About 15 years ago, I was a notorious avante-garde poet setting things on fire in western Canada. Literally – I burnt bad reviews in the fields of Saskatchewan. I also led one of the most infamous literary tours since Ken Kesey fired up the Electric Koolaid Bus in the 60s: the Write The Nation tour, which carried fifteen poets twelve-thousand km to fifteen Canadian cities – in a pink ambulance. True story. The project led to hundreds of short-stories and poems, a book of poetry, and dozens of polarizing reviews about the various works of poet Mingus Tourette.
Mingus Tourette was I—a front-page “shiv-wielding maniac” and “the most exhilarating voice to emerge on the Canadian poetry scene in years in years”. So said the papers. Half-truth, half-alter-ego, half-art project, half-mad, it is hard to delineate exactly what Mingus Tourette is, or was. He wrote offensive books of poetry, got into fights with critics — and gave poetry and literature everything it ever wanted in terms of infant terribles in a sea of kind and well-keeled Canadian writers. Everyone loves a good story about Bukowski falling over hammered, so Mingus and I invented the Western equivalent, added shotguns and set sail without anchor. It was unequivocal shipwreck. But it is still the thing they’d put on my tombstone in Edmonton: wrote some crazy, incendiary poems and owned a pink ambulance.
The story was well-chronicled in the Canwest papers, Maissoneuve, and even became the lead chapter in a hard-cover non-fiction book about The Road. Old links are fading into the digital ether, so I'll post up shots here soon.
It’s not the kind of project that explains easy, or gets another project made – but the truth of it is – there was some good writing, and sometimes you get a dream and follow it through to the bitter ocean floor depths and there’s no shame in that, no matter how stupid it seems in years hence. Our twenties should be spent chasing great white whales, we’ve got the rest of our lives for mortgages and RRSPs.
A few examples of poems and articles to be linked here for samples soon enough – but really, it’s all best in context these days—meaning a couple of stiff gin and tonics and an out-loud reading.