Raymond Soulard, Jr Speaks Out! part 2

Raymond & pirate friend

Raymond Soulard, Jr Speaks Out! Part 2

About Spoken Word

J: Ray, what are your experiences in Spoken Word? Do you enjoy being on stage? Do you record yourself for online shows?

R: Currently there’s an open mic that I go to in the Boston area – run by two of  The Cenacle contributors, which is why I go.  It’s called Out Loud Open Mic and it’s in Melrose, Massachusetts.  It’s a very friendly event, it’s held at a mansion, so it’s a nice venue. People who attend are, for the most part, friendly and talented and I always sign up to read because I feel in a participatory event you should participate. It encourages everybody else to.

J: Would you like to elaborate about your experience?

R: I don’t know if I really enjoy being on stage per se.

J: Why’s that?

R: I don’t know. What I enjoy is if the context is one of congeniality and learning then I like it better– if it’s one where people are sharing their works and their works are pretty good.  If the person up there on stage has some wisdom to share and you’re there to learn it, that’s fine. If it’s turns into a judgement, a talent contest, or trying to tell people how to do what they do but do it how you like it more, then no, not really. When I’m at a spoken word event, and someone goes up on stage, I’m assuming they have something valuable to offer – something they value that they want to share. Not simply share, period, but something valuable, something that is worked on, something that they care about and something that adds to your understanding of who they are and how they see the world. If that’s the general condition of an event, then I’m all about it. If it’s a contest, then I’m not interested.

I’m not giving you a very good answer to this, Jude.

J: No, you are giving a good answer.  Because you’re sharing your experience which is very valuable. It’s your experience. You’ve seen both sides of the coin: whether it’s a contest or something more legitimate that you’ve enjoyed. That’s why I’m asking. I want to know your personal experience. So this is excellent.

R: Well let me tell you a story that will tell you the far opposite of what I like. There’s an event that’s been running in the Boston area for many years now, it’s called a poetry slam. Have you heard of poetry slams, Jude?

J: I certainly have and I hate them.

R: I went once with a friend of mine and essentially people get up on stage and they get rated like a talent contest. Some of them really get out of hand. If someone gets up and reads something that people don’t like, they start booing and honestly all I can say in defense of that kind of thing is if that’s what you enjoy- then do it, but you won’t find me there. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t enjoy it.

J: Do you record yourself for sharing online?

R: Yes, in two primary ways. One – when I do my radio show every week, I read from my fiction and poetry during it and those shows are archived online and two- I record the Jellicle Literary Guild meetings – those are essentially my two venues for reading my work. And I go to the open mic because my friend runs it – it’s an excuse to see him

J: Is the Open Mic recorded?

R: You know, they don’t record it and they don’t take pictures. They’re not techno-wizzes. So I don’t think it occurs to them that everything has to be recorded and filmed and put on youtube. They just don’t do it.  And you know the funny thing about that, Jude, is on the one hand it means that only the people there are experiencing it, but on the other hand there’s no machinery present. There’s no camera, no recorder. It’s live and when it’s over it’s done. All you have is  your memory of it.

J: Yes, that’s beautiful

R: So there’s a good and bad to that. I think that this event is so good at times that I wish that it was on youtube on a regular basis so that other people could enjoy it, but on the other hand it’s kinda old-fashioned. So there’s good and bad to everything, I suppose.

Internet

J: How has the internet affected your own growth as a poet, publisher, radio host?

R: Well the internet means that whoever you are and wherever you are if you have access to a computer and a connection, the whole world is potentially at your feet. The internet allows for anyone in any locale to reach out to people they might never meet in person and connect meaningfully, bust the boundaries of physical geography and makes it so we’re not beholden to major centers of media.

I think it’s a great thing. Personally, I’ve been able to promote my projects much farther and wider than I ever would’ve been able to. And because of that, I’ve developed my skills with desktop publishing and audio tools to a far greater extent than I would have. Because if your projects are going to be seen all over the world, you’re going to want them to be the best you could possibly make them. That’s why the Cenacle is like it is because  I can look at the statistics for people viewing it and I see they’re from all over the world download it and  I want to make sure that these people that I’m never going to meet in person are getting something that’s worth their time.

