Oral literary interview with Canadian Montreal poet Stephen Morrissey, conducted on April 22nd, 2013 at roughly 10am.

The interview took place at Concordia University in the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling.  The Centre is located in the History department on the 10th floor of the Library building. The principal interviewer and investigator was Jason Camlot, associate professor in the department of English at Concordia.  Ashley Clarkson, a graduate student in the department of History, handled the audio-visual technology. Morrissey graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Honours in English with Distinction, from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) in 1973. During his time as an undergraduate at SGW he had the pleasure of attending numerous poetry readings. Luckily, due to his impeccably kept journal entries, Morrissey was able to recount specific details from the SGW's poetry series.  His interview offers a rare look into the audience's perspective of the series. For further reference, many of his papers, recordings and posters, although not presently the aforementioned journals, are housed in the archives of the McLennan Library of McGill University.

Part 1-April 22nd, 2013-

           Stephen Morrissey Interview Transcript

Jason Camlot

00:00:01.98

This is Jason Camlot speaking and Ashley Clarkson is second interviewer and videographer today. We are here today on April the 22nd 2013, on the 10th floor of the McConnell Library Building at Concordia University. Interviewing Stephen Morrissey a poet, writer and who was also a student at Sir George Williams during the time of the poetry series, to ask him questions about his experience of the many many readings he attended between...

Stephen Morrissey

00:00:46.16

The fall of 1969 to spring of 73'

Jason Camlot

00:00:50.33

Yeah Spring of 73'. Well thank you so much for being with us today.

Jason Camlot

00:00:53.05

Um, as I said, Stephen and I have been emailing a little bit prior to this interview.   He sent me so much information that if I even spent a little bit of time on the first of the five pages of emails, that I printed up, we could probably fill up several hours. I mentioned to him that I would ask him a few very general questions to start with and then we will move into specific questions about some of the readings that he experiences. Normally, I have just sort of vaguely phrased general questions, but because you gave me background information I want to get some of that same information on tape so that other people can benefit from it.

Stephen Morrissey

00:00:53.05

Yup, happy to be here.

Jason Camlot

00:01:40.03

So if you could just put into context a little bit the experience and the program you were in while you were at Sir George Williams University in 1969.

Stephen Morrissey

00:01:40.03

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:01:52.74

Um, well I had early final admission from Tom Swift, that is Tom's father

Jason Camlot

00:02:02.67

That's right

Stephen Morrissey

00:02:02.67

So he's always-I have always been very grateful to you know the Swifts (laughs). To Tom and I was really excited, I wasn't very happy in high school, sort of plotting along.

Jason Camlot

00:02:16.97

Where did you go to high school?

Stephen Morrissey

00:02:16.97

I went to Moncton High School on West Hill Avenue in NDG. My brother went to West Hill which was the new one, cause my Moncton was the old West Hill (coughs) and um, so I-some friends at the time had received a brochure called Explorations I. These are things I haven't thought about or talked about since I was here (laughs) so many years ago. So I thought, well Explorations, I think it was a reaction to the Computer Riots of the previous year at the Hall building when they destroyed the computers, certain people there.

Stephen Morrissey

00:03:02.70

So I applied for this and it was a program um, of the five courses I took in the first year three were with explorations I and Explorations had a house that was on-I guess this is Metcalf isn't it? (points)

Jason Camlot

00:03:24.48

Yes

Stephen Morrissey

00:03:24.48

Near de Maisonneuve and um, we'd go there and we had like three professors. Fred Nelman who was in Humanities, Lloyd Wood from Geography and Scotty Gardner from Psychology and Scotty Gardner died about a year ago, but he also retired um, maybe in 1970. He was one of those professor who was like "a star" you know? He had students trailing around behind him, I don't know if this still goes on. Everyone loved Scotty Gardner and um-well as for Explorations I it was a wonderful experiment, but it gave me a lot of time off, but not too much studying. Three sessions off and you gave yourself whatever mark you thought you deserved at the end (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:04:18.28

Oh really?

Stephen Morrissey

00:04:19.14

Yeah (laughs), but it was a good way to get started at University and so that's the September 69'. Like right away I started going to the readings.

Jason Camlot

00:04:29.08

Right, so sorry but you mentioned Tom Swift. Did you actually meet with him when you were accepted to the program? or just...

Stephen Morrissey

00:04:35.37

Um no, but I have the letters in my archives! (laughs) They're all there you know from Tom Swift. Of course when I met Todd maybe ten-fifteen years ago I didn't put it together until I read where Todd had discusses his father's death. I am really grateful to Tom Swift for giving me early final admission, um it was...it was really something!

Jason Camlot

00:05:04.29

So um, you mentioned the classes were probably small then?

Stephen Morrissey

00:05:09.43

The classes were all seminars. Typical kind of 1960s late 60s. People sitting around on the floor talking (laughing) you know. There was no real structure you just listened to lectures when they happened and I don't remember them happening to often.

Jason Camlot

00:05:32.31

What was it you were exploring in Explorations?

Stephen Morrissey

00:05:33.74

Well who knows! I guess it was to find out what it is we wanted to study, but since none of us knew what we wanted to study we were looking around for something to study.

Jason Camlot

00:05:48.19

So you couldn't major in Explorations? It was sort of a first year program?

Stephen Morrissey

00:05:51.38

No it was just a first year um-I think sort of a reaction to try and diffuse any future troublemakers (laughs).

Jason Camlot

00:05:56.86

I see

Stephen Morrissey

00:05:59.29

You know from the previous year? I think that was the idea (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:06:02.68

and so then you said you started-do you remember, sorry before we go on, do you remember reading about the riots and the computer...

Stephen Morrissey

00:06:13.88

Yeah I did, the previous February

Jason Camlot

00:06:15.34

Yeah and what do you remember before you came? Did it colour your entry into Sir George?

Stephen Morrissey

00:06:21.26

No, no it didn't. I thought you know, it was too bad but it didn't change my mind about wanting to come here

Jason Camlot

00:06:31.12

and you said in your email to me that you were a 19-year-old NDG boy

Jason Camlot

00:06:36.44

What did that mean to you? To be from NDG from that time?

Stephen Morrissey

00:06:36.44

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:06:41.99

Probably not, I think it is only recently that people have started to think that NDG is kind of a special community. (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:06:48.81

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:06:49.78

and it is. If you look at all the people who have come from NDG-I mean poetry was- my brother went to West Hill and one of his friends was Max Layton so we always knew about Irving Layton. When I would walk to school we passed an apartment building that we said was Irving Layton's. I don't know if it was

Jason Camlot

00:07:14.10

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:07:14.49

but supposedly he owned this apartment building. In the newspaper there were-well no all these, but letters between Layton and Dudek, fighting it out in public. PR's themselves. Poetry was-I won't bother mentioning other people from NDG, William Shatner and things like that. It is a community that did turn out a lot of people who made a name for themselves.

Jason Camlot

00:07:46.80

Yeah and a lot of the faculty and a lot of the poetry parties seemed to have happened in NDG. That was surprising to me, I guess in part cause the new area where everyone wanted to live when I was an undergraduate was the Plateau. Right?

Jason Camlot

00:08:00.81

But at the time Howard was-Howard Fink was saying that he lived in NDG and most of the poetry-and he mentioned Richard Sommer as well

Stephen Morrissey

00:08:00.81

Sure

Stephen Morrissey

00:08:08.49

Yeah he lived on Draper. I think Howard Fink may have lived on Melrose. Cause I have these invitations that I got at the time inviting me to the parties after. So this one is for Mack Hammond (Shows invitation to party) and this one was for Dennis Lee. So this must be 4054 Melrose must be Howard Fink

Jason Camlot

00:08:32.37

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:08:33.48

I think Hoffman lived in an apartment downtown.

Jason Camlot

00:08:39.94

Would you allow us to scan these?

Stephen Morrissey

00:08:39.94

Sure otherwise they are into the archives at McGill (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:08:43.77

No that'd be wonderful

Stephen Morrissey

00:08:45.29

I found these in the diaries, just stuck in.

Jason Camlot

00:08:50.03

No that's wonderful. I didn't realize it was as official as all that. So after, the way Howard described his sort of format of the readings, and it seemed quite particular, I will just rehearse it and we'll come back to the poetry party.

Jason Camlot

00:09:02.82

Was that you know, one of the organizers Howard or someone would pick them up at the airport, drive them down to the Ritz for a drink. Then they'd check into their room, then they'd take them out to dinner, usually a Chinese restaurant downtown, I think we've mentioned a particular one. Then they'd have the reading um-there wasn't a public Q & A after the readings, but they'd sort of linger and sign books after the readings and then was the poetry party. It wasn't clear to me how people were invited to the poetry party. Was it a selective list?

Stephen Morrissey

00:09:45.03

I think if they saw people who were interested and they knew I was a student so eventually I started getting these invitations. Or they held a reception after Bill Bissett's reading and that's where I met Allen Ginsberg.

Jason Camlot

00:09:58.26

Right, so lets go a little bit into some of the readings. The very first one that you attended according to the emails you sent me was Jerome Rothenberg on October 17th, 1969.

Stephen Morrissey

00:10:07.14

Yup

Jason Camlot

00:10:11.51

So that's right?

Stephen Morrissey

00:10:11.51

Um yeah, if I said that (laughs) but you don't want to stick with the list that you sent? You had made another list.

Jason Camlot

00:10:22.01

Well we could, I know I mentioned Bissett and Ginsberg that I was particularly interested in.

Stephen Morrissey

00:10:22.47

Yeah

Jason Camlot

00:10:23.42

I just- I was mentioning the Rothenberg just because that was the first one. So maybe there were some impressions?

Stephen Morrissey

00:10:26.93

Um, well I-

Jason Camlot

00:10:28.36

Of what the series was that you might have

Stephen Morrissey

00:10:30.38

Well yeah, I have written down in the diaries where they are. (Flips through his journals) So you see Jerome Rothenberg number twenty-two (laughs). This is one of the first. You see I have been keeping a diary since January 14th 1965 and it was really because I had a dream, maybe in 63', you know kids or people you have these big dreams that changes a persons life. I had had a big dream that I was forgetting things that my youth was passing away even though I was only thirteen or fourteen. Unfortunately, for some of us, when you start something you never stop! So now even all these years I still keep the diary everyday.

Jason Camlot

00:11:29.00

You kept it, as you said in the email to me, everyday since that day which is remarkable

Stephen Morrissey

00:11:35.52

(laughs) I hope they think that at McGill cause I want to give them all. I am up to, this is going to sound really neurotic, (laughs) over forty four thousand pages. I am one of those compulsive people I guess, although I don't feel that I am

Jason Camlot

00:11:53.76

Well you are a sort of person archivist

Stephen Morrissey

00:11:55.00

Well that's the thing

Jason Camlot

00:11:56.00

To which we are extremely grateful

Stephen Morrissey

00:11:57.30

I have always believed in keeping archives although perhaps I didn't phrase it that way. In fact, I found and article that I clipped from Time magazine about poet's selling their archives and making a lot of money for it, not that I was in it for the money ever.

