Ariadne’s note: World Poetry Café with hosts Ariadne Sawyer and Israel Mota welcomed Victor Schwartzmanto the show. Despite a few tech problems, the show was a fascinating of mixture of poetry,information and discussion about human rights . Included: A special poem on her new CD from the poetess and filmmaker Kalpna Singh Chitnis, an American Poet, Filmmaker and Actor of East Indian descent based in the United States. She is also the President and Founder of the Silent River Film Festival in Irvine California.
Two e-poems from long term supporter, Lini Grol dedicated for Mandela and read on the show. Link does not work: Try this to listen to the show: http://www.coopradio.org/content/world-poetry-cafe-2
Victor started writing when he was eight—a handwritten family newspaper—and has never stopped. He rarely has tried to get published. He majored in ‘creative writing’ for his B.A. and was accepted into the MFA programme at the University of California, Irvine. However, his disagreement with the American involvement in the Vietnamese civil war led him to become a war resistor and move to Canada in 1968.
He has written tv scripts for CBC TV, narration scripts for documentaries, and has numerous ‘hits’ on Google for poetry and other writing. He was a very minor founding member of COOP Radio, typed the CRTC application and was the engineer who broadcast the very first evening of shows.
Victor has served on the Boards of two Social Planning Councils, in Toronto and then Winnipeg, and ended as President in the Winnipeg SPC. He lived in Winnipeg for 25 years, where initially he was the Executive Director of the Unemployed Help Centre. Then for 23 years he was a human rights officer with The Manitoba Human Rights Commission, where he investigated complaints of discrimination.
In Winnipeg he served eight years each on the Boards of the Manitoba Writers Guild and Prairie Fire Press. Victor was active online at that time and eventually was invited to join the Underground Literary Alliance. After about a year he left the ULA in disagreement over its use of personal attacks on writers. He became a minor player with four other writers who together formed Outsider Writers, a literary website. That site is still around, although with a bit of a different name, and is primarily a review site for independent writing. He also has been the poetry editor of a small online magazine, Target Audience, for six years. He “reviews” nonmainstream poets he likes, he won’t write about stuff he doesn’t like. All this led to his being awarded a page in the Literary Underground Wikipedia (I think that’s the name), a catalogue of nonmainstream writers.
Victor retired from the Human Rights Commission in 2008 (it’s a long story but you can Google it), and moved to Vancouver. He is married with two grown children. Retired, he has been able to focus much more time on writing. Since a modest heart attack and a double stent he also exercises more, eats better and is putting more energy into getting published before he croaks.
His graphic novel, The Winnipeg Weakly Herald, is currently serialized by the great Canadian lit site, Red Fez. The Herald is the story of people who work on a community newspaper (Victor’s been working on this since 1994, when there were community newspapers), with each chapter of the novel being one issue of the six page newspaper. He also volunteers a weekly satiric column for Accessibility News in Ontario on disability issues, and works with Paul Caune on disability issues in British Columbia. And he still writes that monthly poetry review.
In terms of poetry, Victor is working on a collection of poems which tell stories (“People You Know”.) From this collection, he offered for a reading on peace issues:
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
Haunted for years I went to the Wall
a war resister facing soldiers who died
looking at the Wall, my crying eyes
reflected with all those forgone lives
they made the sacrifice I refused
what sacrifice should I have made?
if it was right why do I feel guilty?
I stood there a long time looking
all those names, some guys I knew
someone crying, my eyes are dry
coming home was worse than the war
lifelong friends, tho I have nightmares
greatest time of my life and the worst
and may never know if it was worth it
Never knew what hit me (land mine)
never knew what I died for (politics)
drafted out of my life into death
I owed my country and what a payback
flown back in a box, saw the parade
my sacrifice a memory no one wants
my country sent me to die for nothing
Victor Schwartzman (C)