I was born in the middle of World War 2, and grew up in the seaport city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It wasn’t until years later, when I moved inland to Montreal and Toronto, that I realized what a strong effect the ocean had had on my view of the world. It was always nearby, immense and uncontrollable, breathing billows of fog and the scent of brine over the town. I didn’t write poems as a child, but remember sitting on my father’s knee as he read me the poetry of Shelley and Keats.
At McGill University I discovered literature, and a band of poets who had been high school students of the eminent Irving Layton. Among them were Henry Moscovitch, Seymour Mayne, and the Aster brothers, Sydney and Howard. Charlie Sise, although not a former student of Layton, was an important member of the group. One of my favourite professors, who taught European Literature in translation, was the poet Louis Dudek. I remember him entering the classroom one day wearing a brilliant yellow tie, and declaring that yellow was the colour of decadence, and since he was teaching the French poet Corbiere that day, he thought it appropriate. Montreal was a cauldron of poetry and prose writing back in the late fifties, inhabited by such luminaries as Layton, Dudek, Leonard Cohen, Hugh MacLennan, with Raymond Souster, Al Purdy, and Milton Acorn passing through town from time to time. It was hard not to catch the fervour. And I wrote my first ever poem in the spring. Something about the sun breaking open like an egg and falling on the tail fins of cars.
I lived in Israel for three years in the early sixties, worked on a kibbutz for three months, and taught ESL in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Many years later, this experience became inspiration for my novel The Kanner Aliyah. In Jerusalem I became friends with the poets Robert Friend, Dennis Silk, and A.C. Jacobs, all of whom were writing in English. I published poetry in the Jerusalem Post, and did a reading with Friend, Silk, and Jacobs at the Y.M.C.A., across the street from the King David Hotel.
In Montreal in the mid sixties, I wrote my first novel (unpublished), A Long Way Down, inspired by the work of poet and novelist Charlie Sise, and by psychological discoveries we had made about his family and mine. Essentially we had discovered that the Jewish and non-Jewish family were almost opposite in their dynamics, the subterranean emotions running classically from mother to son, and father to daughter, in the non-Jewish family, and from father to son and mother to daughter in the Jewish family. This altered my entire vision of my childhood, my life, and the culture I had been brought up in. It inspired my novels that followed, The Kanner Aliyah, Head of the Harbour, and a number of novels still unpublished, Like A River Speaking, Factory Towns, The Comfort of the Room, The Curse of Joanie McFadden, Underground Music, and Stone Lions.
In the mid seventies, after working as an electronics technician and letter carrier for six years in southwestern Ontario, I moved to Toronto, hooked up with Charlie Sise again, and wrote the five-novel series that began with The Kanner Aliyah and ended with The Comfort of the Room. Charlie Sise and his partner, the publicist, Linda Litwack, published The Kanner Aliyah in 1979 and Head of the Harbour in 1983, both through Groundhog Press. At that time poetic activity had revved up in Toronto and I became friends with the poets, James Deahl and Mike Zisis, who published the literary journal Intrinsic. I read poetry at the Axle Tree in the basement of Trinity Church and met many poets and writers who were starting their careers, including Sharon Berg, Bev Daurio, Maria Jacobs, Robert Priest, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, Bruce Meyer, Joe Blades and Chris Faiers. During this time I published poems in Intrinsic, Poetry Canada Review, White Wall Review, The Fiddlehead, Onion, Pierean Spring, and in the anthologies Northern Red Oak and Arrivals: Canadian Poetry in the Eighties.
Recently my poetry has been published in numerous literary journals in the United States, in Phantasmagoria, Illuminations, Flint Hills Review, California Quarterly, RiverSedge, The Distillery, Into the Teeth of the Wind, Ascent, Sanskrit, Poet Lore, Quiddity, Linden Avenue Literary Journal (online) and in the anthologies,VerseWrights.com (online) and Bright Stars 5, An Organic Tanka Anthology. In Canada my recent poetry has appeared in the Canadian Jewish News.
I have plans to publish a collection of poetry and another novel in the near future. My novel, The Snail’s Castle, is now available in Kindle and Paperback formats at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/b00tfrobzy/
My daughter, Catherine MacDonald, is living in Panama with her husband, Martin Higgins. They manage an awesome website of their own creation—BookLending.com, and were pioneers in the e-book lending website idea.
I am living in Toronto with my wife, Carol, who worked for many years as an ECE instructor in Metropolitan Toronto Childcare centres. I have taught ESL to newcomers to Canada since 1992, and have mentored novice teachers at the Canadian Centre for Language and Cultural Studies.
My non-literary interests include golf, stock charting, and long walks in the park.
In ending, I would be remiss not to say that I believe the spiritual dimension exists, an aspect of which is expressed by the poet, King David, in Psalm 61, “From the end of the earth I call unto You, when my heart is overwhelmed. You lead me to a rock that is higher than I.” I often think of our finite state, and the ocean of stars that surrounds us, a realm much larger than I first imagined.
COPYRIGHT © 2014 MARK GORDON