Archives for posts with tag: Ken Wallace

He’s been runnin’ the
Press in Peterborough
for at least half a century.

A printer through
and through Jack
watched printing
change with keen
eyes as he taught
two sons the trade.

You’ll find him
mid-winter sitting
in the old shop with
his spectacles on
eyeing a scribble
of client’s desire
huddled at the
hot type machine
while his fingers
dance and play
what might be
a church organ
beckoning the bride
and all her friends
even before the
ink’s dry.

Or there
setting up the
so dainty
so elegant
so fine in every way

One summer day
doors open wide
I accidentally tipped
a galley and sent all
those little letters into
painful disarray—felt
like the end of the world
at the time, still

Jack’s kind wise
friendly face would
tolerate up to point
and he’d forever
indulge my curiosity
about all those
magnificent printing
about life and what’s
important too.

Jack’s glance’ll warm
your heart in an instant ‘n
leave you wondering
how it could be any
other temperature up
to the point that
you and he are
talking business.

If you’re down in the dumps
he’ll most likely deliver
a wisecrack straight
at your third eye.

One day I learned
he lost a grandchild
and that was hard
to accept. No
that’s not the way
it’s suppose to be.

Like in a dream
years later I spot Jack
driving his old antique car
all the way from Ontario
down Barrington Street
in Halifax for the
Navy reunion—with
a bolt of excitement
I jump right into
the traffic beaming
and screaming

Barely survived
that silly leap saved
by a smile and
warm handshake
linked back to a past
and family left behind
a world away we
ate fish and
drank by the sea
in celebration
perfect night.

A dozen years go by
and all’s forgot when
out of the blue Jack
phones last night
asking about the
next reunion of
sailors from WWII

Well we catch up
quickly and reminisce…
near and ear to ear
he expresses all this
unexpected gratitude
and warmth which
takes me by surprise

Then so softly in
passing conversation
he relates how his
wife passed away
just six weeks ago

Married dead on
50 years.

We sign off
with promises,
yet the words can’t
express how
I wanta jump back
to Jack on a
jet propelled
by tears

for Jack Hardill (1924-2002)

© Ken Wallace, 1998

All I can say about Ian is that after being at Naropa in ’77, and experiencing that poetic fervor, with Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso present and all that the Kerouac school inspired, Arlett in Peterborough or — wherever he might happen to be — was the real thing.

He’d wake in the morning, pick up a Globe and Mail, and write a dead-on poem about whatever happened to be on the front page that day.

To my mind, Ian Arlett is a poetry god, and could easily compete for greatest Canadian.

The Arlett line I remember is: “for all the cedars in Lebanon” — not sure why this is — and yet I see that it’s altogether biblical and no doubt it was applied incisively to a contemporary injustice.

We really came together over the production of Dylan the play. I can likely send you a picture of the poster. The whole thing was huge.

Ian used the Ordinary Studio as one staging base for the play. From beginning to end we were in touch daily. It’s not too far fetched to say that his persona and love affair at the time were intimately echoed: Dylan (David Ramsden) and Caitlin (Ian’s first lady). The play in 12 acts was a massive achievement mustering the entirety of Peterbourgh’s creatives in an incredibly skillful way.

At the time, Ian and I had a serious falling out over the price of the poster… might have been $300, and yet Ian was upset, that out of all the players in Dylan, I was the only one being financially rewarded — I thought we were making an outstanding poster largely driven by all the creative energy swirling around the production of the play — Ian was flip-city that money was involved at all.

Ian Arlett, as I romance him, lived like Dylan Thomas, completely outside the box, and therefore could speak about all of us inside the box, with so very much fucking precision.

Last time I saw Ian was at a poetry night at Ordinary. I wanted Arlett there and sought him out. I recall Michael drove him back to T.O. in my car that night which never made it back to the Patch because the dashboard oil light was not working. That ’68 Dodge Valiant died forever unfortunately — but having Ian read was more than worth it!

Ken Wallace

(the Dylan poster)


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