Stephen Morrissey

00:12:19.18

I remember talking to B.P.Nichol when he sold his archives, I guess it was at the University of Toronto and he had said that he got 50,000$, you know?

Jason Camlot

00:12:24.05

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:12:24.05

You don’t get money anymore you get a tax receipt, which if you don't have much income it isn't going to be worth much (laughs). You have to also use it within five years. But um...

Jason Camlot

00:12:36.66

Do you-could we come back to that dream just for a moment, because it is one of the reasons why you're going to be such a remarkable interviewee having all of this written down

Stephen Morrissey

00:12:48.68

laughing

Jason Camlot

00:12:51.87

You were thirteen when you wrote that?

Stephen Morrissey

00:12:53.06

I was probably thirteen and the first part of the diary is of, sort of a couple of pages that I typed on going to the hospital to have my tonsils out and then I didn't seem to do much about it until January the 14th 1955 and then I really started like everyday

Jason Camlot

00:13:18.11

Did you ever experience anyone who had extreme memory loss for any reason? Was it a fear...

Stephen Morrissey

00:13:18.80

No, no ,no I don't know why. I was just something that impressed itself upon me. "Wow you got to start remembering things and writing them down!". So I have always been into archives and as I kept telling Ken Morris over the years, if you don't write your own history someone else is going to write it for you

Jason Camlot

00:13:41.78

laughs

Stephen Morrissey

00:13:42.64

and they are going to leave you out. If they don't leave you out they're going to change what really happened. So here we are today because I wrote all this stuff down when I was nineteen! So that is something to remember (laughing). This is the thought process of what a nineteen year old remember or writes at the time

Jason Camlot

00:14:01.70

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:14:04.23

It may not be- at least-

Jason Camlot

00:14:09.81

Well that is what we want to hear

Stephen Morrissey

00:14:09.81

Yeah, ok well I hadn't planned on starting with Jerome Rothenberg, but that'd fine

Jason Camlot

00:14:12.79

I mean I mentioned it only because it was the first one

Stephen Morrissey

00:14:14.34

because Rothenberg is also an important poet because he wrote that Technicians of the Sacred that Richard Sommers was really big on. So let's see what I- (flips through journal)

Stephen Morrissey

00:14:28.75

So I have a little poetry clipping about Jerome Rothenberg and um...so (begins to read journal) It is Friday October 17th 1969 um- Ok some of this is not really about Rothenberg, do you want that or just-

Jason Camlot

00:14:44.84

Yeah absolutely we want your experiences

Stephen Morrissey

00:14:47.30

Well (begins to read from journal again) At six thirty pm Scotty Gardner from Explorations the action group, all five of them I don't know who they are, who I call--well I better leave out some of this (laughs). Well we went to a place called the Bistro and Scotty actually paid for everyone, which was quite generous. The Jerome Rothenberg an American poet and translator in room H-651 at 9pm, I was the only one who wanted to go from Explorations. It was a quick two hours and excellent presentation, an hour of translated Aztec and other India poems than his own. I was so excited! (stops reading journal)

Stephen Morrissey

00:15:29.33

This is sort of my first reading. I had see Layton when I was in high school at Loyola, but um, you know the first reading at Sir George

Stephen Morrissey

00:15:38.52

(begins to read journal) I was so excited seeing a poet! (stops reading) This is really bad (laughs). (starts reading) (stops reading) I really had poets on a pedestal

Stephen Morrissey

00:15:47.85

(reads journal) As he read if he came to a funny part he would sway his shoulders and glance up. He is about 5'7 has a beard and worn a red turtleneck with an Indian medallion around his neck. He sang a few poems, one on tape. (stops reading) I guess he had a tape recording. (starts reading) Second hours of the poem were about his Jewish ancestry and born in 1932 in Warsaw Poland. I really enjoyed the poems, a total success! (laughs, stops reading)

Jason Camlot

00:15:47.85

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:16:19.74

So that's a kid. I was still nineteen

Jason Camlot

00:16:21.26

Yeah so the very first poetry reading you heard was Irving Layton you said?

Stephen Morrissey

00:16:25.90

Well when I was in high school I guess we had walked over to Loyola cause we heard Layton- you know with some friends who were also would be poets. That was really exciting, but I didn't bring that one with me, I would have to look it up (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:16:42.27

Do you off the cuff sort of remember that reading at all? I am sort of just curious to know-one of the very generic questions I ask is when was your first time you heard a poem read out loud?

Stephen Morrissey

00:16:54.35

I would have to go back and look it up

Stephen Morrissey

00:16:56.50

But I remember seeing Layton walking across the campus at McGill when I was still in High school. I went to some sort of conference on Black writers when I was in high school and so maybe it was at that time. You know there were people like -you probably don't know the names, but Stilty Carmichael and H.R.Brown who were all like big leaders of the Black movement in the States and a lot of them came to Montreal and for some reason I went to that. (laughs).

Jason Camlot

00:16:56.50

Yeah ok

Stephen Morrissey

00:17:35.88

But anyways that was the first at Sir. George

Jason Camlot

00:17:38.93

That was wonderful

Stephen Morrissey

00:17:39.39

Well I am glad you think so! (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:17:44.15

It is what is missing so far from our archive is that sense of what people thought about it

Stephen Morrissey

00:17:46.01

Yeah really excited and um, also, well do you want to do another reading or...

Jason Camlot

00:17:54.61

Sure-well

Stephen Morrissey

00:17:56.97

I have got lots of stuff written down! (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:17:57.46

I will ask you one more question before we turn to the Bill Bissett one a couple of weeks later.

Stephen Morrissey

00:18:06.39

Yeah.

Jason Camlot

00:18:06.97

Going back your high school it seems pretty amazing that you were already so interested in writers and writing even in high school. So I am wondering if you remember how literature was taught to you in high school? Was reading poetry part of the pedagogical experience?

Stephen Morrissey

00:18:22.56

yeah it was, we had a poetry anthology, which I still have of course, and I should bring it. We did-I remember taking North American literature with Mr.Dudney and it was Mr. Boswell who I met at an F.R.Scott reading which I also have here. Um, it was-and also I edited the schools literary magazine, so that was something else. I guess that people knew that I was already writing, a poet. I mean there was really no bullying, you know they talk about bullying today, it just didn't exist. The only bullies were the teachers (laughs) and not in high school, but in grade school there were some really terrible people who were teachers. The students’ were-I mean everyone was, "oh you're a poet that's nice". Nobody bothered you.

Jason Camlot

00:19:26.62

What grade school do you go to?

Stephen Morrissey

00:19:29.15

I went to Wellington and then I went to Rosedale

Jason Camlot

00:19:31.45

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:19:32.72

It was an absolutely horrible principal at Rosedale and even my teacher was one of the worst humans I have ever met! (laughs). I remember walking down the hall leaving grade two or something and saying I am finished! I remember that exactly, I am finished, this will be a disaster, cause I got this horrible woman.

Jason Camlot

00:19:56.92

When did you start writing poetry?

Stephen Morrissey

00:19:58.81

I probably started in '65. Oh in the papers I have given to McGill are all the first-I used to number them you know. I would sit every night and I would write. I really put in my ten thousand hours (laughs) of work, every night I would sit there. maybe partly as a way to avoid doing homework, but I would write poems and file them, but them into bundles in my little desk. They're all at McGill cause I never throw anything away. (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:20:32.08

Yeah, so then you entered Sir George and you-

Stephen Morrissey

00:20:38.30

Yeah life was good

Jason Camlot

00:20:40.31

You mentioned in one of your emails that Bissett had an influence on you

Stephen Morrissey

00:20:45.96

Well-

Jason Camlot

00:20:46.31

At least, that one of the first readings you gave at the Karma Coffee House was kind of Bissett-like

Stephen Morrissey

00:20:49.98

Oh yeah, it is kind of embarrassing. That would be like March '73. I gave the first reading I had ever given and I think I got up and did a sort of pseudo Bissett thing. Then a few months later I read for the first time at Vehicle Art Gallery. I helped to organize the reading in I guess it was June '73 with ah Guy Burchhardt, who was a poet from Ottawa or wherever he had been living. We had Richard Sommer read, Glen Seerass and other people

Jason Camlot

00:21:25.78

But you hadn't read or heard of Bissett before this_

Stephen Morrissey

00:21:29.99

This reading? No I hadn't...I hadn't heard of most of these people before the reading. You know I knew some m=Montreal poets, or knew of them. I knew Ginsberg, so before we get to Bill Bissett. (takes out an article)

Stephen Morrissey

00:21:47.36

This is a newspaper article from The Montreal Star, November 11th 1967 and you can have that actually cause that article changed my life. Not that I was going to do any other writing then what was in there, but I read that Ginsberg said: Scribble down your nakedness, because it is the nakedness of the soul that people are interested in reading.

Jason Camlot

00:22:10.00

Mhm

Stephen Morrissey

00:22:10.20

That fit in exactly with the way I thought. I had a lot of, a lot of stuff, a lot of things I wanted to say in poetry. Um, I read this and I still have the article as you can see (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:22:26.42

So you read (reads article) scribble down your nakedness, be prepared to stand naked because most often it is this nakedness of the soul that the reader finds most (hard to hear) enticing

Stephen Morrissey

00:22:37.31

I still believe that and I still believe that poetry is the voice of the soul. It is the psyche speaking, um, which is why poetry in whatever form it is in will always exist because people will always have a soul even if they don't know it they have a soul a psyche. It doesn't have to be something that has to float up to heave, but it's in people.

Jason Camlot

00:23:04.88

Right, so this you read actually after the reading?

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:09.47

No I read_

Jason Camlot

00:23:09.53

Oh this was '67

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:09.56

Yeah that's going back to '67

Jason Camlot

00:23:12.32

So this was a reading that he_

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:17.56

This was an article on someone who was making a...um, some movie about someone

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:26.83

Yeah I have looked him up and I didn't find anything about him. Peggy Fulk is the author of that and she is a fairly well known journalist.

Jason Camlot

00:23:26.83

Conrad Rooks

Jason Camlot

00:23:40.41

So you read about Ginsberg in this article

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:43.08

Yeah that was my first exposure to Ginsberg

Jason Camlot

00:23:43.28

Wow

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:43.60

And of course books then by Allen Ginsberg were hard to find

Jason Camlot

00:23:47.38

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:23:48.19

When I would go to visit, my brother was at MIT at Cambridge, and I would go down and I would look for books. Kerouac's books were out of prints, so I was always looking for these books. Like now you can order it off AbesBooks you know? (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:24:02.07

Laughs

Stephen Morrissey

00:24:03.58

Suddenly you get a while library. Back then they were like a treasure: "Wow a book by Allen Ginsberg!"