The Cenacle, No 72, April 2010

Speaking out

J: For many years, you’ve published your open letters to various members of the government, like Obama, for instance.  Have you in fact felt that your letters have been read?

R: Well they’ve been read by the people who read The Cenacle. I don’t think they were ever read by the people they were written toward. I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

Obama gets hundreds of letters every day. And I wouldn’t expect to him to sit there reading them, I wouldn’t want him to. The purpose of those letters is for me to express my opinions coherently to myself and others and to inspire others to do the same. And frankly my letters to Obama have sparked more conversations than I would’ve had otherwise about his policies and about him as President.

What’s happened over the course of the past several years, in brief, is that he went from being kind of a phenomenon who came out of nowhere to being the guy that people love to hate. So the fact that I write to him and give respect to his office and him occupying it is something that’s caused me a lot of criticism, but I kind of like it. Because, you know, it’s not so much that I want people to agree with me as it is that I want people to think their own thoughts and not just mouth what they’re hearing on the TV and the radio and a lot of people do that a lot of the time. So if someone sees me writing a letter to Obama and putting down all these specific points that are important to me, they know that if they want to talk to me about it, they’re going to have to have their own specific points, they can’t just say: Oh, he’s a Kenyan Muslim from Hawaii, or something.  They’re going to have to talk to me on the level I’m talking and that causes them to think their thoughts a little more clearly.

J: So you’re in a good head about writing these letters and I imagine you will not be stopping in the near future.

R: No, I’ve decided that I’m going to write to Obama at least once a year through the rest of his time in office – a kind of yearly assessment from a concerned citizen as it were. It’s fun. I think of him as the powerful friend I’ll never meet – to whom I’m giving a yearly feedback.

Letter to Obama, Oct 2010

J: Which subjects in your life stir you – which social issues do you feel are most urgent to deal with?

R: Well I think of human society as being built upon two valid points – the fact that humans are mortal and that we don’t understand and agree upon our purpose. Somehow over the course of time, this has led to the many inequities that we see around us. We see people with too much, we see people with too little. We see people brainwashed into holding prejudices against others based upon skin colours, sexual identity, social choices, political choices, religious choices, and this being encouraged by those in power. Because what I think it comes down to in many ways is that those in power have an interest in keeping their power, and some of the way you do that is by making sure that those below you never consolidate, agree upon something and turn and look at you with dissatisfaction.

As long as the little guys are fighting each other they’ll never be able to accomplish anything more than barely getting by. The worst is that when a certain number of the little guys get to be big guys there’s no agreed upon set of rules about how to be a big guy, how to run things. Wielding power one person over another is something that I don’t think people do very well.

And all of us are put into the position of doing this all the time, at our jobs, in our relationships. We value one thing over another. We’re constantly having to make decisions that form a hierarchy, whether it be a hierarchy of our own thoughts and values or a hierarchy of people, social institutions.  Humans are basically constantly guessing and hoping for the best.

J: Okay. I see. Are you going to carry on?

R: No, no.

J: No?

R: No, I can’t talk any more about it.

J: What do you mean no?

R: That sums it up. It sums it up.

J: No, it doesn’t

R: Okay, social issues. Too many people are sick, needlessly. Too many people are alone, needlessly. Too many people die, isolated and in despair. Too many young people walk around with no clue as to the nature and potency of their bodies, what to do with them, how to develop their minds for both function in society and to think some original thoughts as well.

Too many people enter into situations where they becomes leaders of companies, leaders of governments and various institutions and their good intentions fly out the door very quickly because they realize that there’s a wide  vested interest not in making things right but in keeping things going..

And I think this is why we don’t treat the earth well because we don’t treat each other well.

The worst of it is..

