Eulogy for Artie Gold – Goodbye Artie by Endre Farkas
Artie Gold, one of Canada’s finest poets died on St. Valentine’s Day, 2007. Gold, a member of the Vehicule Poets, died peacefully after a long battle with emphysema and most of the world.
Born in 1947 in Brockville, Artie Gold had been a presence on the Montreal poetry scene for over 30 years and even if he could not get around much in the last ten years, his spirit still bicycled around the town he loved. He loved to roam the alleys in the middle of the night collecting the hidden value and beauty in other people’s discard. He collected and displayed these, the world’s knick-knacks, on his shelves, tables, in baggies and in his poems:
“I have knapsacks full of knick-knacks
that spread beneath a tree
would suffocate a hermit”
He prowled the night like his many cats; the cats he loved but who in return gave him not affection but allergies. He haunted the all night joints for that forever midnight connection, the conversations that went everywhere and forever. Many of us knew that when the phone rang too late for sleep it was Artie, the Gold, the Goldie, with an invitation to join him on these adventures or to listen to a quick poem he had just scribbled and had to share.
I’ve known Artie since the early seventies. And although we were in our mid-twenties, he already had a reputation among poets as a “poet”, the real thing. I first heard him read at The Karma Coffee House (now, like Artie, gone). He amazed me with his wicked sense of phrasing, imagery and, later, when he showed me some of his already hundreds of poems, with his eccentric line breaks, frustrating spacing and punctuation. For these, and for everything else he wrote, he always had a perfectly, golden reason.
Along with Ken Norris, we were the original poetry editors of Vehicule Press, although he considered himself the “disassociate” editor. He and I ran the Vehicule reading series in the early seventies. He was the disassociate host and when we started the mimeographed magazine, Mouse Eggs, he contributed the name, some poems and his disassociation. And though he was always disassociating, he always believed in poetry as a noble obsession and in supporting the development of a vital and hip poetry scene.
George Bowering, Canada’s first poet laureate, who knew Artie well, wrote of him, “I knew that he was serious about poetry. He was not interested in getting famous or expressing his uniqueness or preparing himself for a job teaching creative writing. Artie never chased any kind of job very hard. What keeps coming through his poetry is his learning, his engaged reading of the avant garde. Since his first poems Gold has always shown taste.
So many things remind me of you
The birth of Christ: Georges de la Tour (around 1633)
page 126 of Art News Annual/1955: the repentant Magdalene
a nude Kirchner painted. A Matisse
something by Berthe Morisot
. . .things Picasso was fond of saying. . .
Artie wanted to live in a world populated by such figures. For him culture was not that thing the vulgarizing anthropologists have made it, whatever society makes and does. Culture was what our artists refined.”Artie Gold wrote. And although he published only six books, his published works were just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Artie was always writing—on his manual Underwood, on the back of cigarette packs, on napkins, on the wall, on postcards to himself and to the rest of the world. He also sketched, sketches of the moment, the moment of a moment, like his poems, whose phrases and unsentimental melancholia left a permanent impression on your mind and in your heart. He and his poems made you realize that poetry, contrary to popular opinion, did matter. Artie Gold was a poet who was sure of what he was. He was a poet. He paid rent in Fort Poetry. He, a wheezing asthmatic in the world, had such breadth in his poems that he could leave you breathless and wondering “how did he do that? Or, make that, what”. There was a Bach like complexity mixed with a Rube Goldberg playfulness in his poems. His poems were city flowers growing between the cracks of this concrete island at the strangest and most arresting angles. Artie did not conduct a particularly safe life. He took chances in life and in his art, which to him were one and the same. And though he wrote
“I will hitch-hike out of here one day
with my hair in my eyes and a good breeze blowing
and cause a little confusion I’m sure—
though no more than a hair
discovered in a gravy
I disagree. Artie was more than a hair in the gravy, more like a pain in the heart. No picnic, Artie. Artie irritated life. He was engaged in the art of living with its urgencies and pleasures: on the turntable, Bach, on bookshelves, arranged by the architect of unsentimental sadness, the detectives of mysteries and the eccentrics of poetry. He was the cityflower growing the way his few remaining strands of hair, always about to fly off. Artie, always a cat on a high wire-fence, always with a poem, insisting to be let in but only on his terms, even if only to ransack your fridge and point to something beautiful, to something missing in your life.
Now, free of the allergies of this world, Artie, in the middle of winter, out on the balcony, a last cigarette, on the last train pulling out of town, on St. Valentine’s Day, like a made-up mind, is off.
There will be a Memorial gathering and reading Saturday, April 14, 2007, at The Word Bookstore, 469 Milton Ave. 845-5640.
Sun filters through my window
velvet like bats’ bellies the shadow it casts
flutter about my room. I share the unrest
the sun is doomed with; the movement
sunup sundown moving around; ground sky ground
its only comfort the habit of its orbit.
we are orbs whatever we do is behaviour
the truth of our moment is too predictable
yet I delight in the sun. it is monumental
in the sky with certainty rising, setting
looking to the greater cycle, there is colour,
a yellow angel pedals about the world.
- Artie Gold
from The Beautiful Chemical Waltz (The Muses’ Company, 1992)