28.63

I didn't write more than few notes of music, I transcribed a lot of music because I played in a band and we had to transcribe for the wind instruments. I think I began writing probably when I was in grade seven or eight. I remember trying to write stories when I was in grade eight or maybe grade seven

 

Jason Camlot

00:10:05.76

So you began writing short stories? What were the models that you were working from at the time?

 

Frank Davey

00:10:12.22

Umm, I guess Willis Havre yeah...hard to remember but he is one that stands out. I don't know if Salinger was around in those day or if it was too early for Salinger (laughs) I know that I read Salinger in high school but I can't remember what year.

 

Jason Camlot

00:10:34.22

Right, and when did you begin writing poetry? Was that a much later thing for you?

 

Frank Davey

00:10:52.69

I think I began writing poetry in University. Probably between first and second year.

 

Jason Camlot

00:10:52.79

Do you remember why you began writing poetry?

 

Frank Davey

00:10:53.70

Um...people did (laughs). I was in a community of people at the university who wrote poems and it seemed like an interesting thing to do. People were more into it, the students that I- they were more in-I guess it was influencing their criticism. They were more into the craft of poetry rather then poetry as self-expression. So the models that I encountered quite early were those of Yates, Dhillion Thomas and Elliot, but more Elliot of the short poems

 

Jason Camlot

00:11:56.05

Did you ever hear any of the recording- because all three of those poets are recording and have pretty stunning, no matter how you feel about their performances, their recording were-

 

Frank Davey

00:12:06.33

No I don't recall hearing their recordings. I do recall that the- I had a teacher, a woman named Ruth Humphrey at UBC in freshman English and she had lived in England and known personally many of the literary people of the 1920s while a student at Oxford. She was passionate about Pound and Elliot, so we spent extraordinary classroom hours on Pound's (name mumbled) and Elliot’s Wasteland. Certainly that opened up the possibilities of what poetry could be far beyond Yates or Dhillion Thomas.

 

Jason Camlot

00:13:04.98

Right

 

Frank Davey

00:13:05.52

I think that the experience influenced my thoughts about what could be done. It seemed like an open field

 

Jason Camlot

00:13:23.12

Maybe for the listenership you could say where were you studying and where did you come from? To give some context to your university experience, I mean it is pretty well known by...

 

Frank Davey

00:13:32.65

Yeah it is pretty well known. Well I mean I grew up in the Fraser Valley in British-Columbia and there was one university in the province. When people spoke about going to university there was no question that it would be the University of British Columbia. Nobody even considered that other universities existed (laughs). So I went to UBC when I was 17 and met interesting people immediately like Carol Johnson who became Carol Bolt the playwright. In second year I met George Bowering and (mumbles)

 

Jason Camlot

00:14:29.18

And that story has been well chronicled so we won't spend too much time talking about it

 

Frank Davey

00:14:31.13

Yes, and I studied Chaucer with Earle Bernie who was very strong on the oral tradition because that is the way in which poetry was presented in the medieval period, so he was quite clear that Chaucer was to be understood out loud because that is how the work was disseminated. The same for the Beowulf poem, so um, I liked the medieval period probably because of the orality. I did one of my comprehensives in the medieval period when I did my PhD.

 

Jason Camlot

00:15:09.42

Hmm, yeah I was going to ask about that because I think Earle Bernie was one of the great Canadian oral poetry readers. He was an amazing performer of his own poetry

 

Frank Davey

00:15:16.81

Mhm, yes very formal

 

Jason Camlot

00:15:20.14

Often he'd recite his poems form memory as well, which was quite unique it would seem to me

 

Frank Davey

00:15:26.14

I don't recall that. I think he normally had a piece of paper handy. Gwendolyn Macewen was the one could recite from memory, but I think that caused some problems in her readings because they seemed like recitation rather then readings.

 

Jason Camlot

00:15:47.76

Right that is interesting. So in Bernie's classes the medieval or old English cases he'd have the students go around and read the text? It was partly a language course then

 

Frank Davey

00:16:01.98

Yes, yes it was. We'd have to be learning the old English language at the same time, yes. It was also a graduate course, I was in third year at the time, but have of the class were MA students. They were the first grad students that UBC was producing. So I was very proud to get an A in that course

 

Jason Camlot

00:16:33.31

Was he a good teacher? Would you say?

 

Frank Davey

00:16:37.76

Yes, yes I would say he was a superb teacher. He was superb at-getting the interest and the enthusiasm generating enthusiasm for the subject matter. Many professors can get you interested in the material, but he actually caused us to be quite enthusiastic about the work.

 

Jason Camlot

00:17:02.79

How important was it or was it at all a factor that Earl Bernie was also a poet taking medieval courses with him, how did he negotiate his creative side with his-

 

Frank Davey

00:17:13.31

It was always in conflict, you could- in the book I wrote about him that was one of the themes. He kept complaining about never having any time to write, but it was his own fault because he kept undertaking academic projects that he thought would get him more prestigious positions. He had this split, he wanted to be a great poet, he wanted to be not just a remarkable Canadian poet, he wanted to be recognized in the United States and Britain. He worked very hard to get significant publications there, usually without much result. Yet, he also wanted to be- because he studied with some of the great medievalists, he studied with Padlock at Berkeley. Well- that split between wanting to be a great medievalist and a great poet was one he never reconciled. It caused him a lot of anguish

 

Jason Camlot

00:18:30.93

Was it a model that sort of shaped the way you approached your career?

 

Frank Davey

00:18:38.72

Mhmm, certainly I read it as a warning that unless you put your writing poetry first and were able to conceive of your academic career as a support of your writing career then you would be in big trouble. I think almost everything I investigated, as a critic would contribute toward my writing.

 

Jason Camlot

00:19:09.44

So I guess I am going to jump ahead of time a little bit to the focus of the interview. We are going to take about one hour to an hour and a half as I said today, around your time in Montreal. As far as I understand, you can correct me if I am wrong; you came to Montreal as writer in residence in 1969. Could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before and how that came to be?

 

Frank Davey

00:19:39.35

Well after graduating with my Masters from UBC in 63' I went to teach at Royal Roads Military College in Victoria and I realized very quickly that I was doing the same work as people with PhDs but they were getting paid more. It was not because I really wanted to do the work, but because it was- it would make it easier to do the other things that I wanted to do in life. So I investigated the way in which PhD programs were structured, I went to Southern California, where I was able to do half the course work in the Summer of 65 and come back to teach at Royal Roads and go back in 66 to do the rest of the course work. I wrote the comprehensive exams in the fall and wrote my thesis in the spring. I was back home teaching by the fall of 1967.

