Steve Smith

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mgunin
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Steve Smith

Postby mgunin » Sat Jul 01, 2006 9:39 pm

Good day to everybody!

I'd like to ask anyone who could help me for any information about Steve Smith, a poet mentioned in a dedication of Leonard Cohen's "Beautiful Losers".

The story is: Leonard's novel has once made a great impact on my literary tastes and I've been (and still am) an avid reader of this great book (by the way, Russian translation is absolutely brilliant). I became interested in many details related to it and something forced me to start looking for some information about this poet, his life (as it was so short) and books.

By a great luck I've managed to find a very old, used copy of "God's Kaleidoscope" at alibris.com and a month later a package from another side of the world has happily arrived in my mailbox.

The book is very small (40 p. approximately) and filled with some drawings as well. I've read it in a short time, it one seat. In my opinion, it's an impressive reading. The poems are charming in their strenghtness and simplicity (even "childishness" and over-simplicity at times) and, on the other hand, a deep symbolism and solidity. Childhood, youth, illness and religion are the main themes of these several short cycles of small poems.

Seems like Steve Smith is one of those forgotten young poets who is worth remembering. However, I was unable to find any information on him.

Does anybody have to say anything about Steve's life and poetry? What is known (in particular) about his relations with Cohen and his influence on the novel?

Greetings from Russia to all of you.
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linda_lakeside
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Postby linda_lakeside » Sat Jul 01, 2006 11:07 pm

I've often wondered who 'Steve Smith' was. It's a very common name. But, I wondered why the dedication was removed from the later editions of BL. I suppose I could try and google the info., and I will. One day. :wink:
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Postby Guest » Sat Jul 01, 2006 11:21 pm

linda_lakeside wrote:I've often wondered who 'Steve Smith' was. It's a very common name. But, I wondered why the dedication was removed from the later editions of BL. I suppose I could try and google the info., and I will. One day. :wink:
Well, the problem is - too many Steve Smiths will appear in Google 8) I've already tried that. Still, please, let me know if you're lucky.
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Jul 02, 2006 1:11 am

"A friend just send me this, re: Steve Smith

I must have asked her about him, a few days ago.

Here's her report:

<<Steve Smith? I actually found a copy of his book, God's Kaleidoscope (McGill Poetry Series, No. Cool, in a secondhand store a few years ago -- and bought it. The book is all black, its front cover features a mostly white series of spatters shaped roughly like a human figure in a running position. The author photo on the back cover depicts a man whose beard and dark sun glasses echo the Beat era, a touch of the rabbinical in his solemn _expression. There are gardens and seasons, woman and Jerusalem among the somber pen and ink drawings. But death is the constant theme, culminating in the final section's title, I Am My Own Remains. >>

Academics and others will recognize the McGill Poetry Series which was where Leonard got his start. There were a group of them, loosely grouped around Louis Dudek and Irving Layton. (...)"

humanponysss2000
PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:58 pm Post subject: Steve Smith: God's Kaleidoscope

***

"Thank you Ann, and your friend, for that on Steve Smith.

It is closure for everyone who ever wondered about him.

Louis Dudek wrote:

I started the McGill Poetry Series, which published
only ten books, but also launched some prominent names,
Leonard Cohen, Daryl Hine, George Ellenbogen, Dave Solway,
Pierre Coupey, and Seymour Mayne among the rest,
all of whom are still active and writing.

http://web.netrevolution.com/prma1753/ZapDudekBio.htm


Steve Smith's "God's kaleidoscope" was the 8th in that McGill Poetry Series.

It was published in "c1964", the year he died.

"Beautiful Losers" was published two years later, in 1966,
- the same year the last book in the McGill Poetry Series
was published.

Ruth Wisse in "My Life Without Leonard Cohen" wrote this:
Quote:
More practically, only Dudek's literature class
attracted a plurality of boys, clever boys from philosophy
and economics and even science. I developed a crush on several
of them, and of course on the teacher,...
- Ruth R. Wisse
- "My Life Without Leonard Cohen"
http://www.webheights.net/speakingcohen/wisse.htm


(--there's a lot about Dudek in that.)


So Steve Smith was 9 years younger than Leonard Cohen.
Which is more in young-years, (since they're the same
as dog-years,) than it is in real-people-years (our-years).

So they may or may not have known each other personally.

But Leonard probably felt a kinship with Steve
in that both were Dudek-clever-boys,
and in that both were first published in that very exclusive
McGill Poetry Series. I think Leonard dedicated Beautiful Losers
to Steve because he was exactly that, a beautiful loser.

