Editing Modernism in Canada


November 28, 2012

Eric Schmaltz: I Want to Tell You Love

Eric Schmaltz recently completed an EMiC-affiliated project to fulfill the requirements for his Master’s degree at Brock University. Eric’s project focussed on I Want to Tell You Love, an unpublished manuscript of poetry composed by two influential Canadian poets with very different styles: the staunchly labour-oriented modernist poet Milton Acorn, and the ever-changing postmodern experimentalist bill bissett.

I Want to Tell You Love was rejected by publishers because editors thought that Acorn’s and bissett’s voices were too dissimilar. According to Eric, the editors were right — but that was the point. Through analysis of the manuscript’s aesthetics and political contiguities, Eric argues that Acorn and bissett sought to put their disparate aesthetics together with political purpose, and, thus, that the manuscript of I Want to Tell You Love presents a response to the explosive socio-political conditions of the early 1960s.

Although Eric has completed both his project and his Master’s degree, his work on I Want to Tell You Love continues. Ultimately, Eric’s goal is to create a critical edition of I Want to Tell You Love. Right now, he is in the process of revising his project — a forty-five page essay that examines the manuscript and Acorn’s and bissett’s approaches to better understand what unifies their work — to shape it into the critical introduction to his edition. Eric plans to begin to edit and annotate the manuscript soon, and will base his editorial practices on editions produced by Zailig Pollock, Dean Irvine, and Gregory Betts.

A major issue Eric is facing in his quest to create a critical edition of I Want to Tell You Love is the lack of critical attention the manuscript has received. Aside from a brief mention in Richard Lemm’s biography on Milton Acorn, In Love and Anger, there is no scholarly writing which focusses on the manuscript. Consequently, Eric has undertaken the uncovering of research documents and resources, which include archival materials at the Clara Thomas Archives at York University and materials in various collections at Ottawa’s Library and Archives Canada. Eric has also conducted an interview with bissett about the manuscript (the interview appears in Open Letter‘s special issue “Convergences and Collaborative Expression”).

Eric’s main challenge at this point in his new project, however, is institutional support. Having just recently completed his Master’s degree, Eric is currently in the process of applying to PhD programs at which he can continue to study Canadian modernism, experimentalism, and avant-gardism. Eric also eagerly awaits the completion of the Modernist Commons — over the next year, he intends to continue to experiment with its tools and functions, to learn the apparatus more extensively, and, hopefully, to contribute to its creation.

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