Jason Camlot

00:24:12.17

No and it made it special too

Stephen Morrissey

00:24:13.57

It really made it special yeah

Jason Camlot

00:24:16.70

So then you met Allen Ginsberg?

Stephen Morrissey

00:24:22.80

Just after the Bissett reading

Jason Camlot

00:24:22.90

So can you describe the Bissett reading as best you can?

Stephen Morrissey

00:24:23.90

Well I will find it here (laughs) I've got everything (flips through journal) everything organized sort of. I will just see what page it is on...ok Bill Bissett's...um (flips through pages)

Stephen Morrissey

00:24:45.53

Ok! This is that day and I don't know that I got much about Bissett but (begins to read) Finally at about 8:30pm Erik, that's Erik Mass, who was a really good friend at the time and another person and myself, went over to Sir. George to see Bill Bissett, a Canadian poet, who read at 9pm. (stops reading) I didn't actually like Bill Bissett, I found- although Bill Bissett is actually a wonderful poet and I know him, but you know this is just my first reaction.

Jason Camlot

00:25:18.17

Yeah, yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:25:20.29

I found Bill Bissett to be too aloof from his audience there was no humour in his face he seemed cold. Some of the poems were just dirty. (stops readings) I was quite puritanical! (laughing) (continues reading) Bill Bissett is a Canadian he is about 5 foot 9 (stops reading) I don't know why I had (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:25:34.90

Yeah the height is really (laughing)

Stephen Morrissey

00:25:37.33

He has semi long brown hair. Before they lowered the lights I saw who? Allen Ginsberg walk in! He is in Montreal early I think he reads at Montreal tomorrow and I will miss it! (stops reading) Oh I guess I missed that one, oh anyhow (continues reading) Bill Bissett finished I walked over to Ginsberg. (stops reading) This must have been at the reception afterwards and a big thing then were cassette tape recorders, you know?

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:03.39

Which people, well obviously it is old technology, and Scotty Gardner had one and I thought that I had to get one of those, and I found when I bought it that it was 80$.   You can buy them now, if you can find them, for about 30$ (laughs)

Jason Camlot

00:26:03.39

Oh yeah

Jason Camlot

00:26:19.01

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:19.01

But um, I turned on my tap recorder because I had taped Bill Bissett's reading. (continues reading) After taping an hour of Bissett I saw no one was talking to Ginsberg so I walked up and (stops reading) and here is a transcript. I actually transcribed it! (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:26:33.30

You recorded your conversation with Ginsberg?

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:35.18

With Ginsberg and then I transcribed it! (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:26:37.56

Wow

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:38.47

I am going to sound really like I am some kind of nut! (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:26:41.47

Were you, I am sorry, were you-so the tape recorder was probably one of these? Like that had a speaker at the back and then

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:50.98

That's right and a little

Jason Camlot

00:26:51.18

and you would press the keys right in the front of something?

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:53.68

Yeah that's right (laughing)

Jason Camlot

00:26:54.12

And maybe you would wear it over your shoulder?

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:55.30

You could do that yeah?

Stephen Morrissey

00:26:58.77

I guess I had it or something...I guess. Yet probably not, I was probably sort of secretive

Jason Camlot

00:26:58.77

Did you have a microphone?

Jason Camlot

00:27:05.94

Oh ok yeah because they probably had condenser mics on them as well. Did Ginsberg know you were recording him?

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:10.18

Probably not, no (laughing).

Jason Camlot

00:27:15.01

Wow, so you transcribed it. Can you read the-

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:17.22

Yeah so (starts reading) I walked up from behind, he has glasses long black hair (laughing) a long black beard, about thirty-six and has a pockmarked face. He is about 5 foot 7 (laughing)

Unknown

00:27:29.40

Group laughter

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:30.50

I am going to have to leave those out in the future!

Jason Camlot

00:27:31.18

No, no

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:32.45

A youngish voice and someone just finished talking to him and he is all alone.

Unknown

00:27:39.13

Transcript of Conversation with Allen Ginsberg

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:39.33

Hi

Allen Ginsberg

00:27:39.43

Hi

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:40.13

I am reading your thing.

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:45.13

(stops reading) Wow this is really articulate: "your thing". Well this is about an interview that he had done in Playboy

Stephen Morrissey

00:27:50.52

Transcript continues: I agree that we have only about twenty years left for the planet.

Allen Ginsberg

00:27:56.03

Five, five years and everyone started laughing. We are so unprepared about it

Stephen Morrissey

00:28:10.64

It sort of bothers me that people are always worrying about such irrelevant things such as (whatever I couldn't hear it on the tape)

Allen Ginsberg

00:28:16.73

Friendships, everyone laughs

Stephen Morrissey

00:28:22.52

The small things

Allen Ginsberg

00:28:22.72

It is such a threatening thing today, I only wish I knew what to do about it and put everybody at ease.

Stephen Morrissey

00:28:30.92

Oh he was talking about the French-English thing. There were demonstrations going on

Unknown

00:28:33.93

Unknown guy enters conversation: There are a lot of people like that it is confusing, they're out there on the street. This is about the protest about the recent Bill 63.

Allen Ginsberg

00:28:41.81

It is still going on out there?

Unknown

00:28:44.01

Oh yeah

Allen Ginsberg

00:28:47.02

Are they in sleeping bags or what?

Stephen Morrissey

00:28:52.06

Yeah I guess so, they are on the Plains of Abraham

Allen Ginsberg

00:28:53.37

Is everyone bringing tents or things or what?

Unknown

00:28:59.19

I guess they'll just bring sleeping bags

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:02.21

Do you think it is dangerous down there? Maybe we should go and see? How long of a drive is it?

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:10.54

Oh it is a few hours. You could always get a bus

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:12.65

Oh to Quebec City?

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:16.05

Yeah well it was nice seeing you

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:24.92

It was interesting when you think about the Indian chants he did (talking about Bill Bissett)

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:26.15

Yeah Jerome Rothenberg was here a couple of weeks ago and he did something like that also

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:31.62

Oh yeah?

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:32.28

Yeah it was very nice

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:35.00

I am going to do some Indian chanting. I am going to do some Indian chanting, but it is different because it is Oriental, he did native Indian chanting which was very nice.

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:44.64

It seems more relevant to do North American Indian chanting uh?

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:48.91

Well, it's the breathing you see

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:54.10

Well where are you staying?

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:55.62

At a hotel in town

Stephen Morrissey

00:29:58.79

Which is it

Allen Ginsberg

00:29:58.99

The Sheraton Hotel in Montreal

Stephen Morrissey

00:30:02.43

Oh goodbye (laughing)

Unknown

00:30:05.86

Transcript ends

Stephen Morrissey

00:30:06.06

That was it! (laughing

Jason Camlot

00:30:06.16

Wonderful. So Ginsberg was very interested in the protests that were happening in Quebec City

Stephen Morrissey

00:30:10.07

Yeah, yeah he was. Yeah Bill 63 and I Guess he was sort of bringing up the war in Vietnam. I guess he sort of juxtaposed that demonstrations were sort of you know, were kind of...whatever people were demonstrating about was good. I don't even know what Bill 63 is now

Jason Camlot

00:30:30.56

Yeah I can't remember, I will have to look it up though

Unknown

00:30:31.65

Bill 63--more formally known as the Loi pour promouvoir la langue française au Québec (or "Law to promote the French language in Quebec"), was a language law passed in 1969 in the Canadian province of Quebec. The law was passed by the Union Nationale government of Jean-Jacques Bertrand because of controversy and violence that erupted when the Catholic school board of Saint Leonard, Quebec insisted that children of mostly Italian immigrants be forced to go to French schools. Section 2 of the Bill made available for all residents of Quebec the option of an English language education for anyone desiring it for the children in their care. This right has popularly become known as "freedom of choice."

The law promoted French by:

  • requiring that the Education ministry ensure that students graduating from English schools in Quebec have a working knowledge of French;
  • making French courses available to all students enrolled in Quebec schools;
  • requiring the Education ministry to make French courses available to all immigrants entering Quebec;
  • expanding the mandate of the Office Quebecois de la langue française.

The law was passed before the resulting Gendron Commission was set up to make recommendations addressing Quebec's language issue. It fell short of the expectations of many citizens (among them many Quebec Nationalists) promoting that French become the common public language of all Quebec residents. The main criticism of the law was that it kept in place the existing educational system, under which all Quebec residents could send their children to schools whose language of instruction was either French or English. Opposition to the law led to the coalition Mouvement Québec français.

Jason Camlot

00:30:40.70

Yeah, one question I have had throughout listening to the readings, and there are a couple of related questions, about the meaning of political actions, political gathering and just sort of local politics. This in relation to a lot of American poets who were coming and there were political poets in different ways

Stephen Morrissey

00:30:56.64

Sure, yeah

Jason Camlot

00:30:58.57

It is often Vietnam and larger American political issues. I have always wondered how um, how politicized the events seemed to the attendees? Like when you went to poetry and it wasn't only to listen to someone read poetry necessarily, but it was a kind of gathering that had political issues.

Stephen Morrissey

00:31:18.14

Well I think it was mostly to hear people read poems. I don't think the- I remember in the fall of '69 when I was in Explorations we drove down to Goddard College in Vermont and we stayed there for a few days.   We went to Mount Pillar, which was part of a demonstration, which my mother saw on TV when I got back and said "what were you doing!" Yet other than that...Um we would meet a lot of draft dodgers in Montreal, um, you'd meet, if you were on the mountain they'd talk to you and you'd find out, people would take them in. Yet as for the readings I don't think really there were political at all, but do you want the Ginsberg reading? It might be a bit better than that

Jason Camlot

00:32:09.69

Absolutely I do. That was on November-Ginsberg read on November the 7th

 

Stephen Morrissey

00:32:18.12

Yeah '69 at 7:30pm and um...I have the posters, it was done by Terri Mosher (Aislin)

Jason Camlot

00:32:30.89

Yeah we'll have to get it scanned. We got scans of the Main posters that announced the season. Which you persevered five of the seven, which was wonderful

Stephen Morrissey

00:32:41.00

Oh ok, yeah

Jason Camlot

00:32:42.13

And Howard showed me the last one that isn't in your papers

Stephen Morrissey

00:32:50.63

No

Jason Camlot

00:32:51.21

Yeah so we're trying to get them all and just sort of re-piece them. We haven't really started scanning the individual posters for particular events. I would love you to speak as long as you want about the Ginsberg reading, I mean we have heard from George and um, Howard about it. So it'll be really interesting to compare experiences-

Stephen Morrissey

00:33:13.34

Well this is just some kid, who is nineteen

Jason Camlot

00:33:13.64

Mhm

Stephen Morrissey

00:33:16.76

but who is a big fan of Ginsberg. You know, there is the clippings and he is a big-not that he is a huge influence on what I wrote, but an influence on my...um my consciousness? Um, on being a poet and um...um, just an approach to writing poetry. You know, to scribble down your nakedness.

