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Artie Gold

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Artie Gold (15 January 1947—14 February 2007) was a Montreal-based Canadian poet. He rose to prominence in the 1970s, during which time he published several books of poetry and contributed to various anthologies. His best-known collection of verse is The Beautiful Chemical Waltz.


[edit] Biography

[edit] Early Life

Gold was born to Jewish parents in Brockville, Ontario in 1947, and grew up in Outremont, a Montreal neighbourhood of various socioeconomic classes but which is predominantly upper middle-class. His father was a businessman who made trips to China in the early 1970s, long before such an economic practice became popular. He lost his mother at a young age and was subject to many other “family difficulties.” Reportedly, as a child in the 1950s, Gold was treated at the Allan Memorial Institute, a Montreal psychiatric facility. As a result, there is some contemporary speculation that he may have undergone the controversial LSD (and other) experiments of the institution's director, Dr. Ewen Cameron, an employee in the CIA's MKULTRA program.

As a college student, he studied under future Canadian poet laureate George Bowering, who became his mentor. Bowering was impressed with Gold's wide taste in poetry, and the fact that he took influence from the likes of Jack Spicer and Frank O'Hara in particular. Gold had very little desire for fame or academic placement, according to Bowering; he instead “wanted to know what was happening at the front of the arts.”

[edit] Later Years and Death

Gold lived his final years in an apartment on Sherbrooke Street West. He suffered from numerous maladies, most notably emphysema and several allergies. According to Stephen Morrissey, “A few old friends looked after him in his final years as he was not well and left his home only infrequently; I think of Endre Farkas, Luci King-Edwards, and Jill Torres in particular as friends who did much for Artie.” The Hotel Victoria Poems, a 2003 chapbook of unpublished 1970s verse, was Gold's final volume issued during his lifetime. He succumbed to his chronic ailments on the 14th of February, 2007. Says Morrissey: “Some of us who knew him for many years thought he was fated to die young, but he managed to live sixty years and exactly one month.”

[edit] Literary Career

By the early to mid 1970's, the erudite Gold had become part of the circle of Montreal-based writers known as the Vehicule Poets, so-named after the Vehicule Art Gallery where many of their early readings took place. The Vehicule Poets, which also included such other notable names as Stephen Morrissey, Ken Norris and Endre Farkas, became a recognized “school” of Canadian poetry in the 1970s and '80s; and, as rob mclennan has put it, “Gold was the wildest, the most daring” of its members.

According to Endre Farkas, Gold “loved to roam the alleys in the middle of the night collecting the hidden value and beauty in other people's discard. He collected and displayed these, the world's knick-knacks, on his shelves, tables, in baggies and in his poems.” Gold was also a collector of antique bottles and porcelain, and, in spite of his allergies, provided shelter to multiple pet cats. Notable among his other passions were geology and fine music.

Gold's poetry proved as experimental and original as his lifestyle and eccentric interests. He accepted the label of “experimental poet” with an air of caution, however. “I think the poet who doesn’t use a scheme of poetry which has pre-existed, like rhyme or sonnet, in a sense is an experimental poet,” he once remarked. “Because he is dealing with new structures he has to invent as he goes about expressing himself.” Gold did not feel any obligation to pre-existing styles or objectives of poetry save his own, as demonstrated in his comments to Marvin Orbach in 1979:

“...Poetry may be a liturgy or it may be just an object, and I think that’s in the hands of the person who tries to use it. I think any poetry able to hold a person’s interest has something of value for that person. I don’t use poetry as a proselytizing device. I feel it’s important for me to write because I have an urge, because I find energy in writing and a certain kind of energy called voice.”

