My Creative Writing Career (1980 to 2020)

“Too many lives to lead and not enough time”
–Randy Bachman, The Guess Who, “Undun”

Although I had written some poetry and song lyrics in my teens and twenties, I did not write my first published serious poem until Connections 1: Imagining in 198o. (My prof Glenn Martin called it my signature poem.)

I owe my start as a serious poet to my writing partner at the time Glen Kirkland. Glen was a master teacher and had been writing poetry for some time. He elucidated the ways of free verse to me in ways that made sense and then I was off, writing poems for publication in many Canadian and American literary periodicals including Canadian Author and Bookman, Margaret Laurence Review (issue #1, the only poem), and about 20 issues of the Stroll of Poets anthology. In total, I have been published (sometimes with multiple poems) in around 100 magazines and books. My work has also been read on radio stations in London, ON, and Edmonton. Along the way, too, Glen and I read at Gage Towers on UBC campus in 1980 with many established poets, in Winnipeg at the Marlborough Hotel (more of the same), and in Halifax (with some of their poets).

But things really picked up around 1985 when I started reading with Spiritus (Spiritus Lundi, originally) composed of three Edmonton senior high ELA  teachers: myself and Dean McKenzie from Edmonton Public and Glen who was the ELA supervisor for Edmonton Catholic. Dean dubbed us a poetic trinity–Laddio (me), Daddio (himself), and Spook (Glen representing the Holy Ghost, Catholicly speaking). We were a performance trio (me using tape recorded sounds and music) and him on guitar and bongos.

We gave memorable shows at Ike and Iggy’s pub on Whyte Ave. with Dean’s back-up percussion group, a recitation of my multi-voiced “Nordicity” at Block 1912, at ELAC conferences, at the Strathcona Legion, at the olde Courtney Blake’s pub, at La Boheme hotel-restaurant, at U of A, at Southgate Woodward’s Books in the mall, and were briefly about as close to a ‘house group’ for the Station Readings at Strathcona’s Cafe la Gare. We also read on and were interviewed CBC Radio.

(left to right: RD, Glen Kirkland, and Dean McKenzie planning another gig)

(1990: the first sold-out chapbook)

(fall 1990: here we are on a busy Saturday afternoon reading poems to passersby on the mall; eventually some people came and sat around on the floor listening at the entrance to Southgate’s Woodward’s Books)

(we had a number of launches, this one at a Whyte Ave. bookstore)

(from a program at Martini’s Olive Bar on 109 Street for a Monday evening Spiritus reading in the ’90s)

(a strange gig at South Point’s Chapters Bookstore which had just opened)

(typical of the Journal ads for our readings)

(in 1988, we led the charge into a satirical Fringe show including various teachers we knew; Dean and I collaborated on the script with Sandy Bombardieri, a Drama teacher at Strathcona High; true to form, we wrote original poems for the production)

(show program: the visuals were done by one of my nice ELA students who later went to Emily Carr school in Vancouver)

(the enthusiastic amateur cast and crew the evening before the curtain went up: RD with tie, Glen in glasses, right red shirt, Dean-o on bongos)

(after a 17-year run, we officially disbanded in 2002 as serious illnesses and cancers began to take their tolls on Dean and Glen; at Dean’s celebration, I read one of the eulogies–about his poetry and Spiritus, and recited his ribald bus lust poem with a jazz combo led by Andrew Glover; for Glen, I also gave a personally moving eulogy about his work and our relationship; RIP, guys)

(my own work with poetry began in the classroom in 1972; I also did sessions for a number of schools in town and in Calgary)

(left: Glen and I also judged poetry for the annual poetry writing contest at the Edmonton Journal; right: in the classroom and in workshops, I often presented on poetry writing for teachers and students, and held many poet sweatshops in schools I taught; at Percy Page, I coordinated a unique whole-day sweatshop with students writing poems in their ELA classes)

(RD dressed in sweats daring Strathcona High students to write a poem while Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony–1st movement” played; my daughter even took part in one of these)

(two examples of noon-hour poetry shows I held for Valentine’s Day at McNally High featuring English colleagues there)