Stephen Morrissey

00:33:43.15

Reads journal: It is Friday now November 7th 1969, Allen Ginsberg poetry reading, I arrived at 7:30 pm waited an hour and at 8:30 pm sitting comfortably about ten rows up, I had a good seat. Ginsberg came in surrounded by Hare Krishna chanters. (stops) I guess you have all of this stuff?

Jason Camlot

00:33:59.60

It is on the tapes

Stephen Morrissey

00:34:01.04

Oh ok

Stephen Morrissey

00:34:01.94

Read: Microphones, cameramen, poor Ginsberg!

Stephen Morrissey

00:34:07.15

Well actually he probably loved it (laughing) poor Ginsberg

Stephen Morrissey

00:34:09.76

Reads: The only way you knew he was still there sitting on the floor with yellow socks was because of his chanting.

Stephen Morrissey

00:34:17.47

You know their chanting, you see them on the street of Montreal, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Rahma Blah blah blah.

Stephen Morrissey

00:34:21.64

Then finally the Krishna people they leave. They leave Ginsberg, balding black hair, limp behind his ears, beard down to his chest, black tie and beads. First he reads a poem requested by George Bowering and then other poems like poems from Planet Muse and the poem was: Today I am Victim of Telephone. Ken Keeshey's with Hell's Angels, chances R and Wichita Vortex Sutra. He also sang sections from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. He sang them to a small organ that you hold in you hand. He was very relaxed, he made his poems come to life, they lived, they were very funny as he had great inflections to his voice. He was kind and it ended around 11:25 pm and then um...(stops reading) that was really the end of it and then I just talk about leaving and...

Jason Camlot

00:35:34.01

Yeah just continue if you don't mind

Stephen Morrissey

00:35:35.28

Well this is about a week or so or two weeks after Jack Kerouac died, so I don't know if he mentioned Kerouac, but anyhow...some of the way that I write isn't the way that I think or spoke you know? but...just sort of people did and then ok..

Stephen Morrissey

00:35:56.35

Continues reading: I am going out into the cold night air, rain and reflections in the black pavements. I drove home with my friend Eric and there were these too girls Ann and Anne. Now I was upset because I didn’t tape it, that was the reason for buying the machine (laughing). I would really kick myself, hear it once great, he was present, but two, three, four many times I could of listened to it, even greater! I could pick up so much he is a really great poet. Then earlier in the day I had bought Electric Toy Acid Test by Tom Wolfe and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Jason Camlot

00:36:49.16

That's fascinating, that you really thought of your tape machine as a tool to help develop as a poet

Stephen Morrissey

00:36:56.09

Yeah, yeah to record things and um, you know then listen to them. There were certain things...there used to be a program on the radio called Anthology, on Saturday nights at 10pm. I remember I listened to this every Saturday and they had on Al Pur- I guess I had heard of some of the Canadian poets. They had on Al Purdy and Milton Acorn, Margaret Avison, Bill Bissett and others. I had heard those people at that time. That would be like '67-68 and I would tape those and listen to those over and over again.

Jason Camlot

00:37:37.08

So you'd tape them right off the radio?

Stephen Morrissey

00:37:38.20

Yeah, yeah

Jason Camlot

00:37:40.12

Do you still have those tapes?

Stephen Morrissey

00:37:40.35

I don't think I do no. I wish I had the Ginsberg tape...maybe I do in a box somewhere. I would have to look, but I do not think I do.

Jason Camlot

00:37:51.43

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:37:52.27

But that was the big thrill meeting-and a lot of the poets were in the same kind of um, were like Ginsberg, were kind of a derivative of Ginsberg you know that chanting, beads and the whole hippie thing

Jason Camlot

00:38:10.73

Right. You said in the notes you sent me that obviously Bowering was there because he requested the reading, but Peter Orlovsky?

Stephen Morrissey

00:38:20.06

Oh yeah, yeah that's right. I don't know why I didn't see it just now, but Peter Orlovsky was sitting in the front row. I remember he was dressed in like buckskin with like long hair and beads and you know...people could dress that way then. Maybe Bowering sat with him, I saw Bowering at a lot of readings, you know it was either Frank Davey or Bowering they'd be together.

Jason Camlot

00:38:47.38

Well do you- I mean Bowering was obviously involved in helping to run and organize the series once he arrived at Concordia. I know it was Stanton Hoffman and Howard Fink who really started the-and Roy Kiookya and when William Francis sort of oversaw things a little bit and Irving Layton was involved somewhat as poet in-residence in the early years until George came to replace him in that position. Um, but then it seemed that George became a really strong force in the organization. Were you interested at all in the organizers of the series? It is partly a questions about how integrated the readings seemed to be from your actually curriculum, you know?

Stephen Morrissey

00:39:36.05

Yeah and...I just went to the readings I didn't really- I would see Hoffman and Fink together and I would see Bowering at some of the readings, but really other than that I had nothing to do with them. Except perhaps going to a couple of parties at people's homes. I don't think I ever saw Richard Sommer at any of the readings, but um-

Jason Camlot

00:39:59.50

But you knew who they were? As faculty members

Stephen Morrissey

00:40:02.37

Well I took a creative writing course with Richard

Jason Camlot

00:40:03.77

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:40:03.77

um that was in '72-73, that school year

Jason Camlot

00:40:08.99

Did you ever take a course with Stan, Howard or George?

Stephen Morrissey

00:40:15.39

Well I noticed that I was suppose to take a course in the Modern Novel with um...I guess it was with Hoffman, I forget.

Jason Camlot

00:40:25.32

Could have been yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:40:25.72

But they changed the teacher it was someone else called Ivon Klein and nevertheless it was a good course

Jason Camlot

00:40:37.62

Right

Jason Camlot

00:40:40.42

Great so lets just go through more of the readings. One of the things that I noted before that is not one that I necessarily mentioned, you probably have the ones that I marked, but you said that on the 11th of February 1970 it was a year from when the computers were smashed at the Hall Building and you attended a meeting of solidarity with the students at the time

Stephen Morrissey

00:41:01.32

Right sure. This is kind of interesting. Um 23...this is day 1, I wrote down the pages numbers so I would have them al and wouldn't have to waste time. I had heard Diane Wakoski read, but I don't think I put her on the list

Jason Camlot

00:41:24.73

No she was on January 23rd 1970 you said right?

Stephen Morrissey

00:41:28.44

Yeah, but you know some people like her, but I didn't really say to much

Jason Camlot

00:41:34.45

What is that?

Stephen Morrissey

00:41:34.65

This is a clipping from, of her in the student newspaper and the poem.

Stephen Morrissey

00:41:41.14

Reads: She is from California, I was sitting there and she passed by and right away I said, something (laughing), I thought she was pretty good looking dressed in a white dress, short, white nylons, I don't have her height, that looked sort of like boots and white shoes, the microphones didn't work and so everyone could hardly hear her, this happened at the Creeley reading as well, something in the PA system. So that was a disappointment, but I was sitting in the front row so I only missed a few words. A lot of her poems dealt with American culture like George Washington, I liked it, it was pretty good, but she tended to talk too much between the poems. I was taping it and the tape twisted and got all screwed up, I will have to get it-take the tape back to Eaton’s (laughter) I liked her poems (stops reading)

Stephen Morrissey

00:42:36.47

So that was it for Diane Wakoski. Who actually I do like as a poet, I have some of her books, but (flips through pages) Frank Davey...you know I think I went to so many of these readings...OK! here is about the computer riots and a year later, do you want that?

Jason Camlot

00:42:53.45

Yeah I would love to hear about that, that's February 11th 1970 I think you said?

Stephen Morrissey

00:42:57.89

Yeah, February 11th 1970, it was one year ago today that the computers were smashed at Sir. George. Today, merely out of curiosity and boredom I went to Solidarity with February 11th meeting in support of the students arrested. The various speakers said their own little pieces, basically all just promoted their own little group for ten minutes, then added on only incidentally that they were in solidarity with the February 11th students that were arrested. They had such names are, these groups as: The Afro Asian Students Front Against Yankee Imperialism, you couldn't make this up! What a joke, the whole motley group were, what an exercise in self-delusion...what phonies. At any rate, the speakers had given their speeches and after about an hour of this all spiced up with words like imperialism, aggression, bourgeoisie, dictatorship of the proletariat and other clichés massive dogmatism. Then a girl (and I remember this really clearly of being in one of those auditoriums maybe on the 9th floor) a girl inquired why had the chairman not allowed the young socialists to speak? The answer was that they were police agents, what a laugh! The audience obviously supported the young socialists, which are Trotskyites. The student movement organized the meeting, a malice front, a student who left the student front pointed out the contradiction that this was supposable a democratic meeting and as such the young socialist should be allowed to speak. Then suddenly a red faced little girl reminding me of Madame.Defarge from The Tale of Two Cities, jumped up and pointing at the questioning student yelled out hysterically "Get him out!". All this malice had been circling him, now they proceeded to punch him in the face and stomach.

Stephen Morrissey

00:45:07.13

I remember this was really shocking.

Stephen Morrissey

00:45:24.20

reads: About six on one person and one big fellow stamped on his feet as he kneed him in the face and they bent him and then they carried him out. The audience quickly left, we all took off! They were like the Nazi's either you agreeing with them or you are beat up, they are emotionally and mentally unstable, or so I believe. Margaret who was sitting beside me started to cry, this was a further shock, this whole episode was a shock. What this university needs is to have an anarchist party.

Stephen Morrissey

00:45:48.67

I guess I was into anarchism! (laughing) That is just as stupid as what I described. Yet really the terrible thing here is Margaret-I knew her a little bit, the next summer she went with a friend to PEI, maybe to work and there was a leak of gas, you know the gas for a stove...

Jason Camlot

00:46:15.40

Like propane or something?

Stephen Morrissey

00:46:15.60

Yeah maybe that

Jason Camlot

00:46:16.87

There was an explosion or?

Stephen Morrissey

00:46:17.63

No it was just that they died in their sleep

Jason Camlot

00:46:19.52

Oh...

Stephen Morrissey

00:46:21.14

So when I saw Margaret mentioned I said wow...there she is crying over these people. it was exciting and it was upsetting so that was the year later

Jason Camlot

00:46:38.06

So that was yeah on Feb-and you had mentioned earlier that the Creeley reading which happened just a month later in March, March 7th 1970 that the PA wasn't working. I think that was one of the ones I asked you to talk about.

