Friday, February 16, 2007

RIP Artie Gold, 1947-2007

Just learned from Todd Swift all the way over in England that poet Artie Gold, whom he refers to as a "Montreal legend", died yesterday.

I must confess -- and this feels spooky -- though I live in the same neighborhood, walk the same streets and quite likely, without knowing it, crossed paths with him in the 17 years since I came here, I really didn't know him.

Reading through the sample poems Todd highlights, I find a devil-may-care, stream-of-consciousness quality... at times engaging, at times grandstanding, at times hackneyed, wanting in finish.

Tho I can't even picture his face, I imagine Artie Gold from behind the curtain, a sardonic smile curling on his lips out of feigned respect for this oblivious listener who never did catch on, who never did appreciate his words during his lifetime.

P.S. April 15: Seems I was mistaken. For the last couple of decades at least, AG lived in NDG, not Mile End where I live.


LUNAMOTH said...

Hi Brian

Artie died on Valentine's Day, as did Ryan Larkin.

Does anyone know the cause of death?

Brian Campbell said...

No idea as yet. I've asked the person who informed me...

Did you know him?

Brian Campbell said...

For the record I cut and paste from Montreal Gazette's online obituary:

Artie Gold
GOLD, Artie. One of Canada's finest poets died on St. Valentine's Day, 2007. Gold, an honoured disassociate member of the Vehicule poets died peacefully after a long battle with emphysema and with most of the world. From those of us who loved you and your small & mean ways and your grand and tender gestures, and most all, you and your poems, love. ". . .I delight in the sun. it is monumental in the sky with certainty rising, setting looking to the greater cycle, there is colour, a yellow angel pedals about the world."

Anonymous said...

Oh great! Isn't that typical! Even those mediocre assholes who run things at the League of Canadian Poets are suddenly calling Artie Gold "one of Canada's finest poets" now that he's dead!

Twenty years ago, he was just another 'government-funded joke'--someone whose books wound up in our high school library because they were--in the words of one of our teachers--"commie-homo junk that the tax-wasting Canada Council couldn't sell". Just a year ago, I did a search of the internet to discover that he was just another lost name from Canada's poetic past--even folk who once wrote and published with him no longer knew where he was or even if he was still alive.

Poor ol' Artie. I'll never forget his satirization of comic book and cartoon characters in 'private eye', from 'before Romantic Words' (1979); that's one of my all-time favourite humourous pieces by any poet. Ripping off and reading his work from our high school library, I can unmistakenly dub him an early influence on the work of Kent Burt and myself.

The moronic, hypocritical and expedient editors and LCP dictators (who probably never even heard of him--let alone read him--prior to his passing) who now praise him posthumously should have his longest poems forcibly tattooed on their genitalia while driving through mountain country on a gravel road.

--R. W. Watkins (poet, essayist and editor of Contemporary Ghazals)

Brian Campbell said...

You make my balls hurt with your invective. I'm actually (as of the last few months) the Quebec representative on the LCP national council. I don't know if you're aware of that. I don't make a great to-do of it (i.e. it's not in my bio) because that, in itself, is no great achievement (indeed, could well be taken as the opposite).

Mediocrity abounds everywhere...but so it does among the LCP's detractors. For my nuanced views on the worth and absurdity of the League, check out my post of June 23, 2005.

I just cut and pasted that bit from the Montreal Gazette to to answer Lunamoth's question. I don't know who wrote it. I make it plain that I didn't know AG myself, but then I was disconnected from any sort of "poetry scene" myself for a good ten or twelve years. A few days after this post I found an AG poem I very much liked, and posted it, for the betterment of the world. Read with your eyes, man.

If AG was "government funded" (joke or not), if he was published by Vehicule, it could be that the LCP had something to do with it. If I let you use my blog as your ranting platform, it's because your 3rd paragraph is both an impassioned testiment of his worth and contains some valuable info. But spare us the venom. It doesn't do anybody any good.

Anonymous said...

