Welcome to this cyberplace, set up as a space for news and reviews of A Gentleman of Pleasure and occasional jottings about John Glassco. Five years have now passed since publication, and I've moved on to other projects, but I'm leaving this up with the thought that those drawn to Glassco's writing will find something of interest.

28 September 2013

John Glassco on the League of Canadian Poets

My present situation vis-à-vis the League of Canadian Poets is frankly selfish: I look on its annual meetings as no more than an opportunity for a free trip to somewhere or other in our broad land. Poets, I think, give so much to the world, and for so little that they’re entitled to this annual junket at the Canada Council’s expense. And I found the last meeting in Fredericton more rewarding for the chance it gave me to wander around that pleasant city than to listen to endless discussions on the subject of a paid Secretary, or Miriam Waddington scolding somebody, or Dr Cogswell expounding his theory of the place of the Sunday poet in our culture. If I get to the next general meeting I fully intend to register, greet a few friends, and disappear – unless there is an important vote to be taken on something really crucial like holding two general meetings every year.
— John Glassco, letter to Henry Beissel, 23 May 1975
A member since the League’s inception in 1966, Glassco was never much of a supporter. He thought the name silly and had from the start fought to make it an exclusive club. The battle was lost. By the League's tenth anniversary membership increased more than ten fold to 160. Published four years later by the League, this "concise guide" lists 197 members.

Glassco believed that the League had been inundated with “sensitive housewives from the Maritimes and the Prairies, all awful, all published at public expense in hideous little chapbooks.” He placed blame on Fred Cogswell and others who had pushed for a more inclusive organization. In an earlier letter to Beissel, Glassco writes:
If I understand Dr Cogswell correctly, his position is that everybody can and should write poetry, not so much in the pursuit of excellence or as a demanding vocation, but as a hobby or even a kind of therapy. This acknowledgement of the plight of the Sunday poet struck me as deeply humanitarian: we all know there is no one so pitiable as the person without talent who aspires to be a poet, and I can think of no one better qualified to represent her or him than Dr Cogswell, as his own work and his many sponsorings [sic] have shown over the years. He deserves the support he receives from these unhappy men and women. But I am troubled to see the league being taken over by them.
Certainly one of the most accomplished of its number, Glassco held his upturned nose in maintaining his membership. He lived just long enough to see his entry in this guide as “John Glasgow”.

Publications like these provide sharp snapshots of time and place, but for practical purposes the web serves best. Visit the League of Canadian Poets website today and you'll find listings for 557 members... and I'm not even counting Student Members, Honorary Members, Life Members and Supporting Members.

Some are friends.

Plug: Both letters feature in The Heart Accepts It All: Selected Letters of John Glassco.

Crossposted at The Dusty Bookcase.