Stephen Morrissey

00:46:56.76

Yeah that's right. I will get it right now if you would like

Jason Camlot

00:46:57.61

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

00:46:58.23

(flips through pages)

Jason Camlot

00:47:15.44

Creeley came a couple of time to read at the series. He read in '67 and um-just as Layton was reading they read a month apart and Layton introduced Creeley. Then he came back in 1970 ad we have both recordings of those two readings

Stephen Morrissey

00:47:42.10

Well Creeley published one of Layton's first books

Jason Camlot

00:47:44.76

That's right

Stephen Morrissey

00:47:50.76

and um there is a book of correspondence between Layton and Creeley

Jason Camlot

00:47:51.31

Yeah the corresponded in the fifties and by the time he came they had never met. He had never met Layton until he went out to read in UBC in the early sixties. By the time he came to Montreal in '67 he and Layton, poetically, were on quite different paths by that point. That first reading is interesting because he is being very polite and kind to his old friend Irving Layton, even though poetically he is really beginning, you know, he is writing certain piece and texts which are much more serial, um, not well crafted, sparse poems, lyrics poems, more serials taking everything into account poems. Ones that Layton probably would have frowned upon...not necessarily "real" poetry per-se

Stephen Morrissey

00:48:40.63

That's right

Jason Camlot

00:48:42.56

Maybe you know, more like what Dudek was doing, although very different from Dudek as well. Buy the time he comes in '70 he is sort of a full throttle you know, ID on the stage, it sound like anyways. So I am very curious to hear about the 1970 reading. I believe-I was wondering first of all if you remember who introduced him? I know Layton introduced him in 67

Stephen Morrissey

00:49:12.21

I don't know, maybe it is in here. Another thing about this is that Charles Olsson died in January 1970, so he had just died a few months before and they were of course great friends.

Jason Camlot

00:49:35.38

and was Robert Blazer in the audience? I think so right?

Stephen Morrissey

00:49:38.63

I don't know...I don't know. I heard Blazer read, but I don't think I really knew Blazer

Jason Camlot

00:49:47.58

Right, or who he would have been

Stephen Morrissey

00:49:48.18

No I don't think so

Jason Camlot

00:49:50.26

Because I think, in the recording when you listen to it, which you can it is on the website, he addresses Blazer a couple of times and he chooses a few poems and reads them for him

Stephen Morrissey

00:50:00.60

Yeah, I remember the reading, of course it was in the evening...but um the PA system didn't work and we all had to move our seats up to really close to where he was sitting. It was a really good reading, well (laughs) we will see if I really thought that!

Jason Camlot

00:50:17.65

Yeah I would love to hear what you remem- well what you wrote about

Stephen Morrissey

00:50:22.41

Well later I corresponded with Creeley a little bit and it was very nice, he was one of those people who is welcoming to new poets. So this is Friday March the 6th 1970

Stephen Morrissey

00:50:37.45

Reads from journal: Robert Creeley poet read at Sir. George Williams this evening, he was very good (so thank goodness for that) standing about 5 foot 9 (laughing) with a moustache and a little beard he read for about one in a half hours Unfortunately, the organizers who run the thing didn't have the PA system working correctly so we all had to pull our chairs up to the podium and even then I could only hear bits and fragments of the poems.   What was interesting were the stories about the people that he met, Andy Warh-(you don't know if this is true I haven't heard the reading), Any Warhol singer, ultraviolet light, a true contemporary of Allen Ginsberg because Ginsberg was born May 23 1926 and he was born May 26 1926. He said that Bob Dillon gave Ginsberg a really good tape recorder. That Ginsberg went around interviewing all sorts of famous people, for instance, Gloria Huxley, wife of the late Alvis Huxley apparently Huxley knew he was dying of cancer and had a tab of acid (laughs well here is the 1960s talk). Um, beside he bed for the final moment. About a half hour before he died Huxley took the acid and although he didn't say anything before he died she said he had a very happy face. Creeley talked about his living in London, other details of his life.

Stephen Morrissey

00:52:08.03

That's about it for Robert Creeley

Jason Camlot

00:52:08.59

Hm, yeah and he was I guess in London because he had just been published. I can't remember if he was working on it in London or although I think it had already come out and he had read in London at the time. Yeah, well this is great, these are great first hand accounts of these readings

Stephen Morrissey

00:52:29.78

Laughter

Jason Camlot

00:52:29.88

Do you have, as you are reading the entries, other memories from the readings that emerge? Or do you find that you are reading it as though it is something-

Stephen Morrissey

00:52:38.63

Well I can visualize the room, you know?

Jason Camlot

00:52:43.16

Yeah, can you describe the room to us? The spaces are really fascinating to us, because as we were organizing the first public event using the audio, we wanted to find a room that hadn't been renovated. We had found one on the ninth floor, but then they renovated it before we did our event. So the very last room we could use was H-110, which is where Ginsberg read, which hadn't been renovated yet. Yet at least we got one event in the un-renovated space. We were wondering though you know-we were interested in the kind of spaces, the Hall building was kind of a new cool space at the time?

Stephen Morrissey

00:53:23.41

Yeah it was

Jason Camlot

00:53:23.41

When you remember the space can you just describe it?

Stephen Morrissey

00:53:24.10

Well I could be totally wrong

Jason Camlot

00:53:27.89

and you're entitled to it!

Stephen Morrissey

00:53:32.90

It may have been on the 9th floor and it was a large room you'd go into by the sides. Maybe there were windows behind it...perhaps...hmm

Jason Camlot

00:53:44.29

When you said you pulled your seats up, do you remember were they loose seats?

Stephen Morrissey

00:53:48.19

Yeah they were loose seats

Jason Camlot

00:53:49.41

And what was the PA like? Were they built in or were they brought in?

Stephen Morrissey

00:53:58.26

I don't know, I think they must have brought them in cause they didn't work.

Jason Camlot

00:53:59.17

Do you remember where the tape recorder was? Because they reordered all of these

Stephen Morrissey

00:54:04.78

I don't know, they must have had it beside a microphone on the podium. The room was pretty dark, they had the lights turned down, you could see Creeley, but you could hardly hear him.

Jason Camlot

00:54:23.18

How many people brought tape recorders to these events? Was it common?

Stephen Morrissey

00:54:23.18

I don't think many people did, no people don't think in those terms

Jason Camlot

00:54:30.00

So they were cassette recorders cause cassettes were just coming out in the late sixties?

Stephen Morrissey

00:54:34.48

Yeah I had seen Scotty Gardner with these cassette recorders and he'd play things during gourd meetings and I knew I had to get one of those!

Jason Camlot

00:54:44.38

Yeah, did you used to record yourself reading?

Stephen Morrissey

00:54:49.86

No, no I never did.

Jason Camlot

00:54:51.52

So you'd use it to record conversations and-

Stephen Morrissey

00:54:56.50

Well...a lot of music, you know off the radio

Jason Camlot

00:54:59.63

oh yeah? Would you hook it up to the stereo or would you just put it up to the speakers?

Stephen Morrissey

00:55:07.86

No I had like a...patch wire? You'd just plug it into the machine and it'd-

Jason Camlot

00:55:12.05

go right to the tape

Stephen Morrissey

00:55:12.05

yeah and you know you could hit play and it worked, it was fine. It wasn't great technology, but it was pretty good.

Jason Camlot

00:55:23.02

Yeah, yeah. So how are you feeling?

Stephen Morrissey

00:55:24.22

Well getting a little tired

Jason Camlot

00:55:24.42

Yeah? Would you mind just talking about one more reading today?

Stephen Morrissey

00:55:27.24

Sure yeah

Jason Camlot

00:55:27.60

We'll sort of get to the end of the first email, the names I put on the first email, that would be the Al Purdy reading.

Stephen Morrissey

00:55:33.79

Oh ok

Jason Camlot

00:55:35.15

Which was just a couple of weeks later. Um, according to the dates that you have here, on March 13th 1970. Unless there was something else you wanted to talk about instead of that

Stephen Morrissey

00:55:48.75

No, no lets do that one

Jason Camlot

00:55:51.87

Ok that one and then Lay-I didn't know that Layton was there, I know Bowering introduces him cause his voice is on the recording.

Stephen Morrissey

00:56:04.56

I don't really have much on it, there is another reading that um, maybe we can add in, but um, I just have

Stephen Morrissey

00:56:13.45

March 13th 1920- Al Purdy, Canadian poet, unique and aligned to no schools, proletariat vigor and humour, heard him read this evening, really great, excellent, nonchalant reading. His humorous poems have everyone laughing, read some good poems after one serious poem he'd say "funny eh?" which broke everyone up. After another one he said "profound eh?" again laughter. Irving Layton walked in, he sat twisted in numerous contortions on his chair. Um, faking it up well I said to Eric, I didn't think much of Layton.

Jason Camlot

00:56:53.24

What was Layton- what was he um...

Stephen Morrissey

00:56:55.68

He was probably, you know some poets are pretty unpleasant to other poets at time, so Layton was probably twisted in his chair trying tot draw the attention to him and away from-

Jason Camlot

00:57:08.79

Ah I see (laughter)

Stephen Morrissey

00:57:09.35

(reads) A poet has to fake it up really well, the better the poet the better he fakes it up. The question is, does the poetry come before the faking does or does the poetry make the poet act so differently so skeptics like myself yell fake! Also Frank Davey and George Bowering were there. So these were all people who didn't really like each other. I don't think Bowering or Davey liked Layton. I know Layton didn't like them and AL Purdy was like a big star so they were all jealous. Not Bowering or Davey maybe, but Layton was, well he was selling thousands of copies of his books, so he was probably jealous of Purdy and there was a lot of ego in this.

Jason Camlot

00:58:08.11

Absolutely and they were probably vying for the role as "the" Canadian poet

Stephen Morrissey

00:58:08.90

That's right, and this is when Al Purdy was- maybe from 65 on had really taken over and was really "the" Canadian poet.

Stephen Morrissey

00:58:27.76

Although there was another reading that Purdy did (flips through pages) and um...I remember talking to Purdy after the reading, but I don't know if I can find it that fast

Jason Camlot

00:58:39.54

Well take your time

Stephen Morrissey

00:58:39.84

But it's um...lets see if I have it on the list, I don't see a second reading. I just want to say that some of these older poets were really generous with their time. There was a Montreal poetry tradition, Frank Scott and Layton and Dudek and they were very welcoming to new poets. The older generation of poets, I guess modernist in Canada like Earl Bernie, Dorothy Livey, Margaret Avison perhaps were very welcoming to people, to younger people. I have notes somewhere about sitting with AL Purdy and saying the craziest things to him like how much money he made from poetry!

Jason Camlot

00:59:39.30

Right

Stephen Morrissey

00:59:41.63

and things you'd never ever think of saying!

Jason Camlot

00:59:44.36

and he was willing to sit and talk with you

Stephen Morrissey

00:59:44.36

Yeah he was willing he'd say about ten thousand a year and he'd say how he made it. I don't think I can find it right now though

Jason Camlot

00:59:53.17

Oh ok, well we can save that for another time.

