1. Excerpts from an Invented True Journal
Thursday 01 July 1993 (New South Ram Camp)
Set up "new" camp just above the gorge, several hundred meters by foot from Hummingbird Trail. Took twelve-inch cutthroat on no-name grey dry fly. Released it to the god of the River Ram. Bed at dark 10:30 pm. Occasional rain.
Friday 02 July (Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Broke camp in a hurry to report truck (parked off
Hummingbird Trail) forcibly entered overnite. Missing items:
Bookbag contained prsonal documents + red "Cohen Binder" (all my Conference files, incldg part draft of "Intro"). Not my wallet, thank the (Ram) gods.
Saturday 03 July (Old South Ram Camp)
To Red Deer yest. Cancelled credit cards & cheques. Got gun serial no. Reviewed damage. Overnite.
Returned to S. Ram with J. & dogs. Set up "old" camp. With truck on site.
Tuesday 06 July (Red Deer College)
News: SSHRCC grant request refused. Ho-hum. "Neglect of Cohen" (à la Scobie) continues. More work.
To re-write "Intro": start with excerpts from journal kept last days? If I had one. So make one up.
2. How It All Began
(This much was in my computer.)
The idea of this Conference began in a double whiskey, neat, with a red-head in a Rocky Mountain House (Alberta) bar called "The Bottom" in the early fall of 1991. By December, it had become a Committee at Red Deer College. It grew slowly through the long winter of 1991-92. I knew it was real when a logo was adopted that spring; it wanted to become idea again when nothing seemed to be happening all summer. But the cutthroat were biting in the South Ram, and something clearly was alive and struggling. By fall 1992, paper-work was piling up: I opened up a red "Cohen" ring-binder, sorted the papers, but that didn't help. Then in January 1993, idea reverted to reality the academic papers began to arrive. If I could just hold off long enough to let the trout spawn . . . .
Robert Kroetsch wrote that "The Cohen Conference will do great things for the literary scene" (letter July 1992). Linda Hutcheon said, "It's time we took Cohen more seriously here in Canada" (letter October 1992). Cohen himself remarked dryly to Peter Gzowski that his "comedic vision" had somehow been missed (CBC interview November 1992).
The great, the serious, the comedic thing? "Singer as Lover, Reconsidered."
(The rest is made up and remembered, yet true.)
3. How the Proceedings Got Published
We knew we wanted Scobie, so Birk (Sproxton) contacted him first. Yes, he said. Unequivocally. And he's kept his word, too. Then we sent out a call for papers to some fifty periodicals, mostly in Canada, but also USA, Europe, Australia. The call appeared even in a quirky "Cohen Newsletter" published out of London, England. By January 1993, some twenty papers/abstracts, and several promises and queries had arrived. We formed an editorial group and set to work reading.
First, did we have enough good papers? No problem there we are pleased to present only significant contributions to Cohen scholarship focussed on the Conference theme, and sorry we couldn't accept more.
Second, find a publisher. No problem there, either. Red Deer College (RDC) Press was our natural choice, its managing editor sat on the Conference Committee, and an agreement was struck.
Third, a brainstorm (brain-failure?): the editor that's me wanted the Proceedings in print by Conference date. He had his reasons, of course; the editorial group agreed; and letters of acceptance with submission deadlines were sent out. But the deadlines jolted our keynote speakers: Scobie was eventually reconciled to them; we lost Djwa, whom we dearly wanted. The Ram-god was smiling, however: out of UBC came Ira B. Nadel, a noted scholar who just happened to be writing a Cohen biography. He wanted to participate, and we were only too happy to invite him.
Fourth, publishing problems. RDC Press suddenly didn't want to publish the Proceedings. All along, the Ram-god must have been chuckling at our mortal folly, because the editor of this journal had already let us know he was interested. A written contract was readily drawn up, and here we are.
The cutthroat are peculiar trout. A pool looks empty for ever so long. The May-flies spin over the swirling water. You sense a shape, think you hear something slap. Later, you wonder why your brain registers a flash of red.
You have seen a cutthroat before you knew it.
4. How the Conference Got Organized
By instinct, by co-operation.
