An Introduction
by Michael Dennis

When I met Ian Arlett he had just come ashore from a shipwreck and he was in desperate straits. He was waterlogged and sluggish and more than a little thirsty. He’d been bashed up against the rocks pretty good. Love had failed him, beaten the crap out of him, he walked like he was fighting nature.

The first I really got to know Ian was when he directed the play Dylan at Trent Theatre. That was when I was just getting to know an entire gang of people who would shape my life. Ian was a giant, galloping genius who dazzled the bejesus out of me right from the start. Listening to him talk was better than TV.

And then there was the poetry. He was absolutely electric with it. “Come swing in the hammocks of my arms” he’d roar and his big nose and fracked teeth would howl and god only knows what the hell was going on with his hair. I thought Ian David Arlett was the second coming of Dylan Thomas and once I got to know him I followed him around like a puppy every chance I got.

Ian was generous with his time and energy and we became friends. I was never exactly sure what I was bringing to the table with Ian other than being an appreciative audience but he always treated me as a peer.

Ian’s frantic energy was overwhelming and sometimes completely overwhelming. But he could sing.

For a time we became quite involved in each others writing process, we’d go over each others poems word by word, even wrote a few poems together although I can’t seem to find them.

Ian’s poetry was unlike anything I’d ever heard. A beautiful hybrid of Allen Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas if they were being channelled by Kerouc and painted by Basquiet. Ian was the physical embodiment of a cubist painting by Picasso and a large scale Napoleon complex motherfucker.

Ian and I met in Peterborough in the 70’s. In the early 80’s I moved to Ottawa and shortly afterwards Ian followed. As brilliant as he was Ian struggled with some of the most basic human interactions. When he arrived in town he and I spent a great deal of time together. I was able to find him an apartment just a block or two away from my own. We got together almost daily and it was an incredibly exciting time in my life. Ian really was one of the most charismatic men I’ve ever known.

And then after a few months of very exciting poetry something broke. I never did find out exactly what set Ian off but whatever glue that bonded us suddenly came apart. I only ever heard from Ian once after that and it was in anger. He left Ottawa and I never heard from him again.

Losing my friendship with Ian David Arlett was a damned shame and one of my biggest and most puzzling regrets. To this day I have no idea what transpired.

He had the most generous and beautiful mind I’ve ever encountered.

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