Interviews: Poets, Professors and Students

Posted by celyn

Jason, Deanna and I have been working on putting together a set of interview questions that we would pose to students, professors and poets who were in Montreal during the time of the reading series. We would use these interviews as a way to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the series, but also to include a personal history and oral audio archive to link the past and the present.

We decided to present our interviewees with a series of factual questions in an email (text-based) interview, so that we can have some written (and thus visual) text and so that we can gather more information and generate more specific questions before the second interview.

The second set of questions would be posed orally, done over the phone or in person and recorded. There are general questions, and then more specific question sets related to the person’s relation to the recordings series (for example, questions posed to Professor and Committee Member George Bowering would be different than those posed to student at the time John McAuley.) The audio would be available in the same format as the other recordings, and perhaps this would be a great chance to test out computer-generated transcription companies (Celyn vs The Machine).

Below are the questions we’ve drafted. Please let us know if there are any others you would ask or if you would change the form of any of the questions.

Intent of this interview:
To collect information and stories about the Sir George Williams University Reading Series (1965-1974) as well as any contextual information about Montreal’s poetry scene during that time. We hope to create an oral history of the event, as well as add individual memories and stories about the Reading Series to enrich our archive. This information will be used, with your permission, in our print archive as well as online on our website, Spoken Web 2.0. This project is supervised by Dr. Jason Camlot. (Please also consult our Consent form.)

First (e-mail) Interview Questions

1. What is your relation to the Sir George Williams University Reading Series? (Committee member, audience, participating poet, student, etc.)

2. Which reading(s) did you attend?

a. Who were the readers?

b. Who were the professors that introduced the poets?

3. Why did you attend that(those) particular reading(s)?

4. Who attended the readings?

a. How large was the audience?

b. What was the general atmosphere?

5. Were there any other reading series or poetic events happening in Montreal or other cities during this time? If so, what were they and were they connected at all to SGWU?

6. Do you have (or know anyone else who has) other recordings or print material like flyers or posters related to this series?

Second (Audio) Interview Questions:

1. How did you find out about the series?

2. Did you know of any other methods that the SGWU Reading Series advertised or spread information about readings?
3. Where did those readings take place?

a. What time did they take place?
4. What, in your opinion, were the aims and goals of the Reading Series?
5. What, if any, type of reputation did the Series have?
6. Were the events free?
7. Were flyers passed around regularly during the readings (or before the readings?)
8. How long was the intermission?
9. Did poets stay after to sign books, go for a beer, or lecture in English classes, etc?
10. What was different (if anything) about this Series?
11. Were the readings open to the public?
12. Did you interact with the poets or establish relationships with other students or poets in the readings?
13. How would you describe the poetic climate of this time (1960-1975) in Montreal?
14. How did this poetic climate compare to that of the city you were from, or other cities whose poetry communities you were significantly involved in?
15. How would you describe the poetic climate in Montreal in the years following the Series (1960s-1980s)?
16.  How did any of the readings influence your own poetic practice?
17. Please describe any poetic projects that you were working on during the time of the Reading Series, or that may have been subsequently influenced by the Series afterwards.
18. Would you have been able to see these poets read in any other context?
19. Was there any interaction between readers and audience, like a question and answer period?
20. Do you have any specific memories related to any of the readings you attended? After we find out which readings they attended, elaborate on this question with specific prompts.

Specific Questions:

I.               For Committee Members

1. What was your role in the Committee?

2. How long were you involved in the Committee? (Specific dates if possible)

3. Who else was on the Committee and when?

4. What were their roles?

5. How was the Committee formed?

6. When was the Committee formed?

7. When did it dissolve?

8. Was there a fixed plan about how long the Series would run for?

9. When did it end?

10. Why did it end?

11. Did the Committee have certain goals or ideas about what type of Reading Series you wanted to create?

12. Please describe the process of selecting, contacting and confirming a poet.

13. Were you involved directly in securing any poets who read?

14. Were there any poets who you tried to get to read, but who didn’t? (And why?)

15. Did you attend all of the readings?

16. What were your favourite readings?

17. Who presented poets and how was that decided?

18. How often did the readings occur?

19. Are there any poets missing from this list?

20. Do you have any recordings from the Series? Do you know anyone else who might?

21. Why or how did Howard Fink type out lists of poets and the poems they read?

22. Was he the only one who did it?

23. Who recorded the readings? What were they recorded on?

24. What was the reason for recording the readings?

25. Were all the readings recorded?

26. What was done with the tapes after they were recorded?

27.  To the best of your knowledge, were all of the readings recorded? Was the entire reading recorded?

28. Was there a question and answer period for any of the readings?

29. How did you advertise the readings? Were there any posters? Flyers?

30. If so, do you know if there are any still around?

31. What was the student reaction to the readings?

32. Was there an honorarium paid to poets?

33. Was there a specific budget and where did that money come from?

34. Were any other departments at SGWU involved?

35. Was there any audio-visual equipment used during the readings?

36. Did poets visit English classes or do other lectures?

37. Are there any specific memories that you would like to share about the Reading Series?

38. Are there any questions that we missed?

II.             For Poets who were students during the Series:

1.     What was the opinion among students of the Series? Of particular readings?

2.     Did any of the poets who read during the series influence your poetic practice and thinking?

III.           For Poets who read in the Series

1.     How were you contacted to read in the Series?

2.     Had you heard of the Series before you had been contacted?

3.     Were you aware of why you had been asked to read?

4.     Had you been to Montreal before?

5.     Did you know any Montreal poets or professors at SGWU personally or professionally?

6.     How did you decide what to read from?

7.     What was the reception from the audience?

8.     Did you have books available to sell at the reading?

9.     Where did you stay in Montreal?

10. Did you attend any other classes or lectures or events at SGWU?

11. Were you on a reading tour during that time? Where else did you read during that time?

12. Were you paid an honorarium?

13. Did you meet or interact with other Montreal poets or poets from elsewhere?

14. What was your opinion of the Montreal/ Quebec poetry scene? Did you know anything about it?

15. Do you have any specific memories of the Series or your reading?

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