 

Jason Camlot

00:20:51.36

Amazing, so Southern Cal was primarily your course based on their structure, which would allow you to continue your teaching at Royal Roads?

 

Frank Davey

00:21:02.85

They allowed you to work your ass off, while most PhD programs that I have looked at sort of shelter the student and try to prevent them from getting stressed out or overworked. They forbid you from writing more than one comprehensive exam at a time.

 

Jason Camlot

00:21:25.38

Right

 

Frank Davey

00:21:26.72

I wrote four comprehensive exams in four days and aced them all!

 

Jason Camlot

00:21:35.86

I think time to completion has become an issue again so programs are moving somewhat towards that other directions I think.

 

Frank Davey

00:21:46.39

Of course I also had worked before that, I had been doing research towards my dissertation before I went down. When I came back between the summer of 65 and 66 I worked on studying for the comprehensive exams in a systematic ways.

 

Jason Camlot

00:22:10.92

Was it important to stay on the West coast somehow? Did that influence your decision?

 

Frank Davey

00:22:15.51

No, it was just a coincidence that it was Southern Cal, it was a very comfortable place to be. Except for the riots that took place during the summer of 65', we were confined to our student quarters because we were part of the curfew zone. People were getting shot in the streets below us.

 

Jason Camlot

00:22:39.11

Can you tell me a bit about that? I don't know much about that

 

Frank Davey

00:22:41.45

Well they were race riots that came about because of a traffic stop somewhere in South Los Angeles and the perception in the Black community was that the white police had abused the Black people involved and it was a protest and windows were broken and stores were set on fire which escalated to more and more people becoming involved. I would guess that there were something like 90 or 100 square blocks of the city that were involved all the way from South Los Angeles all the way to North of Southern Cal. Every store that we had shopped in was burned down, I counted 38 gunshots from the window, and there were many deaths. They had to call in the National Guard to set up roadblocks in the area and regain control. Yet, it was also a racially tense area before that, we were the only white people that I knew that shopped in the nearby stores because they were big modern supermarkets, but there were no other white people in the stores. They were black staffed and they had a black clientele, yet they had the same stock as the supermarket in Pasadena, so it seemed a bit silly to us to drive all that way because you are not comfortable, but maybe we were naive.

 

Jason Camlot

00:24:39.12

Do you think that perhaps being Canadian this was perhaps an introduction to racial politics for you?

 

Frank Davey

00:24:41.31

Yes, it was quite. I nearly got punched out by a black fellow on the first day after the riots when we went out shopping (laughs) in similar stores that were surviving.

 

Jason Camlot

00:25:02.36

So you completed your PhD and it is around 1965 and you are back teaching?

 

Frank Davey

00:25:07.26

No, no 1967

 

Jason Camlot

00:25:07.76

1967, yes

 

Frank Davey

00:25:10.90

Yes, So I taught at Royal Roads 67-68, and 68-69. The Howard Fink called me and asked if I would be interested in being Writer in Residence at Sir George

 

Frank Davey

00:25:28.04

No I don't

 

Jason Camlot

00:25:28.04

Right, do you know how your name came up?

 

Jason Camlot

00:25:29.08

No ok

 

Jason Camlot

00:25:31.27

Right

 

Frank Davey

00:25:31.27

No I didn't pry

 

Frank Davey

00:25:32.41

I suspect that Bowering had something to do with it

 

Jason Camlot

00:25:39.90

Maybe

 

Frank Davey

00:25:40.10

I suspect that he did, but I have no idea. That seemed reasonable that he could have had something to do with it. George was always urging me to get out of Victoria, he took-The TISH writers in those days took some responsibility for each other and each other’s welfare and George was always saying to me that it wasn't a good place for me to be. It was too (mumbled) a literary scene and so I would be far more productive if I would get out of productive and go to a more urban setting.

 

Jason Camlot

00:26:21.75

So had you been to Montreal before?

 

Frank Davey

00:26:24.49

Yes, 1963. Louis Dudek was organizing a reading or readings at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

 

Frank Davey

00:26:34.60

It was October of 63' and he um, arranged for me to go there and read on the same program as Ray Souster. There was a large audience I would think, Seymour Main was there Henry Lascovich and um, there was some heckling between me and some people who were saying this during the question period and after the reading etc. It was interesting, it was quite lively.

 

Jason Camlot

00:26:34.60

Ok

 

Jason Camlot

00:27:19.95

So Maine and Moscovich and Cataractors who were working on Catarac and being catapulted.

 

Frank Davey

00:27:32.73

That's right

 

Jason Camlot

00:27:32.73

We were just talking on the way here about the Foster poetry conference. The sort of hidden Foster poetry conference in 1963, they represented the youth in that roster essentially, they didn't have a budget to bring too many people in from out of province. So it was those four guys who sort of came there

 

Frank Davey

00:27:50.24

Now there was an unexpected heat wave during that period. It was mid-October but the temperatures were in the eighties and nineties Fahrenheit. Ron Everson had a Cadillac convertible and I remember him taking Louis, me and I don't remember if Buffy was part of the party or not, he was definitely on the scene.

 

Jason Camlot

00:28:17.15

Buffy is John Glasgow

 

Frank Davey

00:28:18.50

Yeah and we went out to Saint-Helene's Island, of course it wasn't developed in those days it was very pastoral and we drove up and down the streets in the old parts of Montreal and my wife got up and sat on the trunk to see better and got whistled at by all the truck drivers (laughs). We had a wonderful day

 

Jason Camlot

00:28:38.86

Touring around in R.G Everson’s Cadillac (laughs)

 

Frank Davey

00:28:46.49

Yeah top down and (laughs)

 

Jason Camlot

00:28:51.77

Yeah (laughs) great story

 

Jason Camlot

00:28:53.20

So I am interested in Dudek's series because I don't know much about it and I am interested in the format of these different kinds of series. At the Sir George reading series there wasn't a formal question and answer period after the readings usually. There were poetry parties, usually, where people could come and talk. So I would like to learn more about how Dudek structured his reading series. If you could tell me anything about that reading

 

Frank Davey

00:29:17.77

Well I could tell you some things.

