Thursday, January 05, 2006

Far Richer for the Experience

By Ray Nichols
January 5, 2006

We all knew this day was coming. My thoughts and prayers go out to Irving’s family and friends and to us, as well.

I too was part of a group of students that Seymour Mayne took to have lunch with Irving in Montreal as part of his third year poetry workshop. It was at a restaurant on Monkhouse if I remember correctly, and Irving ordered pizza. I remember his wife not being at all thrilled with his choice for a meal, but he was going to have a good time with us, healthier food choices be damned. What I took away from that lunch was his graciousness, his patience with all of us and our questions about the art and his passion for poetry. Looking back on it now, I’m amazed at how indulgent he was with us.

I too saw him read at Magnum, and after the reading showed him some limited edition prints that my mother had unearthed in Calgary and given to me for Christmas the year before. He was both astonished and pleased to see them and when I asked him to sign the front print he replied, “But I’ve already signed it,” which was true – they were all signed copies upon release. I responded by saying I’d like him to sign it again – and he did with his usual flourish.

At one point, Chris Pollard, Stuart Konyer and I started up Hostbox, which was a local (Ottawa) literary magazine. We decided to send copies out to quite a few writers and poets, Canadian and otherwise. Again, my memory is not what it used to be, but I believe that Irving was the only person who wrote back and encouraged us to keep with it. That was exciting stuff indeed!

And that’s been my experience with him – indulgent and encouraging. Seymour Mayne did us a great favour by introducing us to Irving.

I know I’m richer for the experience.

Ray Nichols


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