J: Now we’re getting down to the heart of it

R: The worst of it is that there are no easy answers. There are bookstores and libraries filled with proposals for how to fix the world and if you laid out all these books end to end and try to figure out if they had any common thread – you’d probably find they didn’t.

J: I always think that if you go back far enough, you’ll find that there is a common thread. You have to go to the first book from each of the various sects, not the things written afterwards, but the very first books. I think the thread is fairly simple, but it’s not very popular.

R: No. Well, you know fixing things is always hard. It’s hard and it takes a long time. And it’s often imperfect and you don’t know if you’re going to succeed.

J: Yes.

Do you think poets have the ability to shake up people’s minds?

R: Uh – well yes, I think they do and they have. Although it’s said that poetry is one of a million different kind of things that shake up people’s minds all the time, so the effects are not always going to be very observable.

J: I see

R: If a person devotes some of their time and thinking to reading poetry, then its going to affect them, and poetry certainly occupies a valued place among other societies, in all societies.

J: Can you think of an example?  either anecdotal or a poem that you know has shaken up an audience.

R: Well, let’s see- the easy one to think about is Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl. It’s a good case study because you can talk about how it was written about a man coming to terms with his own sexuality at a time when that was a very dangerous thing to do. And his book was banned as being pornographic and it had to stand trial in court because booksellers were arrested. The court case brought many well known writers and scholars into public to speak their minds regarding freedom of expression and when in the end the book was allowed to be published – it set a precedent for other books.

The important thing about it was that literature was brought into the realm of the courts and so the question the courts were answering was could the type of lit that howl represents be argued validly to be protected by the U.S. constitution – that was the question: did it constitute valid freedom of expression or was simply freedom of expression itself something that made Howl justified to be published and when the ruling came out in howl’s favour – it meant those that would shape freedom of expression to their own particular ends were defeated.

This opened up the doors to a lot of other kinds of works that followed. A lot of other cases were decided. So it was a landmark court case, a landmark social case, a case for what a person can speak and write and publish in this country and be allowed to do. I would even say that Howl, as one instance, led to things very unlike Howl in nature – the fact that people can say a lot of the hateful things they do, angry hateful things they do can be traced back to a decision that this gay poet could write about his gay desires. So what you end up with is the gay folks can speak out on what they care about and the ku Klux Klansmen can speak out about what they care about, and so on and so forth.

In other words it’s not monolithic – it was an acknowledgement that there are all different kinds of people and they all have a right to speak their minds in public either aloud or in the form of writing.

J: Okay. I think that’s an excellent example.

R: It’s a solid one, I think

 Back to Part 1 or Continue to Part 3

April 2010 - 15th Anniversary Issue

Raymond Soulard, Jr Speaks Out!

Raymond Soulard, Jr: Interview and Sampling of Poetry

Part 1. An Interview with Ray

Raymond Soulard, jr

Raymond Soulard is a marvelous poet who writes deeply lyrical harmonious ruminations. He can riff off paintings, love affairs, the intricacies of inner conundrums.

Raymond publishes the Cenacle, a very fine literary magazine; acts as editor and publisher for Scriptor Press, an institution that offers fine literature as well as publishing new writers and has freely distributed books annually at Burningman Arts festival in Black Rock City Nevada.

Raymond also hosts SpiritPlants Radiooffering a platform for djs of all spheres, from all over the world. He hosts Jellicle Literary Guild Meetings –an opportunity for poets to read their work, both live and via youtube, skype and google chat.

I wanted to find out more about this unique generous mind, and so I put together a few questions.

Full Name: Raymond Edmond Soulard, Jr

Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Present Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Arlington, Mass, USA

Favorite childhood memory: Can I give you two? One was living in a town, a suburb and I was in the family house and I was in the grass out front and I was looking out at clouds, and it was very peaceful, it was the first time I’d looked up at clouds and found them very pacific. The other one was we used to play football in this empty lot, the kids in the neighborhood I lived in, but sometimes we just played in the street, cause it wasn’t a much travelled street. I got to play quarterback a lot and my hero was a quarterback. There was one moment where I dropped back to throw a pass and I threw it really really long and the guy I threw it too, it kind of arced over his shoulder and it fell right into his hands and it felt for a moment like I was on a real pro football field doing that same thing. It had the same quality of perfection that I’d seen on TV. So when I think of childhood memories –things that just stick, things I thought about so many times that probably the original doesn’t resemble what I remember right at this moment, I think of these things.