His life and career were over, just as Leonard's was
on the verge of blooming.



The 10 books in the "McGill Poetry Series"
are listed below.

(-- found by searching http://www.mcgill.ca/ )


Code:

Author: Cohen, Leonard, 1934-
Title: Let us compare mythologies / by Leonard Cohen; drawings by Freda Guttman.
Published: Montreal : Contact Press, c1956.
Description: 79 p., [5] leaves of plates : ill. ; 21 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 1

Author: Hine, Daryl
Title: The carnal and the crane / by Daryl Hine.
Published: Toronto : Contact Press, c1957 (London, England : Poets’ and Painters’ Press)
Description: 50 p. ; 22 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 2

Author: Ellenbogen, George, 1934-
Title: Winds of unreason / by George Ellenbogen ; drawings by Peter Daglish.
Published: Toronto : Contact Press, c1957.
Description: 87 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 3

Author: Barnard, Sylvia, 1937-
Title: The timeless forest / by Sylvia Barnard ; [illustrated by Vera Frenkel].
Published: Toronto : Contact Press, 1959.
Description: 45 p., [4] leaves of plates : col. ill. ; 23 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 4

Author: Solway, David
Title: In my own image / by Dave Solway.
Published: [Montreal? : s.n.], 1962.
Description: 55 p. ; 24 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series no. 5

Author: Malus, Michael.
Title: Night is a flaming city : poems / by Michael Malus.
Published: Montreal : [s.n.], 1963.
Description: 62 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 6

Author: Coupey, Pierre, 1942-
Title: Bring forth the cowards / Pierre Coupey. --
Published: [Montreal : McGill University], 1964.
Description: 67 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. --
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 7

Author: Smith, Steve, 1943-1964
Title: God’s kaleidoscope / Steve Smith.
Published: [Montreal? : s.n.], c1964.
Description: 42 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 8

Author: Mayne, Seymour, 1944-
Title: Tiptoeing on the mount / Seymour Mayne ; [drawing by Viviane].
Published: Montreal : Catapult, c1965.
Description: [32] p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 9.

Author: Maraj, Jagdip, 1942-
Title: The flaming circle / by Jagdip Maraj.
Published: [Montreal? : s.n.], c1966.
Description: 35 p. ; 23 cm.
Series: McGill poetry series ; no. 10



- http://aleph.mcgill.ca/F/AKRPE6HTYAJP8X ... =005922503
"

~greg
Posted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 3:03 am

From the thread : BEAUTIFUL LOSERS: is it really fiction?

On this forum. (Of course)

Thanks to the search engine.
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linda_lakeside
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Postby linda_lakeside » Sun Jul 02, 2006 6:01 am

Very interesting reading. McGill certainly was a hotbed during that period. I keep forgetting that this site is the quintessential site for all things Cohen related.

Yes, if Smith were 9 years younger than Leonard, that is much like doggie years, as 'young years' make such a difference.

On the NFB production, 'Angel', I'm going to jump to the conclusion that it's Leonard's voice we hear. I was surprised to learn that the NFB was initially funded by the 'military'. That has an almost 'Reefer Madness' quality to it.

Then the interview with Angelica Houston??!! That must have come about from his Rebecca de Mornay days. But who knows. So many talented people back then, trying to follow in some very big footprints. Amazing that so few made it. I was at the library recently, flipping thru one of Layton's collections. 600 poems. In one book. Then the year before last, I tried to find some poetry by AM Klein, and it was very lean. Almost nothing.

The Jewish/immigrant community figures large during that period. Amazing that Leonard made it out. He often spoke of heroin/drug abuse, and I'm guessing that's what brought Steve Smith down. A lot of reading in that simple query. But, yes, I still wonder. I guess he (Smith) was a beautiful loser. Although, I can't see Leonard dedicating a book, his favoured book, to someone he didn't have a 'close' relationship to/with. Favourite Game was dedicated to his mother.

Thanks for the research links. It's a lot to absorb. Like his predecessors, Cohen will be researched/argued about by future poets/intellectuals. And most relate him to a handful of 'pop' records. Such a complex figure. Ha! ... understatement! ...

Linda.
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Jul 02, 2006 2:40 pm

My pleasure Linda.

My guess is : as SS commited suicice, probably to escape unbereable psychological pain (an not because of drug abuse, people sometimes forget that one comes before the other (pain before drugs) for so many people) and as he (LC) was always very touched by the suicide of people around him (I guess that he considered himself a survivor of those surges of suicide he may have in himself sometimes when his pain was so intense that even his songs could not sooth it - just a guess - that killed young people around him - too young for the death, really), well, he felt a huge compassion for the guy that could maybe have been him - another Beautiful Losers, one of his many Montréal neurotic affiliations.