 

Jason Camlot

00:29:18.38

Yeah

 

Frank Davey

00:29:18.58

Dudek introduced people and he had Souster read first, that was appropriate. Souster was not on the scene when we got there for the reading, he came in about 5 mins before the reading, gave a quiet reading and then after my reading and after the question period he vanished. Louis was looking around for him and I think he got back on the train and went back to Toronto. Louis and I were joking that he just popped up like a ground hog and had gone back into his hole

 

Unknown

00:30:00.85

Laughter

 

Frank Davey

00:30:04.72

You see Louis had written that article about Souster and he called it Groundhog among the stars, but we were joking about his rodent like qualities yes (laughs)

 

Jason Camlot

00:30:21.98

So you read second and Dudek introduced you separately I would imagine?

 

Frank Davey

00:30:25.74

Yes

 

Jason Camlot

00:30:26.01

And do you remember what you read at the reading at all?

 

Frank Davey

00:30:28.21

I probably read mainly from D-Day and after and the Scarred Hull. Scarred Hull I guess at the point hadn't been published. I may have read also from City of the Gulls and Sea those were the three books. I tend to like to read my newest book, so I un-doubtfully read from the Scarred Hull, which was published in 64'

 

Jason Camlot

00:30:55.79

Was the reading-Do you remember how long the reading lasted about?

 

Frank Davey

00:31:01.23

I think each one of us read for three quarters of an hour overall I think it was a two-hour block of time, which seemed reasonable. I find readings nowadays are too short, I don't particularly know why, it seems organizers think people have less of an attention span, which was not the case at this reading the audience was fully engaged for the duration of both readings.

 

Jason Camlot

00:31:29.96

I agree with you I think one of the first things I noticed when listening to the Sir George readings was how long the readings were and how long the audience expected the hour long reading and was engaged the whole time. I think, this is probably for another discussion really, but I think one of the reasons it has become so short is because, partly a funding thing too, more and more the money for public performances have gone to publishers so a lot of reading tours are connected with book launches and often you have multiple readings on the same roster and you have a taster, a sort of six minute taster from the book and that's it, right?

 

Frank Davey

00:32:14.38

Right

 

Jason Camlot

00:32:20.32

So the reading as an event to sort of encounter the poet and really go a little more deeply into a poets career and where the poet is at the moment seems less the norm these days then it did in the 60s

Frank Davey

00:32:28.74

Yes, yes I think the reading was a significant event it was not ancillary of a publication

Jason Camlot

00:32:37.35

Yeah, so that was 63

Frank Davey

00:32:41.07

Yeah that was 63 and that was my first airplane trip as well

Frank Davey

00:32:45.91

Yes, yes it must have been expensive for the Canada Council to bring me all the way from Victoria to Montreal. There was a stop in the old Malton Airport in Toronto

Jason Camlot

00:32:45.91

Oh ok, do you remember where they put you up in Montreal?

Frank Davey

00:32:57.89

Um yeah, I think it was at Louis's house

Jason Camlot

00:33:02.84

Oh ok

Frank Davey

00:33:04.46

Yeah we stayed with Louis and Stephanie and little Greg

Jason Camlot

00:33:10.07

Um, the reading, so you arrived the night before the reading and

Frank Davey

00:33:19.29

Um I think we arrived the afternoon before the reading and then had a good night sleep and the next day we did a lot of exploring with Montreal at the Chateau de Ramsey and things like that. We went shopping at Morgan’s and things like that. It was quite interesting, because we had never been in a...in a city of that size and we'd never been in a bilingual culture before

Jason Camlot

00:34:03.02

It was an interesting time in Montreal as well since the FLQ was really developing at that time and there were events in national headlines that were happening that summer in 63

Frank Davey

00:34:17.76

In 63?

Jason Camlot

00:34:17.96

Yeah in 63, so I wonder if that was something that was on the radar at all when you were in town?

Frank Davey

00:34:21.99

We were aware that this was an issue, but we weren’t aware that it was a volatile issue. It wasn’t until 68-69 that I think we became aware of it and people treated us much differently when we arrived in 69 then in 63. We would go to a restaurant and when we ordered our food in English the waitress would look at us uncomprehendingly and so we'd order in a our British-Columbia French and we'd get through three quarters of the way ordering and the waitress would switch to English. It was just to make her point. It happened the first day in 69

Jason Camlot

00:35:18.90

But in 63 it still felt quite Anglo?

Frank Davey

00:35:25.55

Yeah I felt quite easy and there didn't seem to be much tension.

Jason Camlot

00:35:31.14

Just the last question about the 63 reading. So you said it was at the museum of fine arts then?

Frank Davey

00:35:38.38

Nice venue

Jason Camlot

00:35:40.22

Yeah it must have been one of the nice halls that they have there and um I am just curious if you remember any of the details about the heckling or the Q & A from Seymour Maine and that group and what it meant. How you might have processed what it actually meant? What did this young generation of Montreal poets say represent in relation to the incredible developments in West-Coast poets at that time?

Frank Davey

00:36:12.60

Yes there was hostility to theory. I claim a derivativeness that was being made, but those were the two main arguments but they were being made in a way that wasn't very well thought through. Once they made the claim and you challenged it they had nothing more to say because they didn't have any evidence for those things. They didn't have any argument to put forward to thinking theoretically about poetry was a bad thing for writing poetry, they couldn't argue that connection so it seemed they wanted these claims to be true but that had no proof. Robert and I were talking about Carmen and about how Robert asked him to write an article for his new anthology on anthologies and it was quite inarticulate, he couldn't, I mean when he was being asked to document things in an academic way he couldn't do it. There is a difference between poetic and an argument

Frank Davey

00:37:51.11

Right, an assertion of a certain type of authenticity associated with a certain undefined quality in writing

Frank Davey

00:38:00.98

Yes

Jason Camlot

00:38:03.02

I think it is a kind of Montreal tradition that continues from some of the, at the time, younger protégés of Irving Layton saying that persists in different ways even now and that may have been you know a kind of position now theorizable position staked out

Frank Davey

00:38:34.47

Or it may have been a position that they heard someone else say

Jason Camlot

00:38:36.17

Right and believed that it was

Frank Davey

00:38:38.70

And another person might have actually been able to work out a rationale for it, yet when it was simply being parroted after the reading it was just...

Jason Camlot

00:38:56.21

Yeah it wasn't be substantiated

Frank Davey

00:38:56.41

Yeah there was nowhere to go with that claim

Jason Camlot

00:38:59.48

So you really hung out with an earlier generation of Montreal poets when you were in town?