"Spare the venom"...? Oh, Brian, Brian, Brian...THAT is one of the biggest problems inherent in Canadian poetry (and the arts in general) today: too much incest and not enough venom. No healthy arguing or the occasional drunken bar brawl means no competition, and no competition means the same old boring junk, year after year after year after year. It's so typical of an over-mannered country like Canada--so Marxist and extreme in all the wrong areas. Oh, how I miss Mordecai Richler--our last major author who could compete in every way with the American writers who came out of the '40s and '50s! The fact that poets now have to give readings in smokefree pubs and coffee shops tells me everything I need to know about the Canadian approach to the arts: In a state where health and longevity take priority over Dionysian self-sacrifice, one must come to expect that seminal work of any great value and integrity will be rather short in supply.

As for the LCP and the Canada Council, I used to be an associate member of the former, and I received funding for a solo volume of ghazals I wrote back in '99-'01 from the latter. I soon abandoned the former once I realised that it served very little real purpose, other than as a self-congratulatory institution--a fine place where (mostly) third- and fourth-rate poets can take solace in each other's mediocrity (things haven't changed much since F.R. Scott mocked such collectives back in the '40s and '50s). As well, I was disturbed by the fact that LCP members were always smiling in newsletter photographs--as if life was indeed good under Stalin/Tito/Mao, and their progress reports to the Canuckistani Council of Ministers--in the form of pointless, state-praising poems and accounts of Canada Council funds deployment--would state as much. The LCP also appeared to cater to free verse authors exclusively--I have a feeling that the majority of its members could not work in a closed form and compose a proper sestina or ghazal in a month of amphetamine-fueled Sundays, so lacking are they in true poetic talent. They seemed content to remain merely harmless, government-funded hacks--Bukowski and Atwood imitators who haven't a clue what Bukowski was all about, or how average Atwood was at her poetic zenith. When the first issue of my seminal Contemporary Ghazals journal was published a few years ago and promoted in the LCP's newletter, the fact that not one single member responded to its existence told me everything I needed to know about the 'lofty' visions of the LCP and the sad state of Canadian poetry in general. If it wasn't all so damned pathetic, it would be truly laughable. Thankfully, the more serious poets south of the border were more receptive, thereby making the project a worthwhile little venture after all.

As for the Canada Council--a good and worthwhile idea once upon a time--the problem lies with the manner in which projects are selected for grants, and the manner in which the selection committee is appointed in the first place (a process which, apparently, no one is willing to properly divulge). If authors/artists (once they had fulfilled eligibility criteria) were to have their names drawn at random, lottery style, for available grants, then I might have some faith in the system. As it stands now, it's just another case of "it's not what you know, but who you know". And, of course, there's always the matter of socioeconomicpolitico compromise: How can I be taken seriously as an independent and/or radical voice when I'm ultimately receiving funding from a federal government, with whose extreme-left and/or extreme-right ideals I may take issue? In regards to my own grant-awarded project, I decided to put the finished volume on the back burner indefinitely. The manuscript has never been sent out for consideration, even though many of the poems in it have been published in various places over the years. Someday, I might publish it myself.

To be blunt, Brian--and you know this as well as I do--the vast, vast majority of poetry (and increasingly other literary forms) being published by established houses and high-production magazines/journals in Canada today are the 'adult contemporary' or 'easy listening' of the verse world. In fact, I'm amazed at how books of all types being published here in Newfoundland have come to resemble nothing as much as tourist brochures--a lucrative investment, don't you think?--funding authors and publishers who will (unwittingly in many cases?) serve to combine/equate the arts and tourism industries. Very, very tricky. No Paris-in-the-'20s or NYC-in-the-'50s will be happening in Canada any time soon--one can rest assured of that. In fact, I have literally fallen asleep while reading many such books and journals from across Canada, and when it comes to my reviews (whether for the journals/zines I am directly involved with, or others from around North America), I rarely find myself covering poetry volumes that aren't either self published or published by small collectives these days. Frankly, whenever I see "published with the assistance of the Canada Council" on page 3, I start to cringe a little; my doubting mechanism is rarely (and sadly) proven invalid.

So that's my take on it, Brian. Thus lieth within the want--the need--for piths and venom.

One more thing: I'm trying to put together a little internet poetry project that kind of relates to some of the themes I've just dealt with above. If I can get enough people interested, and get it off the ground, your opinions might be valued. So watch this space....

--R. W. Watkins--

Brian Campbell said...

You provide a lot to respond to -- but this time, I agree almost completely with what you say. This is healthy dialogue.