My instinct was to "go" if there was sufficient support, with or without Cohen himself. It was to solicit that support from key persons, as diversely based and knowledgeable as possible.
Birk was the first key person. In that stolen red binder is a note written on a bar napkin, outlining the steps, the hurdles, the "yeah-buts." It records the first meeting of the Cohen Committee, before it existed. And Birk has remained a key player throughout, nowhere more important than in the editing of these Proceedings and in their summary statement.
Next, Jim Gough. He was in charge of funding. Much more important than that, however, was his unstinting and critical support of this project. It was Jim who "walked" the various proposals through their appropriate hierarchies at the College; Jim who suggested the Foundation (see below); Jim who brought me up sharply on the double hook of reality, who released me into bacchic laughter.
Faculty representative Glynis Wilson-Boultbee made a key suggestion early in the planning: get Community Education involved. That's how I met Mike Knopp (Director). His Department is the official sponsor of the Conference. A member of his staff, Shirley Jorgensen, became our Coordinator.
Let me tell you something about Shirley: she can be a wonderful pain; she's committed and persistent; she's saved me from myself far too many times; and the Conference wouldn't have happened without her. One example. The stunning poster, whose design by Audio-Visual's Rennie Brown she organized, would not feature the Cohen photo but for Shirley's ability to bargain a photographer's royalty fee from $1000 to $100.
From here on, I can give only
a partial list of names of other players. May the Ram-gods (and theindividuals /
organizations unnamed) forgive me for any omissions:
Fishermen guess that the true number of trout in a stream is ten times the number of trout seen: their instinct is to stay hidden.
5. How the Conference Got Funded
The Conference operated on a budget of approximately $45,000. Most of this money was generated by Conference activities. $15,000 was funded by other organizations: Red Deer College Foundation, Cultural Activities Trust Fund, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and Red Deer College Professional Development Fund.
Our sincere thanks to all of these supporting organizations.
Two comments are in order. First, a special word of thanks to Keith Woznesensky of the RDC Foundation. Keith has made the bulk of the funding support available to us, and he has done this graciously and professionally.
Second, a question for SSHRCC, who refused to support this Conference. What does it take, I ask rhetorically, to dislodge the academic community from its eastern, big-city, mainstream bias?
A trophy cutthroat may be taken more readily in a local stream on a no-name fly than in a large river on the traditional, imported Royal Coachman.
6. How the College Got Involved
College support came from every level.
Students supported the Conference financially (CAT Fund) and artistically (art exhibit, readings, music, performances, and drama).
Faculty and staff supported it by providing a pool of ideas, skills, and, above all, workers.
Administration sponsored the whole thing.
A veritable school of cutthroat. The river teems.
7. "Singer as Lover, Reconsidered"
Singer: Traditional figure for poet.
As: The simile is controlled comparison, not metaphoric identifcation.
Lover: One possessed; paramour, gallant; pimp (slang).
Reconsidered: Much has happened in the theory and practice of reading, writing, and rhetoric during the past twenty years. Not much has happened in Cohen scholarship.
Theme: First maligned as a critical tool, theme can now be understood as the figure it also is. "Within a work, theme is an idea repeated frequently (motif, leitmotif), or a basic idea (thesis, obsessive image), or an essential one (formal structure)." (Bernard Dupriez. A Dictionary of Literary Devices. Translated and adapted by Albert W. Halsall. Univ. Toronto Press, 1991.)
My particular thanks to the members of the editorial group: Jim Scott, Peter Slade, Birk Sproxton.
I freely accept the traditional (figure for the) editor's responsibility: all the failings of the Proceedings are mine alone; all its successes are the group's.
* * *
Canadian Poetry would like to thank Kelley Lynch, of Leonard Cohen Stranger Music, Inc; and Jennifer Quick, of McClelland and Stewart, for their co-operation during the production of this issue, and Richard Parks, of the Department of Music Theory and Composition at the University of Western Ontario, for formatting the musical scores that appear in Charlene Diehl-Jones' article. Profound thanks are also due to Eleanor Surridge, Amanda St. Jean, and Gerard Stafleu for the formatting and production of this special issue.