Frank Davey

00:39:49.81

Yeah well my book Ridge Forest with Contact Press was in process at that time too and I had also taken a course with Louis at UBC. Louis had taught one summer at UBC and the course Birney normally taught. I was more interested in taking it from Louis than Birney because I had read the poetry of both and I had a feeling Birney was more into Tour de Force and Louis was more interested with poetry with a reach towards authenticity. I was more interested in that

Jason Camlot

00:39:49.81

I have often wondered about Dudek's position to what was developing on the West-Coast, because in many ways his poetry has more in common formally and in terms in it's interest in process and experimentation with West-Coast poetry and what we identify with Montreal

Frank Davey

00:40:12.61

And serious readings of Pound

Jason Camlot

00:40:15.88

Yeah and serious readings of Pound and...Yeah especially Pound. So, I know he has been sort of embraced or acknowledge by West-Coast poets at the time like George wrote

Frank Davey

00:40:33.56

Yeah and that was the first writer, critic to write a book about him

Jason Camlot

00:40:34.88

Yeah

Frank Davey

00:40:36.74

I was much happier with that book then the book on Birney. I felt more comfortable than the subject.

Jason Camlot

00:40:55.06

Now we're back to 1969 now

Frank Davey

00:40:56.77

Now this was a tempestuous period in my life. My marriage had broken up in the Christmas period of 68-69 and

Jason Camlot

00:41:08.67

That’s evident in your reading as well, much of the work your performing is really dealing with that

Frank Davey

00:41:17.66

Yeah and I began my relationship with a married woman mid-way through in March of that period and when this offer to come through to be writer in residence it meant she had to make a hard choice whether to stay with her husband or come with me. That was....

Frank Davey

00:41:47.76

I had a paper accepted also at the very last minute at Acute in the middle of June and so we piled into my old TR4 and drove like heck to get to Toronto in 5 days so I could give this paper I had been on the back up list, so someone had declined so I was then asked to give my paper on Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen at ACUTE. From there we went camping and we explored Ontario and Quebec, we lost out windshield wipers in the Gaspe and they couldn't get new wipers for a TR4 (laughs).

Jason Camlot

00:42:39.49

Laughs

Frank Davey

00:42:41.85

So we had to wait for the rain to stop and we camped in the city campsite in Riviere de Loup and had a wonderful time over the Saint Jean Baptiste weekend. When we came back we found a bargain apartment in the main floor and lower floor of a stone building with stonewalls 3 feet thick at the corner of Sutherland and Harvard.

Jason Camlot

00:43:16.33

Oh ok

Frank Davey

00:43:18.04

Beautiful place, beautiful house. Some of them, a family from France had leased it and they couldn't stand it so they went back to France and sublet it to us at a loss.

Jason Camlot

00:43:40.45

How did you find it? Did Howard help you find a place or did you

Frank Davey

00:43:43.12

No

Jason Camlot

00:43:43.12

So you just sort of found it?

Frank Davey

00:43:45.12

We read the papers

Jason Camlot

00:43:48.52

Yeah, well it seems just from having spoken to Howard, Stephen Morrissey, I don't know if you know Stephen, he was a student at the time of the series um, it seemed like a lot of the professors were living in NDG at the time>

Frank Davey

00:44:08.42

Yeah we became very good friends with Howard and Marty and we went up to their summer place and went swimming there at their place and um, often socialized with maybe 4-5 times a month with the Finks. This was at the time that George and Angela were going through a bad crisis in their marriage and Angela was confiding with both Lynne and Marty and saying different things at different times so they'd be comparing notes about the crisis in the Bowering marriage (laughs). George was having an affair with the department receptionist.... what was her name. Evelyn who got her PhD from the University of Heidelberg in Sanskrit, very interesting young woman and very beautiful. Angela went into mourning and she wore 19th century widow weeds everywhere (laughs). With her back shawl (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:45:32.04

Wow that's amazing ha-ha yup, that's news.

Frank Davey

00:45:35.81

Well George wasn't too happy with her because she had an affair in the same period with Stanley Fish who was

Jason Camlot

00:45:47.18

Where was he?

Frank Davey

00:45:49.26

I used to joke about her being surprised by sin (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:45:54.45

Where was Stanley Fish at that time?

Frank Davey

00:45:57.56

He was teaching at Sir George

Jason Camlot

00:45:57.56

Oh he was

Frank Davey

00:45:58.81

Yes he had a one-year appointment

Jason Camlot

00:46:03.14

Really? Wow I had no idea. Stanley Fish who

Frank Davey

00:46:07.96

Yeah Stanley Fish the literary theorist

Jason Camlot

00:46:13.85

Yeah literary and legal theorist, wow that's amazing. That is more news to take note of and think about for later (laughs)

Frank Davey

00:46:23.85

Laughs

Jason Camlot

00:46:25.38

So you guys roll into town and set up in NDG in your beautiful two-story townhouse

Frank Davey

00:46:35.68

Yeah we had the first floor and we shared the garage with people on the people on the top floor. We shared the laundry room, the Meuniers they were. Mother and Father with two daughters going to college

Jason Camlot

00:46:52.12

What was the neighborhood like then? Now it is a super trendy place called Monkland Village

Frank Davey

00:46:57.02

It was very nice, yeah

Jason Camlot

00:46:57.02

So you could do your shopping around then and walk to things and

Frank Davey

00:47:01.98

Yeah and there was a very good Chinese restaurant on Monkland we used to go to

Jason Camlot

00:47:10.92

Did you walk to Sir George?

Frank Davey

00:47:14.86

Um no we would walk to a bus then go to Atwater...I think...anyways it was a metro station and then we got on the metro and got off at Atwater, yeah I guess it was Atwater and then go toward Guy

Jason Camlot

00:47:34.35

Right

Frank Davey

00:47:35.67

It was quite easy. The public transit was wonderful. So my TR4 just sat in the garage

Jason Camlot

00:47:47.51

Yeah well it was right after Expo so everything was running smoothly and looking shiny still probably

Frank Davey

00:47:51.64

Yeah and we went to hear (word unknown) in the old Expo site in the amphitheater. The Expo site was marvelous

Jason Camlot

00:48:04.90

Yeah, so what were your duties as writer in residence?

Frank Davey

00:48:11.47

Well I came right after Mordecai Richler and he was regarded as totally unsatisfactory. He was never at the university and it was difficult for students to get appointments with him and he sort of regarded it as an extra income and stayed at home doing his work. So there was a lot of unhappiness both Howard and the Dean of Arts at the time, I can't remember who it was. Was it Wynne Francis?

