Remember David McFadden

Stephen Osborne

When David McFadden died in June of this year, I looked for my copy of The Great Canadian Sonnet, which McFadden wrote in collaboration with the artist Greg Curnoe in 1974, and which became for many writers and artists a spring of new energy flowing not from New York or Toronto but from Hamilton and London, obscure cities in an obscure hinterland that became another country in the counterculture that we had hoped was out there somewhere. But my copy of The Great Canadian Sonnet had disappeared in some wanton fit of lending-out, so I went to the public library and read an unborrowable copy in Special Collections, and my suspicion was confirmed immediately that the genius of David W. McFadden will abide forever. In the non-special collections I found A Trip Around Lake Erie, his travelling narrative, which had been a formative text in the early years of Geist, so I checked that one out, along with a copy of Shouting Your Name Down The Well, McFadden’s wonderful collection of haiku and tanka (in his persona as Genmai, he was the original adjudicator of Geist’s long-running haiku contests). I was halfway through A Trip Around Lake Erie—that is, somewhere outside Sandusky, Ohio—when a slip of paper fell from its pages; it was a Hold notice made out in February of this year to the poet Judith Copithorne, whose work is contemporaneous with the work of David McFadden. The Hold notice says that she had had 8 days at the time to pick up the copy of A Trip Around Lake Erie that I was holding in my hand. I wondered how well they might have known each other’s work, when I spotted among the blurbs for Shouting Your Name Down The Well a blurb by Judith Copithorne, who wrote that her favourite story was the one about following a cow swimming all night across Lake Erie.

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.


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