Judih:  How would you describe yourself as a poet?

Ray: I don’t really think of myself as a poet per se, but I will say to you that about ten fifteen years ago, I got up on a new years day, living by myself in an apt near Boston, and I sat down at my desk and I decided after so many years of not calling myself anything to call myself an artist.

J: Is there one word you’d use to describe yourself?

R: Obsessed

J: How did you get started?

R: Well, it was mostly because when I was a kid in the 70s there wasn’t much entertainment for kids but television and playing outside. None of the families had much money so we pretty much made up our own games and things, our parents didn’t like us inside watching TV all day, so we were compelled to run in gangs in the streets –not city streets, these were reasonably nice suburban streets. My family didn’t really have any money for clubs or activities or paying for me to do anything so I turned to the one thing that I did have on hand and that was the many books my grandmother brought over from the Thrift Store where she was working. That got me interested in reading and then my mom, an English major in college, would give me binders and notebook paper and that’s what I did to entertain myself. I wrote.

So it was mostly being bored and not having other things

J: How old were you –

R: I started my journal when I was about 10. I’d say that was my first writing project: a journal. I read a kid’s book about a kid keeping a journal, so I said, okay I’ll keep one too. That was back in 1974.

J: Do you have a favorite spot for writing?

R: I usually end up at coffee houses or fast food places or bus stations. I know that most people who write like a quiet little sanctuary in their house, a room with peace, no distractions, but when I was growing up I was from a large family living in a fairly small house, and I spent a lot of time babysitting, so that when I was able to get away and be on my own, I greatly valued it. So eventually, I combined my time when I was free of obligations with writing and I found that I having a certain amount of noise around me was actually stimulating.

Each city I lived in I’ve had a clique of places, I’d say half a dozen places where I go over and over again and I also like writing in city buses.

J: Do you prefer to write longhand or by computer?

R: If I’d been born 20 years later, if I were in my 20s now, I’d probably compose everything by computer, but I started writing before computers and that became my habit. I don’t consider anything I do on computer as writing – because in my own mind, writing is done with a pen but that’s just a personal preference I’m not judging anyone else.

It’s not the method – it’s the result and as importantly the experience of it.

I don’t think of someone doing a blog as anything doing anything lesser – they just have their own way.

J: Do you have a method to your writing that you could share?

R: Do you mean in terms of setting? Or in terms of how something’s composed.

J: I was thinking if you have a way of getting into the mood.

R: Alright. Sure. I tend to listen to music on headphones when I’m writing. I usually have a soda nearby. I try my best to have carved out a fair chunk of time – ideally at least a couple of hours. I do my best to have some notion of what I’m going to do. At least some jumping off point.

J: Do you find it easy to sit down and concentrate?

R: Most of the time. Most of the time since I have other obligations, I can figure out in advance when my periods of writing are going to come and so I do my best to arrive at  that stretch of time with a decent frame of mind. It doesn’t always work, but it works most of the time.  I also find that because I write different kinds of things and most of the things I don’t write for publication, I just write for my own almost like, such as a journal just for thoughts – that sometimes helps me to warm up and get into the mood. One thing I’ve learned over time is that if you give yourself a stretch of time with a fairly comfortable location, and if you just start, even if you don’t start with an organized set of thought s it’s kinda like being an athlete – gotta stretch, warm up but eventually your mind and body will get into the task if you just let them.

J: Do you listen to music while you work? If so, who or what kind?