Frank Davey

00:48:53.86

Oh ok, well anyway they said they wanted to make sure they had a writer in residence who was actually here. They said they went a year without one even though they paid for one. So I said, well how about I teach a writing class? That way you'll know I am here for when I am teaching that class, it was a senior poetry workshop and I taught. One of the people in the class is currently a journalist with CTV, the local CTV station Bill Leary

Jason Camlot

00:48:53.86

I don't think it was Wynne Francis, but I can't remember off the top of my head I will have to dig it up

Jason Camlot

00:49:31.59

Oh really?

Frank Davey

00:49:33.58

Yeah he was one of my students

Jason Camlot

00:49:36.97

Do you remember any of your other students?

Frank Davey

00:49:41.34

I don't remember their names, but there were 1-2 students who were quite active at the time yet haven't done anything remarkable since. Well nothing that has come to my attention

Jason Camlot

00:49:53.98

Right

Jason Camlot

00:49:57.40

So you taught this poetry workshop. What was your approach to teaching poetry at that time and where did it come from?

Frank Davey

00:50:10.15

I think I just winged it because there was no poetry workshop at Royal Roads Military College and I had no female students, there were only female cadets after I left but not while I was there. Um, probably I used the model I had seen used at UBC, which is where people brought work to class if they wanted to have responses to. I regarded the class as a group of readers and who would give the writers some idea of how the text was being read. It was just always difficult for a writer to write a collection of poems and you publish it and then it gets reviews and you read the reviews but you don't know how the ordinary readers who picked it up in the shop, how they responded or what they found there, or what they wished was there.

Jason Camlot

00:51:26.60

Right

Frank Davey

00:51:27.68

So I think I used that sort of approach that this will be an experience you wish you would have later in life, but wouldn't be able to re-create.

Jason Camlot

00:51:45.40

Did you meet with students and hold office hours?

Frank Davey

00:51:45.40

I did hold office hours and um, they were available to both my students and um, and I think I spent two days a week at the university. One the day of the class and the other was just office hours and I was writing in both Weeds and Arcana. Weeds was basically finished and was being published while Arcana was being published by Coach House I think in 72 so I was still working very hard on that book. It was a very useful year because I was able to take that book from a very early perspective condition to um, a full book

Jason Camlot

00:52:43.44

Did being in Montreal shape that book in your mind at all? The people you were talking to?

Frank Davey

00:52:52.36

Not really I don't think. The main influence on that book was probably Robert Duncan, did he read that year?

Jason Camlot

00:53:09.38

He did, he did read that year

Frank Davey

00:53:13.74

So that was it

Jason Camlot

00:53:16.31

That was the reading I know- at least based on George's introduction of it, was the much awaited or very important to him in order to underscore the thesis he had maybe been trying to develop in the kind of invitations of readings that he was making as part of that committee

Frank Davey

00:53:36.59

Both George and I were working from out of different parts of Duncan's work. Well both of us were working out of the element of chance that Duncan permitted into his writing. The themes were that openness to a chance event.

Jason Camlot

00:54:00.04

So I just wonder if you-

Frank Davey

00:54:02.61

And George was working on Jeanette at that time, which was...which we both didn't realize until we were in Vancouver, that he was working with Tarot cards the way I was and arcana, but we were working with different decks of cards. I think he was working with the Geneva deck of cards? I was working with the Writer-Weight deck

Jason Camlot

00:54:35.63

Did you talk to George about those prospective projects? Or-

Frank Davey

00:54:42.34

Mm, we did, we did, but it was interesting because by the time we both talked about them they were both pretty much realized.

Jason Camlot

00:54:56.37

I mean I would like to hear about whatever you can remember about the Series itself, because this was a Series that had already been going on for a few years and it's principal organizers, before George even came to Sir George as writer in residence, were Howard Fink, Stanton Hoffman, Wynne Francis, who was sort of overseeing it but not-

Jason Camlot

00:55:17.20

Yeah, um, Roy Kiyooka was also involved in some of the early programming

Frank Davey

00:55:17.20

Not heavily involved no

Frank Davey

00:55:23.43

Yes he wasn't in the year I was there; he was getting ready to move to Halifax I think

Jason Camlot

00:55:29.39

Yeah that's right I think that was about the time

Frank Davey

00:55:35.35

Yeah so he was probably thinking about that, I saw him quite often at parties and such. He wasn't always at the readings.

Jason Camlot

00:55:48.10

A general question I have about the series, and you must have gone to some of the readings that happened in 69 and the 70s

Frank Davey

00:55:52.95

Yeah I think I went to all them, I think I regarded it as one of my duties

Frank Davey

00:56:02.09

(Laughs) Yeah and the other person on the committee that you haven't mentioned was Leonard Middleton

Jason Camlot

00:56:02.09

You're so much better than Richler

Jason Camlot

00:56:09.63

Oh ok, right

Frank Davey

00:56:12.58

His presence on the committee was interesting, because we took the writer out to a very nice diner before the reading, I guess to restaurants that had been founded during Expo. I think an Argentinian restaurant if I remember, but I can't remember which readers we took to which restaurant

Jason Camlot

00:56:40.73

Right

Frank Davey

00:56:41.10

Yet I do remember that Leonard did not go to any of these because he could only eat Kosher and no Jewish restaurant in Montreal was Kosher enough for him, except a soup kitchen that was maintained for single Orthodox Jews. It had AR barite tables that was scarred and-

Jason Camlot

00:57:12.95

So it wasn't a place to bring visiting poets (laughs)

Frank Davey

00:57:13.76

We did once! (Laughs)

Unknown

00:57:16.63

Laughter’s

Frank Davey

00:57:16.93

I don't remember what poet we brought there, but I remember Marty looking at the cutlery and saying, "Well at least it is ritually clean"

Unknown

00:57:27.61

Laughter

Jason Camlot

00:57:32.80

So there was a pretty strict format, from what I understand from talking to Howard, that 1-2 committee members would retrieve the poet from the airport or the train station and take them to, this is what he was saying anyways, take them to the Ritz bar. Then you'd have a drink and maybe others from the committee would come as well and then they would bring their stuff up to the room and then you'd all go out for dinner before the reading took place

Frank Davey

00:58:04.19

That's right

Jason Camlot

00:58:06.16

And then they might linger after the reading to talk to people and sign books and then there would bee a poetry party quite often at someone's house either at Howard's or George's or some other committee member’s house.