Stephen Morrissey

00:59:54.76

But there was one other poet, um, well- but we don't, lets stay with your list I don't want to

Jason Camlot

01:00:03.38

No, no please you can jump around wherever you want and I still have a few little questions anyhow about just on the first list that we covered. There was another poet you wanted to talk about?

Stephen Morrissey

01:00:14.02

Well it is a poet that I don't know if you know of Michael Horowitz, who is an English poet,

Jason Camlot

01:00:21.04

ok, no I-

Stephen Morrissey

01:00:21.24

As it turns out- because I had never heard of him and still until yesterday, except what I wrote here I never heard of him. Yet I looked him up and it turns out he was a friend of Ginsberg and Kerouac and had published them in England. I had gone to a reading at Sir. George and it was a Michael Horowitz reading, so this is November 3rd 1971, and I will just give you this

Stephen Morrissey

01:00:54.41

What a delicious day of poetry, first at Sir. George Michael Horowitz read. He is a little short guy, with big muscles and an open shirt, dangling tie and big thick reddish beard and long hair. He danced in the front of H-651

Jason Camlot

01:01:08.38

Oh nice

Stephen Morrissey

01:01:09.21

I will give you this, you can gave the typed copy, I did yesterday I guess

Stephen Morrissey

01:01:17.75

poured water on the floor to dampen the "fires of Sir. George". Then he read his poems and others from another penguin book called The Children of Albion that he had edited. The way he reads poetry, he puts himself totally into it and he sometimes, actually often, he breaks into song in his verse, he is part of a whole new group who dance, sing and drink they poems around England. he leans on the podium and does a funny little dance. The woman behind me is a Cegep teacher and she says, "either he is making fun of poetry or he is inebriated or stoned" she laughed. Later when I met him, I told him about this and he seemed really pleased. He blows on his kazoo between lines and stanzas, he was just great, I really dug Michael Horowitz

Stephen Morrissey

01:02:06.50

Playing his Kazoo reminded me of

 

Stephen Morrissey

01:02:06.87

Playing his kazoo reminded me of Rahssan Roland Kirk who was this Jazz musician who I think was living in Montreal at the time and I remember going to a few concerts that he gave. It is a strange comparison but maybe there is something to it. So later that day to poetry at McGill at 8pm (stops reading) Now I don't think I ever spoke this way in my life, dug this, this chick (laughter) I mean this is bizarre! (laughter). (starts reading) Anyhow going up to this chick Robin she's ok and we spoke and had a nice little chitchat and then in walks Earle Birney and Michael Horowitz.

Stephen Morrissey

01:02:39.09

So this is at the graduate students building, I think it is on Metcalf, at McGill and so (continues readings) Earle Birney and Michael Horowitz walk in and as usual Earle was just fine, he had on these sunglass and looked like a wise old Zen master with his white beard and his crazy glasses. Then Michael read (maybe he was still have McGill when he read I don't know maybe the reading was at the graduate student building) Downstairs I talked to Michael and Allen Ginsberg and others. He stands beside me and looks at me from behind tinted sunglasses and bluish false teeth (laughs) if that is true well oh my god. He is practically leaning on me and then he moves away to do it to someone else, upstairs are two poets again and then we all went over the graduate student building on McTavish and all these kids, students were sitting around drinking and watching TV. This old guy ahead of me turns out to be the Canadian law professor and poet F.R. Scott. So inside Robin and I sit bored to tears (laughs) we had to be constantly amused! Otherwise we were bored to tears. Finally I saw "let's leave". Going out I bump into Michael and say, "how can you stand these academic types? All these lousy parties! Not even one damn free drink" (laughs) I am someone who doesn't even drink you know?   (continues reading) Taking all this to heart he lets me have a sip of his drink (laughs) Can you imagine!? (laughter) Have a sip of my drink? It was bizarre (continues reading) He introduces me to an old lady named Marian who says she'll buy both Robin and I a drink so we have two beers and we begin to talk, she is a painter and we gab on the differences between poetry and painting. The space required to store all the paints and all you need for a poem is a piece of paper and a pencil. She seems to really accept us, just like that as artist to artist and that I really like. She says she has no degrees, BA or anything, she has got gray hair and smiles so wisely and speaks with such kindness. Then over came Michael and showed us photos of his family, wife and six month old baby.

Stephen Morrissey

01:03:02.12

Now that six month old baby is now Adam Horowitz who is now a poet, who I just looked up yesterday, and who wrote to me. You know this is just years later I actually wrote to Horowitz before I came here today to tell him I would mention him in this. Later, now this is who this old lady was, was Marian Scott, who is F.R.Scott's wife who is a really well known artist. Here I am talking about her (laughs) "this old lady." Yet she bought us-she was very nice!

Stephen Morrissey

00:03:36.66

(continues reading) She introduced us to her husband F.R.Scott, he is a big man (stops) Although I don't have his height! (laughs)

Stephen Morrissey

01:03:42.93

(continues reading) I agreed that there should be more communication between younger and older poets and how Patrick Anderson wanted to meet (stops) Now Patrick Anderson was part of the preview poets, maybe? And he went off and lived in Malaysia and taught there. He came back in the- at this time, but I can't-I know I went to hear him read but I can't find the reading

Stephen Morrissey

01:04:03.40

(continues reading) He wanted to meet some of us younger poets and both were really pleased that I had hear Patrick read at Sir. George. (stops) Which I can't find, but I know that I did (continues) Mrs. Scott said "Off Frank and Buffy, that's John Glasgow walk along- (stops) who later when I had that book out Trees of Unknowing wrote me a really nice letter about the book. (continues) they'd walk about Crescent Street remembering and reminiscing about the good old times. She grew up on Crescent, but not it is all boutique and sinister looking hippie types with bad health and bad intentions to boot. (stops) Laughter where did I ever get that!

Unknown

01:04:38.82

Laughter

Stephen Morrissey

01:04:38.82

Now Frank drifted away, that's F.R.Scott, and came back saying he is giving a seminar in Can Lit at Sir. George and thought we at Sir. George were so radical. I guess he would, but when I told him that the people here were insufferably dull (laughs) he was or seemed genuinely disappointed. I don't think it is too often that Scott meets young poets who have any idea of poetry, or any idea what preview or first statements are and he was please to meet one who did.

Stephen Morrissey

01:05:12.76

Now I have turned out to be someone who doesn't leave a party early

Stephen Morrissey

01:05:19.86

Well...I just stay and stay and stay when finally he is the only one who is pushed out the door

Jason Camlot

01:05:19.86

Well lucky for us

Stephen Morrissey

01:05:26.78

(continues reading) At 11:30pm the place was nearly empty and Michael was at the door saying goodbye, we had one last goodbye although I felt like I could have talked all night. Robin wanted to leave and I didn't want to overstay my welcome (laughs) or become a pest. Michael said that we should go home, the two of us, Robin and I who I had only met about two hours before and smoke some harsh and sleep together. Then I said that we had only met two hours ago! (laughs) Then he said, If I went to England I would find a lot of girls there who would sleep with anyone, anyhow or whatever so we said goodbye. Then I said return to Montreal you'll be welcomed and he was happy to hear me say this with a big smile on his face and I think this really touched his heart (laughs). That was the expression on his face, or he was so drunk, although I didn't see him drink that much although he might have smoked something before or drank something before the reading. Goodbye Michael. I saw him again on TV and he asked how he looked and I said very good and he was glad again, I didn't want to leave he was alone. Out into the night air the streets were wet and a few snowflakes had fallen to melt right away. I talked more to Robin, home by 12:15am and said we'd met at Gary Snyder’s reading Friday night. Although if we don't meet then we don't and I won't regret it. An excellent day.

Jason Camlot

01:06:47.39

Wow that's wonderful

Stephen Morrissey

01:06:48.11

So um- you can have that actually

Jason Camlot

01:06:49.38

Oh I would love that, thank you. Um, so how are you feeling do you want to take a break down and then we can just pick up--and--I would love to hear you talk about the Gary Snyder reader

Stephen Morrissey

01:07:02.68

Well lets just continue and then

Jason Camlot

01:07:02.78

yeah

Jason Camlot

01:07:02.78

yeah?

Stephen Morrissey

01:07:05.67

Ok we will keep going a little bit

Stephen Morrissey

01:07:08.75

Here is something more on Michael Horowitz. I looked it up because I didn't remember anything more about it

Jason Camlot

01:07:14.47

So you emailed

Stephen Morrissey

01:07:15.92

Well I looked him up, I googled him and I found his son, but I couldn't find a website for Michael Horowitz so um-I wrote to the son last night saying I met his father in '71. He wrote back which I found this morning, and I sent that, the attachment to him

Jason Camlot

01:07:42.75

Oh yeah? but he hadn't replied yet?

Stephen Morrissey

01:07:42.85

No

Jason Camlot

01:07:44.34

Well time difference too

Stephen Morrissey

01:07:47.22

That's right

Jason Camlot

01:07:49.05

That's wonderful though, really wonderful

Jason Camlot

01:07:49.55

Um- I guess I had you marked-we are moving into 1971-72 now right? Unless there are readings from '70 that you wanted to talk about?

Stephen Morrissey

01:08:06.00

Well there is Ted Barrigen!

Jason Camlot

01:08:10.87

Yeah I am really interested to hear about Barrigan even though I didn't mention that

Stephen Morrissey

01:08:13.11

and there is also- there is Ted Barrigan and...

Jason Camlot

01:08:19.10

I was wondering- we noticed that there was a kind of reading series happening at Loyola at the same time as the poetry reading at Sir. George. There are some photographic documents of the readings at Loyola but no audio that we were able to find. Whereas the Sir. George reading was documented extraordinarily well by the audio-visual department, I think that's the only reason we still have those tapes.

Stephen Morrissey

01:08:43.56

Yeah

Jason Camlot

01:08:44.81

But I wonder who were-do you remember anything about the Loyola series?

Stephen Morrissey

01:08:47.83

I really don't. I remember it was in the-um...it was the Vanier Library, but it was before they renovated it and added on. You'd go in the front and it was in the, sort of the main floor in the back and there were stairs. They had that big statue of David

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:06.66

and it was sort of like behind that further on there were stairs and it was down a few stairs in a little auditorium, it was very small.

Jason Camlot

01:09:06.66

David yeah

Jason Camlot

01:09:18.92

Oh ok

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:18.92

I heard Frank Davey and also William Empson read there

Jason Camlot

01:09:21.97

Oh wow

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:22.17

He was really interesting. You know the seven types of ambiguities and

Jason Camlot

01:09:27.33

Yeah, yeah you mention I think that he gave a talk and spread all his papers out

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:31.72

Everything was all over the place (laughs). So that gave me a model for all this stuff

Jason Camlot

01:09:39.43

Were you taking courses at both campuses when you-

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:39.98

No, no I was just here

Jason Camlot

01:09:43.15

Yeah, and was there-I mean Loyola and Sir. George were not Concordia yet so they were really different place

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:48.27

Yeah they were. I think it was a really tight knit English department at Loyola

Jason Camlot

01:09:52.07

Right, and I guess living in NDG-did you still live in NDG at this time?