My real objection to your previous "venomous" post is that you made my balls hurt, and unfairly I think.

Venom is good, if intelligently directed at the right targets. As this last missive demonstrates. (But I agree that is not always easy: sometimes an outburst is needed to clear the air, as seems to be the case here.)

I think this dialogue shouldn't be consigned to the comments section but should be posted and readily accessible on Google. Do you agree? But let me wait a few days. I like the look of my guitar up there; I don't want to push it down into netherland just yet.

P.S. The receiving of grants or publishing support from government or corporate foundations always presents a quandary: how hard (and when) to bite the hand that feeds you? It seems ridiculous to refuse any such support when it comes from a relatively reasonable body like the Canadian government... but one still has to reserve the right to denounce hypocrisy and injustice when the need arises. Keep me informed about your project.

Brian Campbell said...

...Funny that you should see writing in fixed forms as a litmus test of ability. Artie Gold, judging by what little I read, probably just couldn't give a flying fuck about about that stuff.

(See? I've simplified your complex and sophisticated sensibilities, to smash the effigy to bits! Two can play at that game.)

Anonymous said...

Iconoclasts like Artie Gold were so necessary to the world of poetry back then in the '70s; they kept the dogma out, and advocated an artistic domain where things were Absolutely Freeeeeeee, to quote Zappa & The Mothers' second album cover.

In fact, when I read Gold's 'before Romantic Words' for the first time, I wasn't sure what were punctuational and other eccentricities on the part of Artie, and what were possible typos on the part of Vehicule Press! Come to think of it, I'm still not quite sure!

To be so iconoclastic today, as I see it, entails shoving the most difficult of closed forms down the throats of editors and publishers--or better yet, mixing up all different styles and philosophies in the one or central poetic context....

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think such comments should be made more widely available.

What we need is a forum-included website, where us poets and other artists can make our views known without having to go through the censorious filter of some institution's extreme-left or extreme-right dogma. Do you know of any such site that comes even close...?

Brian Campbell said...

There's a gang down there in the States who call themselves the "New Formalists" who share almost precisely the same views as you about the revival of close forms. The two I know most -- Timothy Steele and Dana Gioia -- don't particularly impress me. If you type in "New Formalists" into my blog search bar, you'll find some lively analysis and discussion under that label...I leave you to come up with your own conclusions.

There is one Canadian poet I know of (yes, and it so happens she's in the LCP) who does do good sestinas, villanelles and other forms -- Barbara Pelman. Type her name in and you'll find a post on her book, which eventually turned into a review in the Pacific Rim Review of Books. I don't think I wrote much about her closed forms, though. She's by no means prolific, but her one book (and she's nearly 60) is excellent.

There's also a 2005 book called "In Fine Form: the Canadian Book of Form Poetry" edited by Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve -- which indicates a revival of interest in closed forms even in Canada. I have that book, but haven't really given it much of a look: I am still half way through the Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (ed. Mark Strand & Eavan Boland)which has the finest examples anywhere: it's pretty hard to beat Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop & Theodore Roethke for the villanelle, for example.

As for me, well, all I've managed to bring off in closed forms is a decent pantoum. I like that form, for its over-and-over-again obsessiveness. I'm impressed, as I said, by a number of villanelles, but have yet to pull one off. Sestinas drive me nuts even to read them. I have no motivation to write one. I've done, like, one or two good haikus. Clearly I'm interested, but not that interested. I'm still basically a free forms man, and lately I've been focusing more on prose poems than anything else.

Eclecticism seems a natural response to a world where everthing is happening (or falling apart) at once. There's a lot to say about the joys and pitfalls of that. And there are pitfalls...i.e. loss of a compelling, instantly recognizable style. Bill Knott -- a brilliant poet well worth knowing if you don't already -- has some fascinating things to say about that in the latest -- or perhaps next to latest -- issue of the internet review Memorious.

Brian Campbell said...

And I realize I forgot to answer your question. No, I don't know any such website. Check out the squawkboxes on Silliman's blog -- that's pretty freewheeling, although he recently banned some people who became so petty and personal in their diatribes I can hardly blame him. There are censorious filters, but as for "extreme" left or right "dogma", I don't know what dogma or institutions you're referring to (unless it's the GOP).

