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Wayne Ray: Creative Endeavours

james hörner

wayne is the founder of HMS Press publishing and co-founder and Webmaster of the Canadian Poetry Association. He is the current chair of the London Chapter of the CPA and was the CPA National Coordinator. Besides his work with arts organizations, Wayne has published several books of poetry and non-fiction since 1985. Most recently Harmonia Press & Mercutio Press (2004). Visit his website for more on his writings and current activities.

when did poetry start for you?

Wayne Ray Wayne Ray
Well as synchronicity would have it, I was thinking about that last week. Poetry began to come to me at the age of 19. I was attending a conference for youth and was a representative for my highschool in Woodstock Ontario at the time. I had never written poetry before that time. I met a girl my age at this Niagara Falls conference by the name of Norma Jean Armstrong from Brampton Ontario. She asked me to write her a poem. I said I didn't write poetry and later the next day composed my first poem and thought Hey that's not too bad and by the end of college three years later had several dozen good and crappy poems written. I have been searching for her for many years to thank her for inspiring me and want to let her know of my poetic accomplishment over the years. I was also influenced, not so much poetry, but in writing by two high school teachers who had a great influence on creativity and encouragement.

Star bright and meadow green
while leaves of scarlet in Fall do sing
and girls with legs as legs do run
across the fields in the summer sun.

Moon light and winter sheen
while rolling hills sleep unseen
and boys with legs as legs do run
across the fields in the summer sun.

Suns height and river clean
while forest trees grow tall and lean
and with each other the youths do run
across the fields in the summer sun.

One for one and all for all
in Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall
and all the day and all the night
the youths run for youth delight.

Summer's gone for you and me
not for them as we can see
we are older you and I
ecstacy and youth will never die.

you let your muse escape! what did your high school teachers influence you with?

Wayne Ray
Well my XII teacher was very creative and there was always some new gadget or stuffed lifesize figure he had made to go along with the lessons and my XIII teacher nourished my poetry writing as we took modern Canadian Poets more than the traditional ones. It made me want to talk to them instead of just reading them, so about 4 years later while in Toronto, I developed small acquaintance friendships with Raymond Souster, Irving Layton, Gwendolyn MacEwan and others by simply looking them up in the phone book and giving them a call. Meeting and critiquing my (poor) early work and finding my poetry niche.

how did meeting living writers affect your conception of literature?

Wayne Ray
It enhanced it I guess. They talked about their lives and there problems and gave in-depth comments and a couple of discussions on things. I have always been interested in many aspects of literature and writers lives. It was many years later that there was a negative aspect to actually knowing authors and poets. In 1994-96 I went back to Fanshawe College to take a Library Science course and both the Cataloging teacher and the English teacher pooh pooed my comments whenever they would say something like "When Gwendolyn MacEwan was here giving a reading . . blah blah blah" and I would say something like "Gwen was a friend of mine and I published her and she wrote the back cover quote on The Whiskey Jack, by her ex-husband Milton Acorn, that I published the year he died. We used to sit around a coffee and talk about her life" and the teacher would say things like "Oh that's nice now on to the next topic etc" or the other teacher would just wave the back of her hand at me and start talking about other things. It was quite disheartening to see two cultured teachers not have a deeper interest in the people they were talking about. Superficial English education.

what keeps you busy these days besides writing?

Wayne Ray
I work full time at Canada Post in the Highbury sorting plant here in London on the midnight shift to pay for the hobbies. I have numerous photo scanning and graphics projects, maintain four websites on an irregular basis, volunteering at a local archives and museum, friends of course, publishing projects on the go for the past 3 years, new girlfriend ;-) , working around the new house and setting up the garage as a studio work space and the usual eating and breathing!

i find it hard to shift gears between my day job and my creative output - how do you make the two work together? and how do they reflect each other?

Wayne Ray
I have had no difficulty shifting between my job(s) and my creative endeavours. Since 1997 I have worked midnight shift at the post office with a short stint on afternoons. This schedule (two years I was also working in the library at University of Western Ontario 7am-12:30 after doing 12-6am & last year was sent in Fredericton New Brunswick where I hung out with my friend Joe Blades et al.) gave me plenty of time to sleep, organize workshops and readings and attend arts related events at most times of the day or evening. I slept til 9 am and went to bed again about 8 in the evening. Unless of course there were events in the evenings then I just stayed awake.