Stephen Morrissey

01:09:59.55

Yeah I lived in Mont-Claire

Jason Camlot

01:10:02.49

So those were pretty close?

Stephen Morrissey

01:10:06.09

Well I could have gone to Loyola, but I wanted to go downtown it was more exciting

Jason Camlot

01:10:08.18

Yeah

Stephen Morrissey

01:10:10.04

Then just walking a few blocks to Loyola.

Jason Camlot

01:10:15.54

So which reading would you like to talk about?

Stephen Morrissey

01:10:15.54

Well we have Gary Snyder we could do that

Jason Camlot

01:10:18.12

Yeah, yeah well you mentioned the Ted Barrigan first. I don't know if you want to do the Barrington first. The reason I brought up the Snyder-we could jump around, we don't have to go in order.

Stephen Morrissey

01:10:25.84

We can do Snyder first cause um-

Jason Camlot

01:10:27.36

Cause I know you wrote a letter to the student newspaper

Stephen Morrissey

01:10:34.78

Oh yeah I should have brought that

Stephen Morrissey

01:10:34.78

Cause people complained about the Snyder

Jason Camlot

01:10:34.78

I have a copy of it

Jason Camlot

01:10:38.25

well there seemed to be sort of camps of students who held different views on certain kinds of poetics right? And you were defending, I remember it was um, I think it was Abby Boxer, maybe-I can't remember if it would have been Michael Harris...there were some other names, but it was definitely Abby Boxer and some other students who wrote to basically critic the Snyder reading and you wrote back to sort of defend the different kind of poetics that you were writing.

Jason Camlot

01:11:12.12

I will just paraphrase what you said in the letters, it was something like: It was refreshing to have exposure to something new from just the regular, boring, Montreal poetry, you know?

Stephen Morrissey

01:11:23.90

yeah

Jason Camlot

01:11:24.94

That they seemed to be defending. So I was curious to know, I want to hear you talk about the Snyder reading, but also about what were the poetics/politics around some of the poets who were coming, that you seemed involved in even at that time early on

Stephen Morrissey

01:11:41.62

Well Montreal poetry has always been very divisive and adversarial, I think because of the Dudek-Layton conflict. You know Layton had his own little group including Abby Boxer and Seymour Maine I guess. Anyhow a whole group of people and other-I think there was also a poetry Renaissance in Montreal, a large part because of the reading series. I think more of the Avant-guard poets would be at Sir George. That would be the people who read here but also Bowering, Richard Sommer and other people. I am not too sure...

Jason Camlot

01:12:43.43

Yeah that’s great

Stephen Morrissey

01:12:43.53

It's just that-I think the only other place in Canada that is as negative as Montreal is Victoria. You have a whole group of poets there that are often an island. Maybe it is something to do with living on an island. Victoria is on Vancouver Island and they're secluded in themselves as well and they think they're great. Here you've got people that you just don't say certain things, you try to PR it, you try to be nice and buy the other persons book, but they don't want to do that here. They don't want to buy any books, it is just so adversarial here and it is something I never liked.

Stephen Morrissey

01:13:37.08

I think when we started the reading series at Vehicle that-well we, I think that series is really a continuation of the Sir. George series. This series had ended and we sort of picked up with that cause we had all graduated by then

Jason Camlot

01:13:54.41

Right

Stephen Morrissey

01:13:55.70

So we continued organizing readings there. I don't know if I have sort of drifted off there

Jason Camlot

01:14:02.27

No, no that's really interesting. I mean you're probably familiar with Bowering's book Concrete Island, where he really depicts Montreal and his time in Montreal and described

Stephen Morrissey

01:14:15.15

Well he thought it was going to be 1953

Jason Camlot

01:14:15.15

Yeah exactly and then he found it quite barren and

Stephen Morrissey

01:14:20.12

Yeah it really was quite dry yeah in the sixties and then things started to come back to life with this reading series in '69. That is really a major event in English Montreal poetry. I don't really like that book by Bowering you know?

Jason Camlot

01:14:36.72

I don't think he likes it either

Stephen Morrissey

01:14:36.92

No I don't think it is very good work

Jason Camlot

01:14:40.04

But it is interesting as a kind of document of his experience of Montreal at that time.

Jason Camlot

01:14:49.21

Some more general questions about what it meant, what all those sort of conflicts and debates actually meant in relation to Canadian poetry as some entity that actually meant something. You mentioned Purdy sort of somehow winning the crown of you know, "Captain Canada" as an embodiment of Canadian poetry. Bowering coming from the West and bringing a lot of West Coast poets to Montreal to in a way try to bring life back to a poetry scene that seemed almost trapped in a certain kind of lyric mode associated with Layton or something like that. If the reading series was bringing new life to Montreal it was through exposure to-

Stephen Morrissey

01:15:42.14

That's right, American, largely American poets and a lot of Canadian poets and people in other series had poetry communities that worked together. You don't write bad reviews about your friends and you don't public bad reviews about your friends. I don't understand why people don't understand that. If you don't like someone's work then don't review it. People socialized, I have been to the Writers Meetings of Canada meetings in Vancouver and everyone is there getting along. Even if they are different types of poets they're getting along, same thing with Edmonton, Toronto and it's only here and Victoria where people are in these groups and people snub other people. People will walk by other people and not say hello or you know? It is not a good environment.

Jason Camlot

01:16:40.92

Bowering based on his introductions we can hear in the recordings, seems very vested in trying to teach how to develop a poetry community that is more inviting and friendly

Stephen Morrissey

01:16:53.95

Sure yeah

Jason Camlot

01:16:54.15

Compared to what he found here. That seemed to be one of his missions in his involvement in the series. I was just wondering if the series and if the Vehicle readings and the Vehicle art were modeled after that series then if must have also had a certain model of community that were made available

Stephen Morrissey

01:17:17.98

I think so, and if you look at the people who read at Vehicle art they could have read at Sir. George. It wasn't just our own little group, it was reaching out and somehow the money was there to bring in-some of the same people who read here also read over at Vehicle art and it tried to carry that on and then that all fizzled out eventually. With Vehicle getting rid of the old editors for poetry, ditching them and brining in Michael Harris and we're back to the old days.

Jason Camlot

01:17:57.51

Yeah, exactly

Stephen Morrissey

01:17:57.78

We're still there with certain things

Jason Camlot

01:18:02.03

Yeah with certain camps I guess you could call them

Stephen Morrissey

01:18:05.05

Yeah

Jason Camlot

01:18:05.58

Do you want to go and talk about the Snyder reading? We'll work our way back

Stephen Morrissey

01:18:08.20

Yeah

Jason Camlot

01:18:09.68

I would really love to hear your memories or your experiences of the McLeod reading. Lets stick with Snyder for a moment

Stephen Morrissey

01:18:18.96

Yeah I will just see...Snyder was number 30 (laughs) *flips through pages*

Stephen Morrissey

01:18:32.35

Oh I think Snyder gave two things here a lecture in a classroom and then a reading so...this is right after the Horowitz reading...lets see Gary Snyder November 5th 1971. Ah- so this is in a classroom on November 5th 1971

Stephen Morrissey

01:19:06.92

(Begins reading) Gary Snyder poetry reading-down to Sir. George to H-1013, it looks like, it must have been a small classroom. A few English major types and me (stops) I was in Political Science at the time believe it or not (continues) about twenty-five people at 2:15 in walks Richard Sommer and Gary Snyder, he is 41 years old, so young, wears a pony tail and an earing in his right ear, only about 5 foot six (laughs) reddish hair, ruddy complex from being outdoors and sturdy looking. He talked and answered questions until 4:15pm mostly about pollution, ecology, Japan, his poems, Shamans, poetry myths, the Indians of the Pacific coast of California. I didn't ask anything, just sat quietly enjoying his presence and anyhow I couldn't think up such a set of questions. All I wanted to ask was about Kerouac but that didn't seem to fit in anywhere so I remained question. Gary is such a warm person when someone said to him that Yates was the "Hitler of poetry" and Gary yelled out jokingly 'I demand a retraction" Gary doesn’t seem to be such a flamboyant character and the people that were there weren't poets they were just questions and answer students.

Stephen Morrissey

01:20:42.03

Then the poetry reading that evening at 9:00pm in H-110, met various people I know talking to Roy MacDonald (stops) Roy MacDonald was sort of a local character from um, maybe from London Ontario who had this beard and he had posters of himself he was like 40. Actually I went on to review a couple of his books, I was impressed with him, he studied mysticism and he had this beard down to his waist and he sold posters of himself and show up at different things

Stephen Morrissey

01:21:16.05

(continues) I am disappointed in Roy, he says he is not a poet while he reads a few of his own poems. Gary seems puritanical compared to the group of trendy phonies, his beliefs are easily transferred to any clean living person with a sound concise (stops) Wow I am really moralistic! (laughs). (continues) Although I have read little of his poetry I was drawn completely to it and now I have the treat of reading his books (stops) I think that is about it for Gary Snyder

Stephen Morrissey

01:22:03.68

I was really impressed with him, but I have actually never gotten into Gary Snyder's poems. I have read a few of his books, but um...there was always something I don't know, something about them that I didn't feel comfortable with or interested in.

Jason Camlot

01:22:21.40

So do you remember- it was in H, the reading was in H-110

Stephen Morrissey

01:22:24.01

Yeah it must have been

Jason Camlot

01:22:24.62

Do you remember if it was quite crowded?

Stephen Morrissey

01:22:27.97

I really don't. It must have been because was a-I mean these were all cultural heroes. Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder you know? People would go out for these readings, they were really big readings

Jason Camlot

01:22:44.09

Mhm, so this was '71 still, this was before, a couple of years before your first public reading that you did yourself

Stephen Morrissey

01:22:54.27

Yeah

Jason Camlot

01:22:54.27

So someone like Abby Boxer was he a student at Sir. George? or was he just-

Stephen Morrissey

01:22:58.23

I think he had already published-

Jason Camlot

01:22:59.59

He had already been published?

Stephen Morrissey

01:22:59.89

Yeah I think so

Jason Camlot

01:23:00.75

Ok, probably with Dudek's press. I think one of his first books is with Dudek's press.

Stephen Morrissey

01:23:07.24

It might be

Stephen Morrissey

01:23:12.21

I was reading something about him, I think on the Vehicle website the Vehicle publisher website there is something about him

Stephen Morrissey

01:23:27.02

Oh ok that's right

Jason Camlot

01:23:27.02

Cause his son published something with

Jason Camlot

01:23:28.09

Yeah that's probably it

Stephen Morrissey

01:23:34.62

Ok, maybe we should do one last one? Ted Barrigan or Ferlinghetti?

Jason Camlot

01:23:40.86

Oh yeah well Ferlinghetti is ah- I think it later even right?