Ann Diamond Mother of Darkness said...

I knew Artie a little, back in the old days. A few times, I heard him read. Sometimes I ran into him at the Word on Milton. He was not an easy guy to get to know. As I look back, I have a lot of questions about those days, and the people who made up the poetry scene in Montreal. I heard the other day from a friend of Artie's that, as a child, he was "treated at the Allan." I'm beginning to wonder about that whole generation of Montreal poets, and what may have motivated their vocation. Some people are quick to equate creativity and schizophrenia. I think there's more to all this than meets the eye. I think certain artistically gifted kids in this city were drawn into a program called MKULTRA in the mid-50s. In other words, I don't think the loneliness and suffering some of them experienced in the name of "art" was entirely of their own making. If anyone cares to get into a discussion about this, I am here. I also have a blog called MY COLD WAR at where I often indulge in theories about the world of mind control.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...Artie Gold as victim of Dr. Cameron...It wouldn't surprise me. Anyone who could interpret Superboy as belonging to a secret Christian sect that has unjustly balded Lex Luthor was indeed demonstrating signs of possible exposure to some black-ops program.... "Leaning, like a Hardy Boy/ I touch my fingers / to the invisible panel...;" "...exactly what would the c.i.a.'s disinterest telecast?" " foot in Switzerland..."--from the moment I read those lines (from 'before ROMANTIC WORDS') for the first time, when I was around 18, I sensed extreme paranoia bordering on the insane, an acute awareness of conspiracy, coverup, etc....

Brian Campbell said...

You make me want to read Artie Gold all the more.

I myself am quite familiar with the Allen, as my partner, who has bipolar disorder, has been treated in their BTU (Brief Therapy Unit, a locked ward for those who are temporarily a danger to themselves) a couple of times.

Go past the ornate facade of that house on the hill, and you enter another world. Even in 2007, it's rather too reminiscent of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest for my liking: in the first phases of internment, all the patients have to wear identical hospital gowns and are doled out medications & cigarettes at fixed times by a tough-mouthed orderly. Staff is walled off behind thick glass, and then there are the little known isolation rooms -- about six in all -- for those deemed dangerous to themselves or others, or, as all too often happens, for punishment of those who verbally lash out or are otherwise "too smart for their own good". These are bare-walled affairs walled by a one-way mirror or security camera & furnished with only a matress to sleep on: trays of food are slid in: a patient has to eat off the floor with his hands. I'm not kidding. I haven't seen these things but heard vivid tell from two independent and I believe quite trustworthy sources. I'm not sure why people in distress are treated like animals, but there you go. At the same time, the Allen is a complicated subculture: there are kindly and compassionate nurses and doctors, and cold or cruel ones who are there for the wrong reasons. The medications are fortunately better than ever before. Other hospitals are worse; still others provide a warmer, more attractive environment. But legacy of the Cameron experiments is of course a sinister karma: anyone with paranoid delusions is bound, with reason, to believe he is subject to one of those, which can only make his or her condition worse. In the end, in the case of wrongful treatment, it's the patient's word against the staff member, and we all know who has been labeled crazy.

Anonymous said...

I reached the conclusion a long time ago that if one wants a little taste or reminder of the first 20 years of the post-WWII era, he or she has very few options left other than outright stay-home-and-read-Mailer-and-Charles-Schulz-while-listening-to-Doris-Day-or-Buddy-Holly-type nostalgia. There is virtually no jazz to be found on the club scene any longer, and even less on the radio. Coffee houses now resemble clinic lobbies or health clubs, they're so smokefree and yuppie-oriented. Comic books are lifeless, computer-drawn farces that children and teenagers no longer have the ability to read even if they didn't buy them for the sole purpose of bagging and backboarding for posterity. Clothing and accessories today are little more than coopted porn film wardrobes. Etc., etc.

Still, to the best of my knowledge, the world of Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' and Irving Goffman's sociological study, 'Asylums' (1960, I believe), is alive and well. Apparently, entering some of these institutions is like emerging from a time machine and stepping into 1959--one would almost expect to find The Twilight Zone and The Steve Allen Show emanating from any television sets. As far as I know, the only other place one can find such an anachronistic atmosphere here in the Western Hemisphere would be the Castros' Cuba....

LUNAMOTH said...