Frank Davey

00:58:13.17

Yes, yes

Jason Camlot

00:58:16.66

So that's pretty much what you experience as well?

Frank Davey

00:58:17.94

Yes, yes

Jason Camlot

00:58:19.60

Um, I am going to read through a list of readings, some of them may have been before you arrived because I didn't have a chance to look at the dates of these readings, but I will just read through a bunch of names of people who may have read while you were in town. To see if you remember anything about those readings. So the Allen Ginsberg reading

Frank Davey

00:58:41.21

Allen Ginsberg yes

Jason Camlot

00:58:41.88

So you were at that reading?

Frank Davey

00:58:42.08

Yes and this was fairly late in the year, I think Jan or Feb. We went to dinner, my wife and I went to dinner, with Al and my wife was quite pregnant. After the dinner we went in different taxis, Linda and I took Allen in our taxi and Allen was working on his adaptations of his songs of innocence or experience. He was fascinated with Linda's pregnancy, they were in the back seat and I was in the front seat telling the taxi where to go. He starts rubbing Linda's belly and singing Blake's songs of innocence and experience and freaking out the taxi driver! Who was wondering what the he had in the back seat of his cab is this safe!? (Laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:59:40.74

Laughs

Jason Camlot

00:59:41.86

Do you remember the reading itself? Or the dinner? It is very interesting to hear the same event described by different people who were there. The story I have heard is that he was picked up at the airport brought to the Ritz, had drinks and then they went to a Chinese restaurant

Frank Davey

01:00:17.10

Quite possibly

Jason Camlot

01:00:22.12

Then that Allen Ginsberg left the dinner early to go meet up with the Hare Krishna’s who he had spent the day with and we have this on tape. The Hare Krishna's chanting for a good twenty minutes.

Frank Davey

01:00:49.02

I think that Linda and I dropped him off with the Hare Krishna's but we didn’t go with him and then went on to the reading and let him make his entrance with the Hare Krishna’s.

Jason Camlot

01:00:59.93

Ok so, Bill Bissett? Were you present for the Bill Bissett reading in Montreal?

Frank Davey

01:01:07.88

Quite likely, I have been to a lot of Bill Bissett readings in Montreal

Jason Camlot

01:01:11.34

Yeah ha-ha

Jason Camlot

01:01:14.64

Ok, Doug Jones? D.G.Jones?

Frank Davey

01:01:14.64

Yeah so it seems reasonable but...

Frank Davey

01:01:18.46

I don't remember it no

Jason Camlot

01:01:18.85

No ok, Eli Mandel?

Frank Davey

01:01:20.62

No definitely not

Jason Camlot

01:01:24.97

F.R.Scott?

Frank Davey

01:01:27.63

No definitely not

Jason Camlot

01:01:32.04

OK, Gladys Hindemarch?

Frank Davey

01:01:34.19

Yes, Yes

Jason Camlot

01:01:36.33

Ok can you remember anything from that reading?

Frank Davey

01:01:36.95

Um, she read from the Peter stories I remember that. Um I think she stayed with George and Angela rather than at the hotel and I remember her being there for 2-3 days. Linda and I would spend 2-3 evenings a week at George and Angela's apartment because it was just down the road.

Jason Camlot

01:02:01.93

They were living in Westmount right?

Frank Davey

01:02:04.39

Yes they were so we saw them quite often. I think Victor came in to hear her reading, Victor Coleman and George, Maria...we all had an afternoon together at George apartment while she was there for the reading.

Jason Camlot

01:02:42.12

Right.

Frank Davey

01:02:45.60

And she was living in Wisconsin I believe. She had a, her husband had a fellowship in either Indiana or Wisconsin somewhere in the American mid-west. (Author note: Daphne Marlatt talks about being with her in Wisconsin).

Frank Davey

01:03:10.19

So she spent all that time just writing, so she didn't have far to come from the mid-west.

Jason Camlot

01:03:26.39

Do you remember who attended the readings and how they fit into the curriculum at the time or if at all? Were they seen as a separate entity or where they seen as part of the pedagogical goals of the English department? Did you see all of your students there and make sure they went to these readings?

Frank Davey

01:03:48.64

Yes, yes. I am not sure if they were when F.R.Scott and Duncan were being invited to read, but definitely when Maria and Creeley, Duncan and Ginsberg were invited to read, this was a way of making sure the students were seeing outside of the parochial Montreal scene.

Jason Camlot

01:04:16.48

Yeah

Frank Davey

01:04:18.21

And I think it had something to do with the literature courses George was teaching, Stan Hoffman was teaching mostly Shakespeare

Jason Camlot

01:04:28.96

When I knew him he was teaching Contemporary American Lit, he was really on the cutting edge of

Frank Davey

01:04:37.83

Oh yes, I got that wrong then. I was sure that Stan had something to do with the choice of readers and the curriculum that he was teaching. Howard was quite supportive; he was starting work on Canadian radio plays, which was of course all recorded. So of course, he was both working like you are, working with recordings and overseeing the recording of things. It is an interesting combination.

Jason Camlot

01:05:15.16

So you already mentioned Jerome Rothenberg

Frank Davey

01:05:18.29

Yes, I was there for Rothenberg.

Jason Camlot

01:05:20.96

Anything come to mind about that reading? Had you met him before?

Frank Davey

01:05:30.89

No, no, but...

Frank Davey

01:05:38.44

Well, I mean he was into a different aspect of orality from the other writers that I had been familiar with, a side of- I mean I knew Jerome Rothenberg and I knew his books but I only paid so much attention because there are only so many writers you can pay attention to and work with. Yet it was interesting how he was working out of a Native American and Jewish oral traditions.

Jason Camlot

01:06:17.17

Right, right. I will just play a bit of the intro

Unknown

01:06:25.06

Plays audio

Frank Davey

01:07:39.68

During the TISH period from 61-63 when George and I were sharing- I don't think we ever talked about Rothenberg. We definitely knew the TISH scene; we got the mailing list from Leroy Jones for god’s sake.

Jason Camlot

01:07:55.03

Laughs

Frank Davey

01:07:56.87

If I am reading the floating bear, the floating bear was the literary magazine that we were most influenced. So there was an ingenious side

Jason Camlot

01:08:11.33

So it is not true that you weren't aware of

Frank Davey

01:08:17.26

Yeah everyone was being nice to Jerome, this is a part when the discourse has to be decontextualized

Jason Camlot

01:08:27.19

It always does actually and that's what we are missing when we're listening to it.