R: Mostly I listen to rock music. Some jazz. Some electronica. Last Saturday I’ve been meaning to mention this group to you – Swedish jazz E.S.T. – I listened to the whole album while I was writing – it was the most lovely experience. The thing about listening to music is that you can find that you’re almost collaborating with the rhythms and melodies that you’re listening to. It softens your mind, like getting a mental massage so that your mind is able to focus on the task and clarify. That was a really wonderful experience.

J: Who has inspired you over the years?

R: In terms of writing?

J: It could be anything; who’s inspired you to be an artist.

R: A lot of my heroes are heroes from my youth. When I was a teenager and very unhappy in high school, I read a lot of John Steinbeck – he was one my earliest literary heroes. The writer who inspired me early on in terms of poetry was Rilke, he established for me the idea of being an artist as either a holy, necessary mission or something you shouldn’t bother with. Another hero is the painter Claude Monet because artists like him they show you that it is possible to use traditional materials, to see uniquely. He painted in oil and paint brushes and regular stretch canvases but there isn’t an artist on the face of the planet who did what he did.

Also a lot of musicians: I think the ones that I’d single out would be: The Beatles, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

J: an interesting mixture.

R: Well you know it’s either 3 or 3hundred. You understand.

J: At this point, I’d love for you to read one of your favourite poetry pieces. Can you offer it here?

This poem is untitled. It’s a recent poem and it’s an example of the challenge of writing good poetry at any length. I like this poem of mine so I’ve chosen it to read it to you.

[UNTITLED]

If I believed in god, he would look like a tree

& sing forever.

..Click link for audio.. Untitled

About Writing Workshops

J: Have you ever been involved in writing workshops? Either as a participant or as a teacher? Can you say a few words…

R: Yes, I have. I was in a MFA Creative Writing program some years ago in Emerson College in Boston. I was in a fiction workshop and a poetry workshop.

J: And can you share something of your experience?

R: Well I would preface by saying that a writing workshop is dependent on who’s running it, their approach and also the people who are taking it and their expectations. So, the experience I had was that of a classroom setting and at the end of the semester there were grades and the students were in their 20s mostly – and I think their expectations were that they were there to learn how to write. I had a different set of expectations – I thought of myself of being there to experience other writers and how they approach their writing – but it seemed like the classes were more geared to helping people finish off their pieces.

J: So you were disappointed

R: I was disappointed but that’s because my expectations were not aligned with what those workshops were about. I’d like to think that some of those people in those classes probably had good experiences.

J: Okay, but it was a personal question, I wanted to know how you felt.

R: With those particular experiences, it was disappointing because I felt at odds with everyone else. I didn’t want someone else finishing my writing or telling me how to write. I was more interested in a dialogue in which I would wanna know – why they wrote what they wrote – what they were going for and how they did and the end result being gaining and offering insights into their own art.

It seemed rather that people would tell you whether they liked something or not. The thing about college writing workshops in the U.S. are geared for publishing – so when you’re in a writing workshop here, it’s kind of a focus group – whereby you’re getting an audience to read your work and tell you whether or not they’d buy it. If they wouldn’t, they’d tell you why.

If you accept that premise, you’ll probably get something out of the experience and if you don’t then you’ll be at odds.

Like everything else here in the U.S., writing is treated as commerce, as product.

J: Yes, I see. Yes. That’s how my experience was when I was in University working with Margaret Atwood. I brought her my delicious fresh from my heart work and she looked at it strictly from the point of view of whether or not it was publishable and that was devastating to me, at that time.

R: Yes it’s frustrating, unless you accept the premise. If your goal is to publish and you really want to audition your work in front of an audience, then you might really have some good experiences, you might learn valuable things, your skin thickens up at bit, because you learn to take criticism and figure out how to use some of it. It can be valuable if that’s your purpose.

J: Would you run a workshop? Whether it’s internet or face to face, something along the lines of what you yourself would have wanted.

R: It would depend on the setting, If it were in college, then someone else would be determining the rules, what students would get out of it, then I’d have to agree with those rules. someone else’s rules – someone else

J: If it were your rules, your location, would you run a workshop?