Definitely, mental hospitals are not Club Med, but sometimes they are necessary. My point, though, is that here in Montreal in the 1950s some very unusual things were going on in certain institutions, perhaps especially the Allan Memorial -- and certain children were involved. If you check the various published accounts of the CIA MKULTRA experiments, children are never mentioned. And I don't mean to drag Artie into this posthumously -- it's just that, late in life, I have started questioning whether all the mental disturbance I saw around me in Montreal, was really homegrown schizophrenia, and how much could have been the after-effects of a program of biological and chemical warfare -- kind of a warm-up for the period we are now in, with the same techniques being used at Guantanamo that were tested on Cameron's patients in the 1950s.

I have to run -- but I have a new book on this and you can see a blurb on it at

Shameless self-promotion -- and serious desire to get to the bottom of a situation that (I believe) has affected a whole generation, and claimed many victims. That's all I'll say for now. Thanks for responding!

Ann Diamond Mother of Darkness said...

Montreal Days, MKULTRA Nights. How poetry was stolen by the CIA.

Here's a scenario. Back in the 1950s, Dr. Ewen Cameron, who was head of Psychiatry at McGill and director of its Allan Memorial Institute, ran a program of "outreach" -- a well-funded, heavily publicized campaign to convince Montrealers that psychiatry was their Friend.

Cameron had the cooperation of the two Anglo newspapers (the Star and Gazette) who regularly ran articles praising his work -- it's also clear the reporters who covered the Allan in the CIA-MKULTRA had no idea what was really going on, but simply reported what Cameron told them.

One thing Cameron told them was that he could help parents of "unbearable" children -- who were encouraged to bring their hyperactive kids in for treatment with "new techniques." These included experimental drugs and also things like ECT and insulin comas. LSD was also given to children who were hospitalized for things like pneumonia and other non-psychiatric ailments.

Cameron was also interesed in gifted kids who might be trained for careers in espionage. This was one of MKULTRA's strangest projects: creating mind-controlled Manchurian Candidates. In the 1950s, parents were told that by sending their children to these special programs on evenings and weekends, they were securing them a brilliant future. In fact, though, most of these kids ended up severely damaged, often for life.

Another big Cameron supporter was the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, which referred certain "exceptional" or "disruptive" students to the Allan. The operative strategy was that they thought they were helping these kids.

Cameron also supported the arts, and sent his people out into the community search of young artists offering them a chance to be in LSD experiments which they said enhanced creativity.

Over the years, I have known a number of people who were part of Cameron's kids' program. The late Ken Hertz (1945-1995) told me he was given massive doses of LSD at the Allan from the mid-50s to about 1960, when he turned 15 and tripped out a bit too far. Hertz was a poet, as was his friend Henry Moscovitch, who also went mad and suicidal in the same program.

Once we start looking into this, and asking quetions, I believe we could put together a long list of former kids who were given LSD as part of MKULTRA's secret mind control experiments at McGill in the period from 1953-1964.

You probably know some of these people. A number of them became poets. Some became film animators. Some died, some went mad. Some have been on psychiatric drugs for most of their lives. Some are even famous.

The CIA was creating schizophrenics with drugs like LSD, and then monitoring the effects. What better way than by having the subjects write poetry, the perfect medium for recording psychotic states, hallucinations, and other side-effects of a massive program of chemical and psychological warfare, in which Montrealers became guinea pigs?

Montreal was the perfect place for these experiments in because of its high tolerance for eccentricity, gossipy arts scene, general talkativeness of the population. Cameron victims could reintegrate into society and get by, even have careers are artists and poets, without anyone asking too many questions.

All documents concerning LSD and mind control experiments on CHILDREN have been destroyed or hidden by McGill. But we still have published and unpublished records, created by the victims themselves, documenting their lives in an era of secret experiments conducted on humans by our own governments and medical establishment.



Anonymous said...

