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Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Legend Passes Into History...

Ruth Taylor
1961 - 2006
My friend Kevin just told me that Ruth Taylor, a legend among Montreal's poets, died on February 18th.
I don't think I have any words worthy of eulogizing someone like her.
I never actually had her as a teacher during my time at John Abbott, but Kevin did. I had the opportunity to read her poetry many times, while in Endre Farkas' classes, though.
Once, I audited one of her classes, because Kevin told me how amazing a teacher she was. What was also cool is that this ex hippie radical and Montreal poet was also a graduate from our old high school, Vaudreuil Catholic (which itself passed into history a few years ago).
I remember that when I sat in on her class there was a huge protest going on, involving students from the nearby high schools. I can't remember what the strike was about, but I remember thinking how fucking stupid it was.
Ruth, of course, thought it was a great idea, and wonderful to see "your generation" getting radical about something (Because of course we Generation Xers were and probably still are a fairly apathetic bunch. Meh; who cares?). While her observation of the student strike was supposed to be a passing comment, my own opinionated-bastard personality wouldn't let it pass. I took issue with the strike, saying that it was just a fun, cool way for the kids to skip class, and that it wouldn't amount to shit.
Ruth and I spent the next 90 minutes arguing our positions; when the arguments gave way to rhetoric, the rest of the class sat mesmerized that some crazy, fat long-haired kid was going toe-to-toe with Ruth. Kevin sat traumatized that I, his guest in the class, was doing this to him. Rhetoric gave way to insults and intellectual jousting. I think at one point I said something about how useless the whole neo-hippie thing was; about as useless as the original hippie movement and all the more pathetic for the lack of originality. I think Ruth called me "Fucking Joe Fucking McCarthy" at that, but the verbal barrage between us continued nonstop the rest of the class.
Afterwards and for the rest of the time I was at Abbott, Ruth and I would occasionally meet up in the Oval Coffee House for a smoke, or run into one another outside of the Casgrain building, at the end of the day. She was cool.
Below are re-posts from other people's blogs. These people knew Ruth far better than I did, and I daresay they probably appreciated her far more than me.
Ruth Taylor has died, February 18, 2006.She was a friend of mine, and one of the best poets of her generation. I fondly recall reading and talking with her on The Main, at Concordia, and elswehere in Montreal, in the late 80s and early 90s, before I moved to Europe.Below please find a brief biographical sketch:Ruth Taylor was born in 1961, in Lachine, Quebec. She received a BA from McGill University and an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. She published two major poetry collections, The Drawing Board and The Dragon Papers. She was the editor of the anthology Muse On! which selected work from authors published by the small, but influential press The Muses Company. She taught for many years at John Abbot College, on The West Island. She was a significant part of the Anglo poetry scene in Montreal since 1979, when she burst on to it as a prodigy.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Ruth Taylor, 1961-2006
I got a sad email from Ken Norris late last week, to let me know that Montreal poet and teacher Ruth Taylor had died on February 18th. Even though she hadn't published a collection in some time (her second collection, The Dragon Papers, appeared with The Muses' Company in 1993), she was an important part of Montreal poetry throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and taught at John Abbott College in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, the school she had earlier attended as a student. According to her obituary posted in the online version of the Montreal Gazette:
"TAYLOR, Ruth Ellen. Crossed over February 18, 2006, Devoted mother of Emmett Keyserlingk, loving daughter of Shirley and the late Sarsfield, sibling rival of Ken. Poet and teacher extraordinaire. Funeral at St. George's Anglican Church, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Thursday, February 23 at 2 p.m. Visitation Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the J.J. Cardinal Funeral Home, 560 Lakeshore Drive, Dorval. Please omit flowers. If desired a donation to the John Abbott College Foundation would be appreciated. Published in the Montreal Gazette from 2/21/2006 - 2/22/2006."
Another note appeared on Canadian expatriate Todd Swift's blog on February 21st here.
Another more recent piece by Endre Farkas appears here.
Here is the single previously unpublished poem of hers from her selection in the
anthology Muse On! The Muses' Company Anthology 1980-1995, edited by Ruth Taylor herself (and the last book edited/published by
Endre Farkas before the press was sold to Gordon Shillingford, who moved the press west to Winnipeg…):
My introduction to Ruth Taylor was through that second collection, but a few years after her first poetry collection, The Drawing Board (1988, The Muses' Company). As she wrote about her second collection in Sounds New (1990):
"I'm working on a new book. It's called (for now) The Dragon Papers. Apollo's feminists don’t know poetical estrus from political estrogen. The male muse, as The Drawing Board demonstrated, is not yet old enough or separate enough from the godhead to properly inspire (à la Hopkins) the woman/poet. "Dragon" is the muse of this new work, guardian of the word-hoard, sharp-eyed dweller from parts within. I could call the work Notes from the Abyssopelagic Zone. Let those curse it that curse the day who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan. Rising organ music please." (p 125-6)
It was one of the first poetry collections I reviewed, back when I was one of two coordinating editors for The Carleton Arts Review at Carleton University, and I even went so far as host a reading of hers in Ottawa. Later on, she was nice enough to host a classroom reading at John Abbot College for a group of us, when I toured in spring 1999 with Montreal (since moved to Vancouver) writer Anne Stone, and Edmonton poet kath macLean.
Ruth Taylor was originally one of the five Lakeshore Poets, who came out of John Abbott College classes in the early 1980s, including Neil Henden, Ben Soo, Stephen Brockwell and Greg Lamontagne, who ended up being part of the Montreal scene as a kind of second generation offshoot of the 1970s Vehicule Poets; as well as editing the publication Locus at John Abbot College in 1979, Taylor went on to be co-organizer of the Vehicule Poetry Reading Series a year later. They Lakeshore Poets even went on to publish their own collection as Lakeshore Poets (St-Anne-de-Bellevue QC: The Muses' Company, 1982), edited by their teacher, friend and mentor Peter Van Toorn.
Taylor's publications included the chapbook A taste of Comet Wine (self-published, no date) as well as her two full collections, and inclusion in the anthologies Sounds New (ed. Peter Van Toorn, Dorion QC: The Muses' Company, 1990) and Cross/cut, Contemporary English Quebec Poetry (eds. Van Toorn and Ken Norris, Montreal QC: Vehicule Press, 1982), among others.
According to Ken Norris, they will be having a celebration for her on Saturday, March 25 at O'Hara's Pub on University St., one block south of Ste. Catherine Street in Montreal.
Thanks to Stephen Brockwell for helping locate important bibliographical detail...