Thursday, November 23, 2006

A loser loses

I didn't take home the A.M. Klein award. That went to Susan Elmslie for I, Nadja. It proves my theory that you can't win anything for a book about losers, especially if the book includes a sonnet in the voice of R2D2.

But I did have the greatest honour of the evening: I delivered a speech to celebrate the lives of John George, proprietor of Argo Books and one of the last true booksellers and Robert Allen, brilliant writer and dear friend.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Robert Allen 1946-2006

Writer, teacher, editor, mentor, and dear friend, Robert Allen, died on Friday, November 3 2006. He was the author of nine collections of poetry, three novels, and one collection of short fiction. His most recent book was the brilliant long poem, The Encantadas, published just this spring by Conundrum. Without a doubt, The Encantadas is one of the best Canadian poetry books ever published.

Rob taught young writers to use their curiosity, irreverence and defiance to their advantage and to follow their own literary interests without apology. And most unique, he always treated his students as fellow writers. If you were a student of Robert Allen’s, you were driven to make him proud and prove him right.

As a friend, Rob was always patient, thoughtful, and generous. He loved to share a bottle of good scotch, a cigarette, a story, a road trip. He would always provide counsel and he was always right. His wisdom was an invaluable gift to those who loved him. I first met Rob when I was an exasperated young student at Concordia. Frustrated and hurt for some reason, I marched into his office and told him I was going to jump off a bridge if he didn't help me. He laughed at me and then he helped me. Throughout the seven years I knew Rob, he never stopped helping me and never stopped laughing at me. He showed his faith in me by letting me help him run Matrix magazine and giving me the opportunity to edit books and work with authors. Rob helped me become a better writer and a better person. I will always be grateful for his friendship.

For the last three weeks of his life, he spent countless hours with family and friends, sharing stories. I was honoured to be with Rob these last three weeks and to have the opportunity to tell how much I loved him before he left us. On Friday, he died with his son, Cary, and his dear friend Anne Stone at his side. The room was warm and full of love. He will be greatly missed.