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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Malaspina Answers Anne Cameron

(In response Anne Cameron's letter to BC Bookworld nominating Malaspina University-College for the "Spud-Butt Award" over its treatment of authors, Frank Moher, Chair of Creative Writing and JOurnalism at Malaspina, submitted the following letter to BC Bookworld)

Dear Editor: As an admirer of Anne Cameron, I was sorry to see in your last issue that she had somehow got the idea that Malaspina University-College is anything other than a major supporter of writers and writing in British Columbia. Even before the creation of the Department of Creative Writing and Journalism in 1990, Malaspina regularly hosted readings by myriad writers, including Earle Birney, Michael Ondaatje, bp nichol, Jack Hodgins, Gary Geddes, Alice Munro, and, yes, Anne Cameron. As Randy Fred noted at your recent Reckoning 07 conference, Malaspina faculty assisted with the creation of Theytus Books, the first aboriginal press in Canada. Malaspina has presented honorary doctorates to Jack Hodgins and Carol Shields, and administers the Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Chair of Poetry, which in recent years has brought BC poets Patricia Young, Susan Musgrave, Gary Geddes, Patrick Lane, Robert Bringhurst, and Tom Wayman to our community, among others.Each year, at the launch of Portal, our annual literary magazine, we welcome a guest reader; these have included Christian B?Wayde Compton, Sheri-d Wilson, and bill bissett. And then, of course, there's the fact that Malaspina currently has 15 BC writers on its staff, delivering one of the most comprehensive, four-year undergraduate creative writing programs in Canada. In addition to the work they do with the most important writers we support -- our students -- Malaspina's Creative Writing and Journalism faculty supervise the Poets on Campus reading series in Nanaimo, the Cowichan Campus Reading Series in Duncan, the New Waves Festival of new plays, the Institute for Coastal Research chapbook series, and Incline, an online magazine written by our journalism students, among other ongoing projects.I'd like to invite Anne Cameron to attend the launch of the 2008 edition of Portal on April 8, at which Vancouver poet and MC Baba Brinkman will perform his Rap Canterbury Tales. I expect that event alone might give her reason to reconsider her remarks.

Frank Moher
Chair, Department of Creative Writing and Journalism, Malaspina University-College


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My recent experience of being hosted by Malaspina University-College could not have been finer. I was the 2007 Ralph Gustafson Poetry Chair, and as I wrote to Arts & Humanities Dean Steve Lane: "Never in my literary life have I had such a marvelous time. The program's ability to generate such excitement about poetry, to draw such engaged and enthusiastic audiences is, in my experience, a stunning accomplishment, and one I very much appreciate having been part of."

I've been giving readings across Canada and in the U.S. since 1968, and I can't recall a host that went to such incredible lengths to promote and publicize my readings as the Gustafson team at Malaspina did. Everything from T-shirts to signage, from guerilla poets on campus touting the reading to class content preparing for the Gustafson poet's presence all paid off with full houses and, better yet, tons of enthusiasm for poetry itself.

As I wrote Dr. Lane: "I am well aware of how much work it takes to effect successful, hitch-less public programming like the Gustafson proved to be. So I'm grateful to you for your support for the program, and to all the committee members and supporters, faculty and students alike, whose toil and attention to detail made the events so flawlessly run and so well attended. Besides my decades of literary programming at a variety of institutions, at Calgary I served as chair of our English Department's Community and Contact Committee, where we organized in March 2006 an "English Department Month" of programming on and off campus designed to showcase the work of our scholars and creative writers. Even though we had some flashy material to work with--grad students doing a "Calgary CSI" approach to identifying the provenance of an Elizabethan country-house play manuscript found in the university's holdings, and English profs doing lively presentations on such topics as gun culture and female celebrity--we never attained anything near the most impressive response that MUC's Gustafson program generates. The achievement of the Gustafson committee seems all the more dazzling to me given the comparatively small size of the campus and community population MUC can draw on."

During my two days as this year's Gustafson's poet, I met and spoke with a wide range of individuals from community and campus alike, who expressed considerable zeal for the art form--a rare occurrence, in my experience, and one that's due entirely to the hard work, imaginative efforts, and mastery detail of students and staff at Malaspina. They organize the Gustafson events as though the creation of literature--including poetry--MATTERS, and thus communicate via their example this idea to members of the campus and community who otherwise likely would never encounter this concept.

Personally, as I told Dean Lane: "I am most grateful to have been so extraordinarily well treated, and been part of such a lively and well received program. I can't imagine the publicity, organization, hosting, attention to the writing done any better."

--Tom Wayman

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Frank Moher said...

Thanks, Tom, for your kind words. Our students and faculty had a great time during your (too-brief) stay with us.


12:31 AM  

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