Caravaggio’s Dagger – Origin of the Book

Krottenbachstrasse, Vienna, where I lived. (Courtesy:  www.panoramio.com)

Krottenbachstrasse, 18th Bezirk, Vienna, where we lived. (Courtesy: http://www.panoramio.com)

The magnificent and turbulent Montreal phase of my life complete, I began in earnest to become an artist when my wife and I moved to Vienna when I was 30.

That year, 1978, the exchange value of the Canadian dollar dropped hard, and our cash flow in Austrian schillings was reduced accordingly. So, Trudeau’s mismanagement of the Canadian economy is what led two years afterwards to my arriving in Edmonton to work for Athabasca University as its assistant registrar.

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Old postcard of Macdonald Hotel

Old postcard of Macdonald Hotel

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My application, I was later told, was of particular interest because I had stated on my résumé that I was a poet. The University put me up at the Hotel Macdonald, with its great view of the North Saskatchewan River valley. The hiring committee included an elfin emigrant from Denmark, a former Red Deer resident born in Botswana, a Jehovah’s Witness from Medicine Hat, and an HR representative born in Germany. How could one go wrong. I thought Edmonton marvellous, especially after I was introduced to sushi on 101st Street.

Some ten years later, in Vancouver, when I was 44, and having left the tremendous cultural concentration of Toronto behind, it had become the time to resume writing. It proved a complicated equation keeping art and income in some sort of reasonable balance. I completed books of poetry in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2004, and a book on Stanley Park was nearly accepted for publication in 2004.

I continued with my workshop and seminar business, worked keeping the Vancouver Museum alive as its executive director, introduced business management and control into BCIT International, attained professional recognition as a Certified International Trade Professional, and taught international trade to First Nations and artisans. My wife ran a kayaking business out of English Bay, and as a potter created commissioned work. My artistic study focussed on all the plays of Shakespeare, symphonies of Haydn, and cantatas of Bach.

And time began to speak more loudly. Three of our four parents sickened mortally, necessitating stays in Montreal and Ottawa. And friends died.

It was nonetheless an exceptionally fine time of life. We have never regretted spending the middle fifteen years of our lives pursuing our fundamental interests, essentially independently, in what we still regard as Canada’s finest city.

The Seawall at Stanley Park, Vancouver, 19 November 2001 (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

The Seawall at Stanley Park, Vancouver, 19 November 2001 (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

In terms of poetry, the final yield was a single book, Caravaggio’s Dagger. Dissatisfied with the quality of the earlier six books, I took from them what was best, scrapped the rest, completed a first version of the final manuscript in December, 2004, that incorporated 33 poems either new or revised, and, in July of 2005, completed the final version, incorporating a further 38 revisions of individual poems. During this activity, I resumed my reading in world history and of the complete novels of Charles Dickens.

The large amount of work that went into what became Caravaggio’s Dagger has been very beneficial to me as a writer. It has enabled me to concentrate my writing, with each successive work increasingly reduced in the time needed for gestation, composition, and revision. Between 2007 and 2012 I wrote and published Civil Thoughts, a series of 40 articles on local government in Canada. A second book of poetry, Covenant, was completed in Edmonton in 2015. I am now working on a third, Constellations of Desire.

North Saskatchewan River. 9 September 2012. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

North Saskatchewan River. 9 September 2012. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

In concurrent professional work, I was drawn to public administration, and served as a municipal chief administrative officer in municipalities in New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Alberta. When we returned to Edmonton, for the third time, it was to concentrate once again on writing. And in the spring of 2015 we returned to Vancouver.

Caravaggio’s Dagger is published by Iguana Books (Toronto, Ontario, 2013, 105 pp.). It can be obtained from the publisher, and from Amazon, Chapters Indigo, and many other international online distributors. Buy it here, or here or here. Kindle, ePub, or print edition.

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