Frank Davey

01:08:35.27

We were really interested in NEW York and of course we were interested in Olson in Massachusetts and Creeley had come from Massachusetts. You hear that in his accent, so the West Coast thing was only Duncan, maybe Fernie Getty. I mean I was very much influenced by Fernie Getty when I first started writing poetry in 59-60. He was definitely an oral poet; his book starting from San Francisco had a little LP in the back, because he thought they should be disseminated orally as well as a book.

Jason Camlot

01:09:35.60

Did you hear him read in Vancouver?

Frank Davey

01:09:40.08

Yes absolutely, actually I almost started a riot. The English department said they were throwing a little party for Fernie Getty, but they weren't inviting any students, but I said I would picket the house the party was being held out and get a bunch of students together (laughs). Eventually a select number of students, including myself were invited to see him up close. I mean Fernie Getty read in the auditorium, which held about 1500 people and all the seats were filled. So an opportunity of having any contact with him personally was nil, unless one was able to get into this faculty party.

Frank Davey

01:10:37.02

I said to the faculty, you don't like Fernie Getty anyways; you're the ones who think He and Ginsberg should be taught by the sociology department! (Why do you want to come to this (laughs)

Jason Camlot

01:10:56.03

That's great, one of the readings that took place, and you mentioned this earlier, was the Robert Creeley reading in 1970.

Frank Davey

01:11:09.28

Yes, we went out after that reading to a pub, not a party it was a pub and drank too much beer (laughs).

Jason Camlot

01:11:27.57

Well you probably knew Creeley and were part of hosting him in the city I imagine? Is that right? Do you remember anything about his visit at the time apart from going out and drinking a lot of beer (laughs)?

Frank Davey

01:11:37.08

(Laughs) Well I wrote my dissertation partly on Creeley and he was on my MA thesis committee on UBC so I knew Creeley pretty well...

Unknown

01:12:00.60

Plays Clip from Archive

Frank Davey

01:12:05.14

Who is that introducing him?

Jason Camlot

01:12:11.68

Roy Kiyooka?

Frank Davey

01:12:27.82

I think that's me!

Jason Camlot

01:12:34.72

It's you? That's one voice I hadn't been able to place until just this moment (laughs)

Jason Camlot

01:14:33.48

They're stunning readings actually, both the Creeley readings in this Series were both incredible, really interesting. So yeah, it make perfect sense now with you here now and listening that it would be you introducing him. I should have known that much early.

Frank Davey

01:14:51.47

No I wouldn't have necessarily recognized my voice, it seems to sound different in different spaces, so the qualities of the sound are different in a room. I am not sure that this recording will sound much like that

Jason Camlot

01:15:14.96

Yeah I am sure you're right.

Ashley Clarkson

01:15:16.60

I was just wondering how it feels to hear you voice in this moment of the past that you might not remember?

Frank Davey

01:15:27.65

No I didn't remember it no, it is only the traumatic moments of ones life that stay with you

Unknown

01:15:33.10

Laughter

Frank Davey

01:15:38.17

So yeah all I remember is too much beer in the pub afterwards and the things we said to each other, but the fact that I introduced him I didn't remember.

Frank Davey

01:15:55.00

I was always being really careful in that introduction, trying to be very precise.

Jason Camlot

01:16:04.43

Well I have kept you here for quite awhile and I also wanted to talk about your own reading that you gave, so many we'll finish with that. You also mentioned that you gave a lecture so we can talk about that too.

Frank Davey

01:16:19.87

There is suppose to be an annual writer in residence lecture and there should be a set of tapes from the various writers in residence and the lectures they gave. I am not sure if mine was very good, but

Jason Camlot

01:16:34.82

Did you say that it might have been on Creeley?

Frank Davey

01:16:36.18

Yeah I think it may have been on Creeley

Jason Camlot

01:16:36.76

Do you remember much about the reading you gave at the Sir George Series? What you did before? Who was in the audience?

Frank Davey

01:16:50.56

Well the audience was always similar, there would be predominately students from Sir George, Sir George faculty and there would be people from the Anglophone poetry community

Frank Davey

01:17:19.45

Well it would be someone like Artie Gold

Jason Camlot

01:17:19.45

So who would that include-?

Jason Camlot

01:17:22.55

Oh ok

Frank Davey

01:17:24.32

Louis tended to come only for particular events that interested him; I can't say he was a regular. F.R.Scott might have been there as well. There were fewer people from McGill than you'd expect because there wasn't much contact between the two institutions. One had the sense that the McGill people were slumming it when they came to Sir George since it had recently been a YMCA institution.

Jason Camlot

01:18:15.61

Right. I was wondering if Glasgow was there or Everson? Did Everson ever come to any of the readings?

Frank Davey

01:18:24.45

I might not have noticed...I mean Buffy was around all the time because we were always kidding him about whips and things. He was always coming on to women at the parties "beat me please" (laughter). He had a running joke with Angela, so if Buffy was there Ron would have been there because they tended to kick around together.

Jason Camlot

01:19:01.56

Can we listen to a little bit of it?

Unknown

01:19:07.52

Plays Audio Clip (Howard Fink)

Frank Davey

01:21:27.68

The title of the second poem gets blurred

Jason Camlot

01:21:34.01

I think you read the first one really wonderfully and it is interesting to see how your voice changes when you go from introducing the poem to into a stronger more focused, precise...

Frank Davey

01:21:51.38

Yeah well I was very conscious of the phrasing of the poems and the stress patterns. The music of them...

Frank Davey

01:22:07.45

But when I listen to them I find the deliberateness of the presentation of them downplays the music.

Jason Camlot

01:22:23.18

You'd do it differently?

Frank Davey

01:22:23.48

I will reflect on that (laughs)

Jason Camlot

01:22:24.70

I just had a couple of last few questions because we have been at it for a while and it is kind of tiring

Frank Davey

01:22:31.68

I am not tired

Jason Camlot

01:22:34.18

Oh yeah?

Frank Davey

01:22:34.38

Maybe you are?

Jason Camlot

01:22:34.63

No I am fine (laughs)

Jason Camlot

01:22:39.21

I was wondering if you met any French language poets that year that you were in Montreal or was it at all on your radar that there were French poets in Montreal?

Frank Davey

01:22:50.26

French poets did not come to Sir George Williams.

Jason Camlot

01:22:53.79

Yes and there were no French poets in the series as well

Frank Davey

01:22:56.16

No there were no French poets and one had the sense that they did not come to this side of Saint-Denis.

