I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Montreal, in the working class district of St. Michel - a place where all the concentric circles of the other districts overlapped (Rosemont, St. Damase, St. Leonard, Villeray) to form a mixed cultural pocket - French, Italian, Haitian, Ukranian, Greek, English, Syrian, Arab, Lithuanian, and on. Harmony and tension happening all the time - even in kids play. But at 5 o'clock on the streets, coming home for supper from playing tag or hide-and-seek (hmm, things seemed safer then) there was an explosive masala of aromas coming from the different homes. Very heady and rich, and often lonely in a comforting sort of way, like a sunset, like summer was always ending. And so began my poetry career. From early tries at rhyming poetry in Grade 3:
the smoke from cars
blocks out the stars
to re-writing rock song lyrics, which culminated in one particularly inspired and memorable (for its awfulness) epic Medieval poem in High School (replete with "damsels" and "dulcimers" - a gargantuan knot of Lord of the Rings, Led Zep, and Richie Blackmore's Rainbow). All in the hopes of wooing a girl which, as can probably be guessed, failed miserably. At least, by this point, I was introduced to serious poetry and started to read ee cummings, Robert Frost T. S. Eliot. I developed an interest in Cubism and Modern Art, in Jazz and Classical music, and wrote plays influenced by the Absurdist movement and the existentialists. In CEGEP I learnt to play the upright bass and became involved with friends who did some basement jam improvisations of classical, jazz, and Indian music. One of the guitarists began to read poems as part of the jam sessions, and that's when I started to write poems semi-ambitiously. My first poems were very atmospheric and moody - city poems with alleys, backyards, and fluttering laundry on clotheslines, that were all kind of religious symbols for me.
In University I began to study and practice Zen meditation and tai chi, and wrote a drawer-full of heartache-over-lost-love and Zen poems. In order to pay my tuition fees and an apartment I took up busking with my mammoth bass on the streets and in the subways of Montreal. There began my ritual (my habit?) of waking up at 4 in the morning. Each morning I had to catch the first subway car to one of many great playing spots in the Montreal Metro system and practice squatter's rights to reserve the spot. I'd read a book until 6:30, until the other band members came (we'd alternate squatting days), and then play "Blue Spanish Eyes" and other recognizable ditties (a type of "live" muzak) until the end of morning rush hour. We'd play anything that could be recognized in the space of 30 seconds from the escalator to the subway platform. Despite the uncreative nature of it all, I often joke, and in fact it's true, that that was the best money I ever made.
When I met my wife-to-be, Mary, while she was studying at McGill, we decided to move to Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, to take up peach farming with her family (and so another drawer-full of poems emerged - this time about peaches, cherries, barn cats, owls, weed spray, etc.). I also began my nursery career shortly after, working part-time at greenhouses and eventually fulltime at a large nursery as their head grower of containerized shrubs and evergreens, to bring in a wage while the peach farms floundered, struggled, and ultimately failed.
During those years I wrote little or no poetry, busy with farming and raising a young family. In fact I remained silent for about 13 years. It wasn't until my eldest child, Jake, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dytrophy that I began to write openly, honestly, and fervently on the advise of an old university professor, who told me to meditate with an open page each day for fifteen minutes, with no ambition or fear. And so writing became a kind of therapy for me, but not to heal myself (because how can someone ever conceivably heal from such devastating news without icing things over or turning stoic and stonewalled), but to reveal myself instead. To share every joy and every heartache simply because that was what I was going through. From that point on is what I consider to be my full body of writing - poems about Jake, Maya (my daughter), and Mary; poems about this beautiful place called Niagara that we have chosen as our home, our nest; and poems about this body, that I have not chosen, with its unending textures and perceptions, always proving to be greater than its parts, and choosing mystery and symbol as its common voice and mode of communication.