What does this change mean to Davey, and what could it mean to the Canadian poetry scene? In an email interview for London Open Mic Poetry Night, we pressed for hints.
The interviewer is Stan Burfield, organizer of London Open Mic Poetry NIght.
BURFIELD: Your long editorship of the influential poetics journal ‘Open Letter’, which you began in 1965, is coming to a close with the final issue, the Fall 2013 issue entitled ‘THE SPIRIT OF TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AVANT-GARDE WRITING,’ on the mystical in Canadian avant-garde writing, to be published this coming November. Is it possible to give in a short answer some sense of the accomplishments of ‘Open Letter’ in its entirety, and its effects on Canadian literature?
FD: Open Letter began from my desire to rekindle a dialogue about poetics among some of the earlyTish editors -- myself, Bowering, Dawson, and Wah. When I arrived in Toronto in 1970 I joined with Victor Coleman of Coach House Press to make the journal also serve the needs of emerging experimental/research writers such as Coleman, Matt Cohen, David McFadden, Daphne Marlatt, and Gwendolyn MacEwen to have their work discussed and reviewed. Shortly after that bpNichol and Steve McCaffery joined the editorial board dialogues, and Barbara Godard began contributing translations of poetry and essays by young avant-garde Quebec writers such as Nicole Brossard and Victor-Levy Beaulieu, work that then had an impact on earlier Open Letter participants Wah and Bowering. So at this point Open Letter was succeeding in giving high-profile attention to new innovative writers whose work might have otherwise been seen as marginal and ignorable, and in enabling contact between writers who might not have otherwise known of each other.
Its difficult to measure or demonstrate "effects" more than this. Most of these writers are now perceived as historically significant (whether positively or otherwise) within Canadian lit-- and how much that's due to anything Open Letter did is of course very much debatable. It's their writing that has engaged readers. What Open Letter did most was make it easier for that writing to find the readers. I know, this isn't the Open Letter story "in its entirety," but it gives some idea.
BURFIELD: Is your new blog, which you just launched (April 29th, 2013) intended to be your main day-to-day prose outlet in the future?
FD: That's hard to know -- I was thinking of it as more week-to-week than day-to-day, and also planning to continue to write much longer pieces for print publication. I've completed 3 requested or 'commissioned' essays recently. I hadn't contributed a great deal of my own writing to Open Letter in recent years -- no more than one essay a year. It wasn't my prose outlet. And a blog is more a place in which to consider and propose and initiate discussion, it seems to me, than it is to do one's "main" work. I was thinking of it as closer to the kinds of dialogue the early years of Open Letter aspired to than to the polished work that it usually presented in its later years.
BURFIELD: You have described its content as being ‘wide-ranging’. At the moment do you have an idea of what kind of content we can expect to see in general? And how wide do you expect it might range?
FD: I don't close myself off to possibilities -- Open Letter wasn't "open" just to have a neat name. & of course what I see right now as "wide" others might see as narrow -- & I might learn that they are right. So, at least wider than London, wider than Canada, but unlikely to be wider than language.
BURFIELD: In shifting from the editorship of the journal ‘Open Letter’ to being a blogger, do you expect to spend more time writing than before? Will there be any other shift in direction, that you can forecast?
FD: Well yes, the blog shift may not be the only one I'm making, so as you hint, it's hard to answer either question. Blogging is different mode of engagement than editing a three-times a year journal -- more flexible, agile, prospective, potentially more passionate. But there's a lot of failed or inactive literature blogs on the internet I notice, and a lot that have become predictable, some that have become like literary institutions. I find that instructive -- but instructive to what end, I don't know. Maybe the blog itself as a medium will become obsolete, or more likely unfashionable, in a few years, or a few months. And at age 73 I don't necessarily face the possibility of having to carry a blog on for a decade or more, so the pressure's off, eh? I can take risks -- not that I mightn't have taken some anyway.
-Frank Davey Blog
-Bio/interview by 'Open Book'