Frankly, I believe the underhanded nonsense that went down at the Allen in the '50s and '60s is just one in a long line of sleazy covert operations that have preyed upon the young, artistically gifted, intellectual, and all of the above. For example, I believe that the police here in North America have been luring and 'training' such folks to become the 'future waves of criminals' for generations. This also plays into the hands of governments--keen to jail or discredit potential political subverts, revolutionaries, etc. Seriously, folks--I'm convinced this stuff actually goes on, and is not just the sort of thing that people like Mailer, Burroughs and Chomsky dreamt up in order to sound cool or cover their own sorry asses. I believe this process can sometimes even have roots within the high school, and I have good reason to suspect that some friends of mine and I may have been victims or intended victims ourselves in the '70s and '80s--later, the university experience produced similar results. I do believe that there are certain unsavory elements within the police, academia, various levels of government, etc. who together create situations whereby they can turn the most brilliant and talented of the young up-and-comers into the next generation of dropouts, addicts, suicides, sex offenders, mental patients, social outcasts--you name it. The average person might not believe what some teachers will let their students get away with in order to "let them hang themselves." He or she might also not believe what some Tory politicians and lobbyists would talk their 12-year old daughters into doing in order to further their repressive (and hypocritical) right-wing agendas. Believe me, folks: I've been there, I know. Some of the things going on would appear utterly ridiculous--even childish--if they were not so downright oppressive and scary....

LUNAMOTH said...

Well, I'm sorry but that's just life in the pyramid. Only a few are granted space at the tippy-top where there's precious little room to be human. The rest of us grope around the lower levels, where scarcity decrees that just about everything we encounter is a deception.

There's a comic side to all this. Like Keith Richards snorting his father's ashes -- some people manage to live their poetry.

They say rock and roll was invented by white boys trying (and failing) to play black music. So if Cameron was training kids to be future mind controlled spies and assassins, are poets really failed operatives who managed to convince the public to fund the by-product of their unemployment?

That would definitely explain the League of Canadian Poets.

Brian Campbell said...

Failed operative, that's me. Sounds like a good title for my next poetry collection.

If the LCP managed to convince, it wasn't very well. Most members (including moi) contribute more than they receive. I just got a fundraising plea today...not too impressive. Again, check out my post of June 23, 2005 for more nuanced views. The value I see is in the LCP is certain people, certain programs, a newsletter that has lead to some publishing credits, that sort of thing. This may pass. Your terrorist letters were well-deserved when they were written -- I still treasure a copy of those which is somewhere in this cluttered apartment. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the LCP at that time was that they were the catalyst for those!

LUNAMOTH said...

Well, I was kidding, then as now. You need a sense of humour when you're dealing with organizations. The other day I was looking at an old LCP guide from back in the 70s -- the one that lists all the members with photos. Artie was in there, as was Avi Boxer. Everyone looked so young and ... innocent?

Brian Campbell said...

...and clearly,organizations need a sense of humour when dealing with you! Reflecting on those letters, how times have changed! In the post-911 world, a tongue-in-cheek bomb threat like that could land you in one of Bush's secret prisons (if not the Allen, under a new Cameron).

LUNAMOTH said...

There was no bomb threat, that I can remember. All I threatened to do was run for president of the league and perform "hairspray demonstrations" at their AGM. This was in 1988?? long before shoe bombers and 911, but paranoia was widespread among Canadian poets. Now I understand why.

Brian Campbell said...

Sheesh! Talk about confabulation on my part! Now I'll have to dig up those letters and reread them.

LUNAMOTH said...

No problem. Between you and me, those letters were written to make a pedestrian point that never did get made: the League was really only interested in Ontario poets. That would have been ok if they had stated it opening, but they were the League of CANADIAN Poets so they had to lie. I had been living in Ontario when I joined ca. 1986, and as a result, they started offering me readings, gigs in schools - meanwhile, I had moved back to Montreal. When they found out, they quickly cancelled all the readings. I said, But it's written down in the membership package that the League does not distinguish between those in and outside Ontario. They never responded. So I went on a campaign to run for the first Voodoo president -- it was silly but fun (for a while).

All this happened a long time ago but I sense not much has changed.

Brian Campbell said...

Oh but we have changed. Quebec may be a problem, but we now have grants for Canadian poets living in Greece. So come and join us! (just kidding.)

Actually I took this position partly to be a positive influence, partly to motivate myself to find out for myself what the league had to offer me as a citizen of this "bad-ass province". Will report back to you if I have trouble lining up things because I live in Quebec. (Trouble is, I have touble getting around to lining things up at all... that's my fault.)

sexy said...