Frank Davey

01:23:09.84

Within two years I was reading French Canadian poets, and publishing some of their work in Open Letter that Barbara Godard was translating for Sir George where they went to York. I was in York in 70-71 that is where I met Barbara. Barbara had done her master's degree at UofM and is the subject of the short story called Bilingual Angela; he makes fun of her intense attempts to integrate into the French community. Yet it wasn't unsuccessful as Barbara was eventually enormously accepted in the French community.

Frank Davey

01:24:16.99

So it was mainly through Barbara that I managed to find out what was happening in French language poetry. I came back to Sir George and taught in Summer school in 1976. I remember that I spent a lot of time in French language bookshops, collecting copies of La Voie de Jour and getting copies of books by Jilles (name) and um, um reading them and stealing from them. There were things that you could do in English that you couldn't in French. There might be different ways of achieving the same affects.

Frank Davey

01:25:20.52

It wasn't until I met Barbara that the period happened when I began learning about writing in Quebec.

Jason Camlot

01:25:35.98

You mentioned earlier as the poetry community in Montreal as parochial and I think one of the points of the Series was to expose you know the local poetry series to other parts of Canada and across North America.

Frank Davey

01:26:00.75

One of the ironies there is that they were reading German and French poets from the continent so there was a strange kind of opening that was oblivious to the poetry right next door.

Jason Camlot

01:26:16.83

I wonder, you know, in your experience in that year in the series. Whether or not the idea of Canadian literature was a working concept or how it was a working concept in that series? How did it fit in?

Frank Davey

01:26:43.57

Well certainly Canadian nationalism had become very strong my 1967 and um...

Frank Davey

01:27:01.07

I wasn't on a civilian campus at that time, but I guess I became aware of the importance of Canadian literature as a subject while on that campus, because I wrote two papers on E.J Pratt. I remember Gerald Morgan who was a Conrad Scholar and Chair of the English department of Royal Roads and he was asking me to write papers on Pratt for the Humanities association of Canada conference. In those days the Humanities association was enormously important scholarly group for the circulation of research in many conferences. It isn't now, but it was more important in those days than ACUTE was. Gerald was president of the Victoria chapter of the Humanities Association of Canada. He organized conferences.

Frank Davey

01:28:18.07

I remember saying to him that I didn't know much about Canadian literature because I had never studied it and then he said "Well you write it don't you?" (Laughs_

Jason Camlot

01:28:29.62

Laughs

Frank Davey

01:28:30.93

That really stuck with me!

Frank Davey

01:28:46.32

I think that was 1966 or 1967 it was certainly in that period of the centennial that he was organizing these conferences. So I wrote two papers and I think they were the best I wrote in that period on Pratt. I presented them at this conference and then they were re-published in anthologies that George Wilcock edited. So I was sort of ushered into Canadian literature sort of without much effort on my part. I was recruited by Canadian literature, by George Wilcock who published both those papers in Canadian literature, and my Gerald.

Frank Davey

01:29:48.08

Then when I first got to, got to the East- I was in Toronto on my way to Montreal and I think Tamarac Review was throwing it in conjunction with York University where I gave my paper

Jason Camlot

01:30:12.24

Ok

Frank Davey

01:30:12.46

Then I met Garry Getty who was editing the Clark Series on Canadian writers, which was very much Canadian literature. George was already writing his book on Purdy for that Canadian Literature series, so Getty said, "Would you like to write the book on Earle Birney? Al Purdy was thinking of writing it but now he doesn't want to."

Jason Camlot

01:30:46.54

Laughs

Frank Davey

01:30:48.09

So I think to myself, so this is what I have been missing out on in the East, this is how you get book contracts you just come to a cocktail party in Toronto. You can't do that when you live in Victoria, so I thought to myself how all kinds of things get done in the East and how come not in the West?

Jason Camlot

01:31:05.27

Right

Frank Davey

01:31:06.25

(Laughter) it is a cynical though. So I said yes that I would do that book, so back to your question about Canadian literature is that it is going on. George was writing his book on Purdy and I am writing in the Clark Series with the subtitle Studies in Canadian literature. So Canadian literature is definitely going on parallel to this reading scene and I think many of us saw that brining in people like Creeley and Rothenberg, Duncan & Ginsberg was a way of expanding Canadian literature and opening it up to the latter part of the twentieth century.

Frank Davey

01:32:11.69

I probably wouldn't have given you that answer five minutes ago, but I hadn't thought it through. Yet there is this Canadian literature activity going on, I was involved in it, George was involved in it, Howard was involved in it with his CBC project, there was this commitment in that committee, at least for those people to doing something in Canada.

Jason Camlot

01:32:44.00

Yeah, Howard told me that one of the recurring arguments to the Canada Council to get funding for the Series was the need to bring American poets to read along side Canadian poets as a way of measuring the value of Canadian poetry. I thought it was a very interesting way of looking at such a series, but it seemed like expanding what Canadian could be and also seeing what Canadian poetry was in relation to American poetry and hopefully have it transformed as a result. Yet that was one of the key reasons that the Canada Council funded the series and why they occasionally funded the travel of non-Canadians, because that wasn't always so easy to get money from the Canada Council for that. Sometimes they had to use the faculty money to match, so they used the non-CC money to fund the Americans, and even in the early money of the contact poetry series that I mentioned, Denise Levertoff was funded to come, so you could make the argument that they did fund some Americans to come

Frank Davey

01:33:59.41

Yet they didn't fund the whole bunch I am sure if you read the letters between Souster and Olsen

Jason Camlot

01:34:07.73

No they didn't fund them all

Frank Davey

01:34:12.14

But Olsen was very happy with that reading he got himself a bargain bottle of (Drink Name)

Jason Camlot

01:34:16.41

Laughter

Jason Camlot

01:34:16.41

Well I am looking at the time and I am actually going to have to cut it short because I have to go to work, yet this was a wonderful discussion I have learned so much. Thanks Franck

Ashley Clarkson

01:34:29.71

Yes thank you

Jason Camlot

01:34:34.38

Were there things I didn't ask you that you just want to add?

Frank Davey

01:34:45.09

No I don't think so, I could find more anecdotes, but I think we covered your set of questions.

Jason Camlot

01:34:57.22

Yeah

Interview: Frank Davey – September 10, 2013

Interview
Speakers
VenueConcordia University, Library Building, 10th Floor
Date2013-09-10
Recording
Duration1:34:57
Sound quality