Gold's first volume of verse, cityflowers, appeared in 1974. Another six titles followed over the next five years. In addition to his own books, he was credited as “co-ordinating editor” of The Vehicule Poets (Maker, 1979), the group's anthology, and had poems included in The New Canadian Poets, 1970-1985 (Dennis Lee, Ed.), The Oxford Anthology of Canadian Poetry (Margaret Atwood, Ed.), Four Montreal Poets (David Solway, Ed.) and Poetry Readings, 10 Montreal Poets at the Cegeps (Michael Harris, Ed.). Due largely to his worsening health problems, Gold drifted from active participation in the literary world in the early to mid 1980s. Then, in 1992, Vehicule poet Ken Norris was instrumental in realizing the publication of Gold's The Beautiful Chemical Waltz: New and Selected Poems. This volume would remain the quintessential guide to Gold's verse up until The Collected Books of Artie Gold (Ken Norris and Endre Farkas, Eds.) appeared in the autumn of 2010.

[edit] Influence

Gold was obviously an inspiration to his fellow Vehicule Poets and other Quebec-based poets of the 1970s, regardless of stylistic and other differences. However, he has also had a definite, albeit limited, influence on subsequent generations. “Artie Gold was an important poet for me from the time I discovered his work in my early twenties from his then-new selected [poems],” gen-X poet and Gold-publisher rob mclennan has stated. “I could mention the years I wandered Montreal's Ste. Catherine's Street with my Artie Gold book in pocket, trying to understand the workings of the city through its pages.” Similarly, Gold's before Romantic Words became a favourite of poet R.W. Watkins and underground singer-musician Kent Burt, after the two friends “ripped off” a copy from the library of the high school they were attending together in Newfoundland in the late 1980s. “Iconoclasts like Artie Gold were so necessary to the world of poetry back then in the '70s,” Watkins has said. “They kept the dogma out, and advocated an artistic domain where things were Absolutely Freeeeeeee, to quote Zappa & The Mothers' second album cover.” Watkins has called Gold an early influence, and cites ‘private eye’ as one of his “all-time favourite humourous pieces by any poet.” Vehicule poet Claudia Lapp has predicted favorably in regards to Gold's literary legacy and continued influence: “Mercury’s winds of trade, travel and discourse will bring Artie’s poem streams to new generations, mentoring and amusing them....”

[edit] Bibliography

  • cityflowers, Delta Press, Montreal, QC, 1974
  • Even Yr Photograph Looks Afraid of Me, Talon Books, Vancouver, BC, 1975
  • Mixed Doubles (with Geoff Young), The Figures, Berkeley, CA, 1975
  • 5 Jockey Poems, The Word Book Store, Montreal, QC, 1977
  • Some of the Cat Poems, CrossCountry Press, Montreal, QC, 1978
  • Poo Comix, privately published, 1978
  • before Romantic Words, Vehicule Press, Montreal, QC, 1979
  • Golden Notes / Living on Gold (prose), privately published, 1981
  • The Beautiful Chemical Waltz;; (Selected Poems), The Muses’ Company, Montreal, QC, 1992
  • The Hotel Victoria Poems, above/ground press, Ottawa, ON, 2003
  • The Collected Books of Artie Gold, Talon Books, Vancouver, 2010

[edit] Notes and References

  • George Bowering, Introduction to The Beautiful Chemical Waltz (Selected Poems), The Muses’ Company, Montreal, QC, 1992
  • Endre Farkas, “The Real Thing: Artie Gold, Poet”, The (Montreal) Gazette (April 7, 2007)
  • Claudia Lapp, “Digging for Artie's Gold'”, Poetry Quebec website
  • rob mclennan, rob mclennan's blog, Friday, 16 February 2007
  • Stephen Morrissey's blogspot: Notes and Images: an archive of photographs and writing, 15 February 2009
  • Stephen Morrissey, Remembering Artie Gold (chapbook), Coracle Press, 2007
  • Marvin Orbach, “Artie Gold Spotlighted: An Interview with Artie Gold, 1979—The Poet Versus Society”, Poetry Quebec website
  • R. W. Watkins, comments on Brian Campbell's blogspot, Out Of The Woodwork, 15-19 March 2007
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