UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LINKS
This first book-length collection of poems was published largely through the efforts of Gwendolyn MacEwen. I had known MacEwen on the Toronto literary scene for a number of years. She was always very encouraging to young writers such as myself. Whenever I encountered her on the street, she would stop her bicycle and chat, often ask me in for coffee and spend hours talking about poetry.
The problem with poetry books, especially first poetry books, is that they are almost impossible to place with publishers. When I had assembled enough poems to have a first book, I floated copies of the manuscript among a number of my poetry-writing friends — Richard Harrison, James Deahl, Jeffery Donaldson -- to get their feedback. Without my knowledge, Deahl passed the manuscript on to Gwen who was then Writer-in-Residence at the University of Toronto.
On Boxing Day, 1986, her final Boxing Day as it sadly turned out, she telephoned me and told me how she had spent Christmas Day reading the book and that she would send it to a publisher she knew in Windsor, Marty Gervais. A year went by and I heard nothing. The last time I spoke with her she reminded me not to lose heart, that something would come of it, and that she believed in it.
Gwen's death was a hard blow to people who loved poetry. When she died, one felt that one of the muses had been silenced. She inspired people, not only to read and to write but to believe in themselves and what they could do. About a week after her funeral I got the acceptance letter for The Open Room from Black Moss Press. The hardest part was that I couldn't call her and tell her the good news and to thank her for what she had done. So, I dedicated the book to her and included a poem about a night when shed stopped her bike on Kings College Circle and like shades we'd talked about poetry. Somewhere on her trek that night she'd plucked a white petunia from a garden and, giggling as she presented it said, "Here's that flower that Gilgamesh dropped in the sea."
The book and the poem The White Flower are dedicated to Gwendolyn MacEwen, one of the great rare spirits who animate the world.
Photo of Gwendolyn McEwen © Bruce Meyer, 1983.
Bruce Meyer's works copyright © to the author.