R: Maybe. I think that what you can give to someone else in terms of writing is that you can give them a certain amount of guidance, a certain amount of support, but really they have to do the work. They have to live their lives meaningfully, they have to read a lot of books, they have to experience art in all its different forms, many more than just the literary form. They have to soak up the world and try to understand how they fit into it or don’t fit into it. Then they have to sit down day after day, week after week, year after year and write. And if that person did all that and then sat with me and said here’s some stuff I wrote and then ask me to look at their stuff, then I’d be glad to.

The problem I have with workshops is …I’ll tell you a story that encapsulates my experience that I was talking about earlier.

There was a day when I ran into a fellow student at a local coffee house. We had shared a class together and he said to me: “What are you going to do this weekend?” I said I’d probably spend a lot of it writing. He said: “I really have to force myself to sit down and do some writing, also.” I thought to myself: if you have to force yourself to sit down and do it, then why are the hell are you doing it?

The thing about a workshop, if it’s just part of a whole range of things that they’re doing to enjoy and make more meaningful art then it will be a valuable thing. If they’re showing up at the workshop not already living the life or not wanting to learn how to live the life –then it won’t provide those answers.

Some years ago I studied the tarot and the I ching – this is what I learned from them, and it’s something you can learn from other things as well: you get as much as you give. If you decided to devote yourself to the study of the tarot or the I ching over the course of many years, you read many books, you talked to many practitioners, you’ve had many experiences, over the course of time, you would find your life, your way of thinking imbued with the wisdom and the way of approaching the world that those disciplines offer. If you just show up at a tarot reader’s house one day and she does a reading for you and gives you some commentary based upon the cards, and then you walk away – you will have had your single experience and maybe it was valuable but it’s not going to formulate the base of your life thereon.

I believe that some people are predisposed, they have the gift of artistic expression in some form or other and it’s just a matter if they pursue it, and I think others don’t: their gifts lie elsewhere.

J: Right.

Ray, at this point, could you read another piece?

R: Yes, I’d like to read “Circulation Salves Distress”.

It is a poem that is part of my recent efforts to write poetry that uses materials from my dreams, not entirely but in part. That uses dreams, interesting dreams, the ones that I write down in the morning, that stay with me as part of a larger poetic exploration. It’s hard to explain sometimes to people who don’t really pay attention. The ones that do get it pretty simply. But it’s hard to explain to the others that it’s not a dream poem, it’s not that I wrote down my poem and broke it into lines and gave it a musical flourish and there it is. It’s not that easy. Dreams don’t work like that, at least my dreams don’t work like that in terms of how I write poetry. I simply can’t write them down most of the time, I have to work them with other thoughts and lines from other poems. What emerges is a poem even if one of its ingredients is material from a dream.

Circulation Salves Distress

I met him at a party at a dilapidation
near the city of scholars & beggars. We were
both long homeless then. The party was for
travellers like us, at crossroads & tired.
The game going on as I arrived was a favorite,
simply called Chains, a reminder of
what happens when you stop moving.

The dilapidation had no roof to comfort,
or conceal, to lie that every soul tonight
slept warm & caged. There were the heady
local periodicals on plastic tables, dense
erudition made to capture a melodic fancy
& dissect a fang to its meaning. Amongst the periodicals
were squat jars of the dreaming juice.
You could tell its heavier drinkers by
their whispered song, “sometimes I am me,
sometimes I’m not, sometimes I’m arriving,
sometimes passing through.”

He noticed to me the rhythm of the place,
its restive hum, how nothing here abided
agreeably in time. We huddled with others
near the wall & laughed at the film
about the crazy dog from the future,
never quite arrived. It learned, in time,
to croon its wish to land in music or despair.

When the soldiers came to stifle the
open-air sexcries that worried the preachers
& their nests on nearby streets, my buddy & I
left to travel on together awhile.
The morning was quiet, not yet sunrise,
between breaths of wind a silence.
We left the city of scholars & beggars
to its thousand-year decay, to what men
will think when none need crawl a thick tome
for answers, nor any need wish pages made better food.