(I won my share of awards and prizes over the years: notably a Kalamalka first poetry book contest–which they subsequently disqualified me from “because I was a published author already”: the kind of Catch 22 stuff that has surfaced here and there in my overall publishing career; I won a 1st place for humor in an Alberta Poetry Yearbook contest, a 1st place in a love poetry contest for Winnipeg’s Zygote magazine, and another 1st place in an Alberta Retired Teacher Association magazine poetry contest, to name a prominent few that have been successful; when I retired from teaching in 2002, I was filmed reading and talking about poetry at Rutherford House at U of A)

(this was a very memorable evening at Harry Ainlay High reading with the legendary Tommy Banks Trio)

(from the evening program, looking wilder and freer than usual)

(the Station Readings at Cafe la Gare were organized by well-known Edmonton novelist Thomas Trofimuk, who was a big Spiritus fan who often hung with us)

(many gigs, many places–the Stroll of Poets, of which I’m a long-time member, have been responsible for most of Edmonton’s poetry happenings and the local poetry scene  overall since 1990)

(a timely fortuitous duo: Fudge, featuring Ken Klause, fellow Strathcona music teacher on keyboards, began in 1990, playing at Strathcona functions till 2002; as indicated below, I read love poetry with Ken in some Strathcona bistros)

(I kept having my work published through the 1990s–above, in Alberta English)

(above: as of 2002, these were some of the notable publications and readings)

(in the 2010s, I rejoined the Stroll; left: reading at a Sunday Stroll event at a cafe on 97th Street downtown; right: reading with 4 women poets at the CBC Stage in Edmonton Centre in 2018 for the Edmonton Poetry Festival)

(left: 2001: my first poetry chapbook, Negative Capability, (cover photo in NY, by Strathcona Art teacher- friend Brad Burns, published purposely in the Kubrick-Clarke year; right: 2016: The Rest of It, long overdue second chapbook; Poet’s Eye photo by me: fall U of A Humanities Bldg.)

(2018: Opus: In Six Suites; a true opus uniquely wedding poetry and music; cover: my own homage to Jackson Pollock; right: back cover: signature photo by Karen Davies, Stanley Park, Vancouver)

(2019: the best of my poems and some song lyrics from 1980-2000; illustrated from my music career; left, top: 1970 my folk group Clover playing Winnipeg  YMHA coffee-house; left, bottom: one of many 1990s Strathcona High concerts with Fudge II–Ken Klause and Ken Kulka; right, top: me and my old Gibson, Winnipeg, 1968–the songwriting had already begun; right, bottom: the original Fudge 199os)

(flash-forward to today: my forthcoming chapbook, possibly the last, with poems from 2000-2020; front cover: my pic of one of my grandsons running up the hill at Jackie Parker Park, Edmonton; back cover: photo of the author, post-cataract and macular- hole surgeries, by Karen Davies in Jasper, 2019)

(in the 2010s, I’ve also done select editorial work and preface-writing for Stroll of Poets friends; left: Kadrush Radogoshi and Gerald St. Maur; fellow poets remain among my closest friends)

And the writing continues this year with publication of new work in Calgary’s Prairie Journal. You may have noticed also that I write for this blog pretty much every day, often contributing poems to the mix going back to its beginning. That pattern promises to continue, even as I begin to consider doing a 2021 book of prose with selections from the blog for a change. There is never a shortage of possible projects. As well, I maintain my blog which includes many of our country’s best poets from the mid 1850s to 2000.

Writing Awards and Recognition

2015: 1st place overall, Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association magazine contest
1998; Honorable Mention, Alberta English poetry contest
1996: Special Merit, John David Johnson Memorial Poetry Awards (U.S.)
1995: Honorable Mention, J.D. Johnson Awards (U.S.)
1995: Editor’s Choice Awards (U.S.)
1995: 1st place, Love Poetry contest, Zygote magazine
1989: Poem of Merit, Nova Scotia Poetry Awards
1986: Honorable Mention, Alberta Poetry Yearbook
1984: 1st place Humor, Alberta Poetry Yearbook
1983: Honorable Mention, Alberta Poetry Yearbook
1982: Honorable Mention, Alberta Poetry Yearbook
1980: Honorable Mention: Edmonton Journal Literary Awards

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