Stephen Morrissey

01:23:44.17

Yeah that was '73. Um Ted Barrington is 1970

Jason Camlot

01:23:52.93

Yeah that was the last one in the 70-71 series that you went to according to your list

Stephen Morrissey

01:23:52.93

Oh ok, I will look at the list

Jason Camlot

01:23:57.91

Yeah lets talk about the Ted Barrigan and then I would love to end if you're not too tired

Stephen Morrissey

01:24:11.76

I guess I am getting a bit tired

Jason Camlot

01:24:12.12

Well just a few questions about the McLeod reading and then we'll pick it up from there. We'll sort of backtrack and

Stephen Morrissey

01:24:14.92

Yeah

Jason Camlot

01:24:16.33

So Ted Barrigan was on December 4th 1970

Stephen Morrissey

01:24:21.03

(Begins reading) Ted Barrigan poetry reading down to Sir. George, sat in the first aisle beside George Bowering who won the Governor Generals Poetry Award for his book Gang of Cosmos. Ted Barrigan came in, with a big beard and long black hair and overweight. He said how much he liked Frank O'Hara's poetry who died in '66 in a car crash I have liked, actually loved O'Hara's poetry since I bought a book of his lunch poems down at Goodrich College. Then he went on to rephrase what Frank said- (stops) This calling poets by their first names (laughs) I have students who would call Shakespeare William and I would write in that it was not William it is Shakespeare. But I should be more forgiving cause your just this kid, Gary as if I know him (laughter) Ted, Frank. You know you got to realize what you are dealing with, they're just kids

Stephen Morrissey

01:25:22.85

(continues) Then he went on to re-phrase what Frank said. I am trying to present a message without a mess or something like that. Then he read his poem Heroin and poems about Speed and about his life, what to do in New York, what to do in Providence was especially humorous. A bunch of teenagers yell at him that only his hairdresser knows for sure. Then they see that he isn't a skinny hippy but a rough old guy. (stops) This must be in the poem (continues) a rough old guy who yells at them, "you want your head broken kid?". The last poem at the end I think named a lot of people who had died, his father, grandmother and Jack Kerouac mentioned twice in the reading who he said died of too much drinking. He said that Allen Ginsberg keeps following him around in the country with his terrible singing. Oh wow, Barrigan was absolutely fantastic, the best yet! Ginsberg is in his own world, not with the other mortal poets.

Stephen Morrissey

01:26:21.13

So (laughs) Again it is a kids conciseness

Jason Camlot

01:26:27.03

Yeah absolutely. How important was humour in these readings at the times because you mentioned that quite a lot in your notes, like he was funny or-

Stephen Morrissey

01:26:38.07

Yeah well I think it is just important because it is a performance and poets should remember that they're giving a performance and they're trying to entertain. It is entertainment in a way and Ferlinghetti realized this so he read poems about- he read his golden oldies and that is what- I know P.K.Page used to do that. She'd give readings really only of her golden oldies. That is what people really want to hear they don't want to hear some obscure poem that you've written. They want to hear Al Purdy reading about Robylyn Lake or Allen Ginsberg. So humour yeah, it is a performance that you want to keep people entertained so it was important. The average person that goes to a reading they expect something a little more entertaining.

Jason Camlot

01:27:40.16

Do you remember the make up of the audience? A lot of students I imagine right? Some faculty members. Who else? How would you describe the crowd that would attend these readings? You went to so many of them.

Stephen Morrissey

01:27:51.40

I don't know. I mean I think other poets um like I met Guy Burtchart that I mentioned before at a reading and I remember it is mentioned in one of these. He was sitting more in the back and I was sitting in the front and after he came up and we spoke because he had seen me at all these readings. Then...I guess and so other poets would also go to the readings some other poets. Nobody as obsessively as me probably. Average people would go, but meeting Guy was important because that must have been March of February of March '73. Then through Guy I met Artie Gold, and he was a really big influence. Artie was a really special person, you know, he was maybe twenty-six at the time, but he was already he was born knowing everything he knew. You would just get Artie talking on anything and it'd go on and on, but he didn't really relate to any other person. So I remember spending that summer going often to visit Artie on Crescent where he lived and every time I would leave with this terrible headache because it was just sitting listening to him talk and I was kind of a passive person who would just sit there (laughs).

Stephen Morrissey

01:29:13.65

I still am, I will sit and listen to people or people will tell me things that are really terrible and I will be like "oh, oh that's ok that's fine" (laughs)

Jason Camlot

01:29:23.58

Then it will find it's way into your journal later

Stephen Morrissey

01:29:25.79

Yeah then I will write it down and I will realize, "what!?". (laughs)

Jason Camlot

01:29:34.15

Well if I can-if you can indulge me for one more-

Stephen Morrissey

01:29:39.03

Sure

Jason Camlot

01:29:39.33

It seemed kind of a unique event, which was the Macleod reading, or at least when you listen to it sounded quite different than any of the others because it did make use of audio recording and it was more of a performance like you described

Stephen Morrissey

01:29:56.51

*flips through journal* I do not have too much on it though

Jason Camlot

01:29:57.57

I am just curious to know anything you remember from it. It is more-well Macleod is a different kind of poet than a lot of the others that were invite and it involved audience participation and also involved him reading along with recordings that he has brought to the site. So it involved the medium that was also capturing the reading as part of the performance so it is unique in those ways.

Stephen Morrissey

01:30:25.03

Well I wrote something about the reading or about something that I mentioned Jackson Maxwell. I thought that he had read with Gerry Gilbert but then when I looked through he was read with McFadden

Stephen Morrissey

01:30:37.04

But then this is '71 before I met Richard Sommer and Sommer was a great promoter of experimenting in poetry. That is why I guess I went on to do sound poetry and um, that is like '72 in the fall till '73 in the spring and um I did later, years later simultaneously reading that were sort of copies from Jackson Maxwell. Yet I also got interested in John Cage, um, and people like that and you know, I just wrote this essay on Louis Dudek. Dudek's book Continuation is really, really avant-garde. He is really closer to John Cage, and people like John Cage, then he would ever admit. He would put them down, that's Montreal again isn't it, but Dudek was a very nice person. Although everything was intellectual, you couldn't just talk it was like he was leading a seminar...maybe I shouldn't say this but...

Jason Camlot

01:30:37.04

Yeah McFadden, that's right

Jason Camlot

01:31:54.31

No, no

Stephen Morrissey

01:31:55.49

No but it was a bit-I didn't pursue knowing him as well as I might have if he had been more easy to talk to

Stephen Morrissey

01:32:06.49

Yeah, well he was approachable but it would often turn into-like you'd go out to Ben's restaurant after a reading at McGill in the nineties and he'd lead a little seminar. We'd all be talking about some philosophical thing or whatever.

Jason Camlot

01:32:06.49

More approachable

Stephen Morrissey

01:32:26.38

But I will read what I have got from Maxwell um...so whatever the date was that you mentioned

Jason Camlot

01:32:31.77

I think March 26th 1971 is that right?

Stephen Morrissey

01:32:34.27

Um, yeah March 26th 1971 (begins reading) Down to Sir. George at 8:20pm, I could have had a lift from Ken, but he is so late and not on the dot. So I met Debbie and Susan as usual (stops) and it goes on about the relationship stuff laughs) (continues)

Jason Camlot

01:32:59.08

Were these fellow students or

Stephen Morrissey

01:32:59.08

These were other students who I used to hang out with in halls, but I knew these people in years

Stephen Morrissey

01:33:15.02

No this is um, this is Ken Vigotski. I have friends in high-school Eric Mass and Ken Vigotski and you know how you think your friends know each other? You just assume Ken knows Eric and years later you ask Eric about Ken and he says "who is Ken?" (laughs) or Ken has no memory of these people that I knew. Also in the diaries-my first chapbook was in '71 and it was really, it was...-Ron Newton who I had gone to high school with wanted to do this and but I really- (laughs) if he ever hears this (laughs) I have no memory of Ron Newton outside of high-school, but he apparently got this book published. I had a teacher Mara Gray and um she told him to go to the print shop at Sir-George and they'll do it for you. I have down meeting him at all these different times and how we went around to bookstores and I have no memory of any of it. So it is really a good thing I wrote it down, but um,

Jason Camlot

01:33:15.02

But that wasn't Ken Norris who you only met later right?

Stephen Morrissey

01:34:30.09

(continues reading) All sorts of tapes recorders at Jackson Maxwell’s, his recorder which he blew sweet notes from, a projector, a film with Von Netchski and Allen Ginsberg plays in the background, also Gregory Corso and read Mix Noise on Noise and got a group of readers to read simultaneously just words, I was lost. The whole thing didn't really appeal to me, probably because I didn't really understand just what exactly was going on. After it was over I wandered up to the equipment to see what it looked like and here comes Roy MacDonald, this local eccentric, and he said "don't I know you?" and I introduce myself and he says "Roy Macdonald" as we shake hands. I am still intrigued and interested in this person. (stops) I later went on to review a couple of his books and he later went back to live in London Ontario. He is sort of a local character there now.

Jason Camlot

01:35:34.41

So you were interested in the equipment? That is pretty interesting

Stephen Morrissey

01:35:37.04

Yeah I went up and had a look and (laughs). Although it was in the evening at *flips pages* it was at nine o'clock, all the readings I guess were at nine o'clock and um, I just had a look at what it was all about.

Jason Camlot

01:35:54.76

So there were projections as well as tapes, that's great.

Stephen Morrissey

01:35:58.55

Maybe he showed slides, or maybe that was Gerry Gilbert years later who showed slides, he had a slide projector as he read poems

Jason Camlot

01:36:12.30

Gilbert was actually just a couple of months before the McLeod reading in '71

Stephen Morrissey

01:36:12.30

Oh ok

Jason Camlot

01:36:12.60

So it makes sense that you might blend those two since they were very close in time to each other

Stephen Morrissey

01:36:18.02

Yeah

Jason Camlot

01:36:18.82

Well maybe we should stop for today, there is so much more to talk about

Stephen Morrissey

01:36:24.06

Yeah ok

Jason Camlot

01:36:24.26

but as long as you are willing to meet with us a couple of more times we can just keep doing this

Stephen Morrissey

01:36:25.46

Sure, that would be great

Jason Camlot

01:36:26.79

It has been so informative and really interesting. I can't thank you enough Steven

Stephen Morrissey

01:36:32.84

Well I enjoyed it a lot

 

Interview: Stephen Morrissey, Part 1 – April 22, 2013

Interview
SpeakersStephen Morrissey, Jason Camlot
VenueConcordia University- LB-Building- 10 th floor, Oral History Interview Room
Date2013-04-22
Recording
NotesCamera technician: Ashley Clarkson
Labelsoral literary history, life review, poetry, Sir George Williams University
Date of Transfer20132013/05/14
Duration01:38:42
Sound qualityGood