******
Click for audio Circulation Salves Distress

The Cenacle

The Cenacle, No 76, Dec 2010

J: You’ve published The Cenacle for 16 years now.  Are there moments in publishing The Cenacle that stand out? Could you mention an unbelievably interesting one, a project that surprised you, an abysmal let-down,…

R: Sure. Publishing The Cenacle. It was as much as a result as a project in itself. It was a culmination of other things. As a kid, I wrote because there wasn’t much So when I was a kid and I was first writing. There were two kinds of writing I did as a kid – and I’ll mention them briefly as a starting off point. I wrote my own novels. I started 2 newspapers that I wrote out longhand with pencil and paper.

So, my point is that from when I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated with publishing and when I got into college, I joined the college newspaper and the college literary magazine and the other literary college magazine and that was a lot of fun, and I met a lot friends who also wrote and we started doing our own ‘zines,’ I would call them at that point..

The thing to remember is that back then, there was no internet. What you had at the time was whoever and whatever was close by, so unless you were very worldly and well-travelled, you were pretty much confined to whatever your local talent had to offer.

The Cenacle came about because I decided that I’d rather self-publish my work and also publish other people’s work than attempt to sell it.

I had tried to submit my writing to magazines and had gotten very poor, indifferent responses, and I knew a lot of people who wrote and I thought I might as well just do it myself.  I had been kind of doing it myself all along anyway. Karl Marx said the important thing in life is to “seize the means of production.” And it was the one line from Karl Marx that I really held dear to my heart. He was basically saying that whoever owns the means to production is going to run the roost.

I’ve found that to be true across the board. Whatever else he said, right or wrong, I valued that piece of thinking greatly.

One of the happiest moments in all the years I’ve done The Cenacle was pretty much the beginning when I purchased for $500 a Canon desktop photocopier – very primitive compared to what you can purchase nowadays but it was the first time that in my own house I could publish something.

I can only liken it to probably how the Soviet dissidents must have felt when they were using the mimeograph machines in secret – the sense of power of writing something and duplicating it as many times as you want is intoxicating. So that was when I started The Cenacle. I finally didn’t have to go to a copier place to make publications.

That was a moment that was very triumphant – at the beginning.

One of the most delightful projects I was involved with over the course of the years publishing The Cenacle was working with Christopher Patrick Gose to publish his journal “World’s Window” about his travels in Peru. He travelled down to Peru to experience drinking ayahuasca and he kept an online journal about it. I’m online friends with him and he pointed out his journal to me one day. I read it and thought with a little cleaning up this could be a publishable work. Over the course of 4 issues of The Cenacle, I took his online journal and the pictures that he associated  with the journal and turned it into a serialized story and followed that up by editing it down a little bit more, cleaning it up and turning it into a publishable book, which my press then published. That was a great experience.

I don’t think I’ve had any abysmal let-downs –I mean there have been people that I wanted to work with  or pieces people promised me which didn’t actually appear, but there isn’t anything that fell apart. I think I’ve learned that until I have a piece in hand, not to get my hopes too high.

J: Okay, having said that I think we should mention what a marvelous magazine it is and consistently so –it’s  an experience just to hold it and read it. Not to mention having instant online access to it.  The quality is always right up there.

R: As a matter of fact we’re working full out on the 16th Anniversary Issue– and it’s chock full of goodness.  It’s got almost all of the regular contributors from the past few years offering up something. So it’s always exciting to be working on a new one

J: So we’ll stay tuned. When do you think it’ll be ready?

R: It’ll be out in about two and a half weeks

J: Wonderful.

R: I’m working on it this morning, later and Kassi (Kassandra Soulard) is working on a really good colour cover. When it first started out it was going to be 8 issues a year, but it proved to be too much to do it well, so eventually it became quarterly and I made my peace with the fact that a quarterly journal can have immediacy if you just work hard enough on making it immediate.

Go to Part 2 in which we discuss Spoken Word, the Internet and Speaking Out.

or jump ahead to Part 3