Just a guess. OK? :wink: (Anyway I'm not here).
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Sun Jul 02, 2006 6:47 pm

Those guesses make sense, Tc... based on his 'beautiful loser' status.

I'm wondering about the elimination of that dedication in later editions, which would make sense... from the perspective of your point, Linda, about Leonard's books being dedicated to those who are very close to him [Edited to eliminate the word "printings" here ~ changed it to "editions"]... in that what was once, and initially, considered terribly relevant, with Leonard's age at the time and the impact of Steven Smith's death, later became not so relevant with the passage of time, and hence it was eliminated. Possibly.

~ Lizzy
Last edited by lizzytysh on Sun Jul 02, 2006 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
mgunin
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Postby mgunin » Sun Jul 02, 2006 7:13 pm

Thanks a lot to everyone who takes part in this discussion. Things are getting more clear and more misterious at the same time.

However, after reading Smith's book I can agree that he and Cohen might not necessarily have known each other personally. The dedication from Cohen might have been reasoned by many facts and themes related to Smith: early suicide, pain, illness, lost childhood and lost sincerity and simpliness turned into self-irony. And, of course, the symbol of a world as a kaleidoscope in God's eyes which is one of the central in Smith's poetic world can be seen (not directly, of course) as an element of Cohen's creative message as well.

By the way: another question: I've heard that prior to "God's Kaleidoscope" Smith had another book, titled like "Poems", "Poetry" or something simular. Does anyone know the exact title, year of publishing, any other information?

Best regards.
mgunin
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Postby mgunin » Sun Jul 02, 2006 7:44 pm

Well, here's that book, I've managed to find the details:
AMICUS No. 11539612
Monograph

NLC COPIES: Preserv - off site - PS8537 M66 P63 1962 - NO ILL

NAME(S):*Smith, Steve, 1943-1964
Brainin, Carole
TITLE(S): Poems / Steve Smith and Carole Brainin
PUBLISHER: Montreal : Printed by Dany's Press, c1962.
DESCRIPTION: [20] p. : ill. ; 20 cm.

NOTES: Cover title.
Desolation is a soul town / by Steve Smith -- Fragments
/ by Carole Brainin -- Poems for lovers and others / by Carole Brainin
-- Fragments / by Steve Smith.
NUMBERS: Canadiana: 000096520
CLASSIFICATION: LC Class no.: PS8537*

Locations Save
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Sun Jul 02, 2006 7:55 pm

"Desolation is a soul town"
That's intriguing!

Congratulations on your find, Mgunin 8) !

&

Welcome to you in Russia 8) !!

~ Lizzy
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Postby Guest » Sun Jul 02, 2006 8:21 pm

lizzytysh wrote:
"Desolation is a soul town"
That's intriguing!

Congratulations on your find, Mgunin 8) !

&

Welcome to you in Russia 8) !!
Well, that's what we are - Russian collectors are much like detectives 8) Sad thing is that I've no idea how to get this book (few poems from "God's Kaleidoscope" are already translated into Russian by me this night). Is it possible to make a computer scans in your libraries? A book is very small and an electronic copy would do for me... Would be grateful for the rest of my life to anyone who could help.
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Jul 02, 2006 11:40 pm

I would really appreciate if something else than "Tc" which I read "thick" (and not "T" (tee) "c" (see)) could be used to abbreviate my nick, this for obvious reasons. I'm sure this would facilitate the diplomatic relationships around here.

Passage of time makes a lot of sense to me either in regard to my (totally out of any real facts) guess.

Or maybe it is just a mechanical omission in the course or re-editions.

Everything is possible.

In any case this Smith seems another interesting poète maudit to me.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Mon Jul 03, 2006 7:01 am

Tc = Lz

No "h" in Tc. Lz is not a nick I'd have chosen for myself. In fact, I didn't. I chose Lizzy.


~ Lizzy not Lz
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tomsakic
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Postby tomsakic » Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:08 am

Well, you got me here. I will have to read carefully this thread later, after I do some work here in the office :lol: Until now, I just ordered God's Kaleidoscope from AbeBooks.com (there were two copies, 8.36 UK pounds)...
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linda_lakeside
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Postby linda_lakeside » Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:49 pm

Ha! Very clever, Tom. I guess if there's a Cohen related book/recording out there, you're the one to find it.

I'm sure we'd all appreciate any illumination your aquisition might provide. :roll: - gee, you made it seem so 'easy'.

Linda.

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