I don't think there is much reflection between the Canada Post and the Literary world with the exception of a few friends who have been out to events in town. I pass out my books at work and get very little feed back or opinion other than, "yeah they were ok" or "I don't read".

because i have to ask - what are some of the strangest things you've seen come through the post office?

Wayne Ray

  1. A roll of toilet paper with a rubber band holding the roll on, sufficient postage attached to the toilet paper.
  2. A roll of toilet paper with a union button on it and a large brown spot, going to CUPW headquarters in Montreal during the recent Post Office strike in protest (sent by me from Fredericton).
  3. $340 sports betting winnings with no address put in the mail by mistake.
  4. post cards with personal sex talk amongst guys like "(on a beach in Cancun with a naked woman on the front) "Here is where Bob got laid last night after we got drunk" etc
  5. Xmas trees being mailed from Fredericton to Alberta.
  6. bags of beans being mailed to the US President.
  7. large box of wet oysters that broke open and splayed all over the floor.
  8. finding my own mail

with your writing have you found that you have any obsessions or themes that you keep returning to?

Wayne Ray
Yes, I have edited and published a couple of local histories from diaries and am working on a few historical pamphlets for the Western Fair Museum and Archives. Mainly I have been producing historical photo CDs from archival material and have several to do from my own photographic collection.

how'd you decide to get working on publishing projects?

Wayne Ray

  1. How do I decide to get off my ass and get working on publishing projects?
    I procrastinate horribly. I clean the house, sort the file cabinet, do the dishes etc until I get closer to either the desk or the deadline and then just plow into it.
  2. How did I decide to get working on publishing projects?
    When Chris Faiers of Unfinished Monument Press did my third (first other publisher) book of poem: Auschwitz, I turned around and published Chris's Island Women. From that point on whenever I attended Toronto literary readings, I approached those poets that grabbed my imagination and asked to publish them. I felt and still feel it is more important to get someone published than to worry about grants and advertising etc. Most books have been Chapbooks and were easy and inexpensive to produce and print.
  3. How do I now decide to get working on publishing projects?
    Money mainly now. The job at Canada Post pays for the hobbies!! I was one of the founders of the London Arts Council and am taking advantage of their Community Arts Grants provided by the City of London. I decide the themes and the authors and along with editors and friends, plow into the publishing projects with more gusto than I had before. Larger more colorful productions, CDs etc.

what have you learned from being involved in an arts council?

Wayne Ray
Well I learned that bureaucracy can overwhelm action. I did learn process and Board stuff which was good as I later (from formation of the London Arts Council) became Chairman of the London New Arts Festival. I learned that if you (as a committee Chairman) have an idea and you just go for it, the Board can promote or shoot you down and as in my case in trying to get the London Arts Directory off the ground, 4 people resigned from the LAC in protest to the inaction forced upon us by the then Chairman, Rick Verrette. Two of us went ahead on our own and researched and produced the 72 page pamphlet to the praise and interest of the city arts community. I was a good experience on the whole and I met and have maintained friendships and contacts from that time on.

i know it's a vague question, but why are the arts important to you?

Wayne Ray
Because I don't like sports.

any long poems, or other literary mega-projects, waiting to spring from you one day?

Wayne Ray
Have already had one Epic poem published round about 1982 called Arma Virumque Cano: the Aenied updated it was app. 600 lines and rewrote the 6th book of the Aenied and took place in the last days of mankind. Literary projects on the go other than publishing other writers:

Publish my father's two WWII manuscripts, complete the present series of short stories about by year in New Brunswick, edit a complete collection of my prose and stories, a full size poetry book would be a good idea and am thinking of putting together a book of my or my father's photography.

what's one question you've always wanted to be asked?

Wayne Ray
Why are all your friends and acquaintances getting published in literary magazines and you are not? HMMMMmmmm hadn't really thought about the unasked question . . . Why would you rather promote other writers and not yourself? I guess would be the enigmatic question.

james hörner edits canadian content.

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