Plantos has published eleven collections of poetry, including
Mosquito Nirvana (Wolsak and Wynn, 1993), Dogs Know About Parades
(Black Moss Press, 1993), Daybreak's Long Waking: Poems Selected
and New (Black Moss Press, 1997), and most recently Five O'Clock
Shadows (Letters Bookshop), Mix Six (Mekler & Deahl), and
The Edges of Time (Seraphim Editions).
He has also published two children's books, the acclaimed best-selling
story Heather Hits Her First Home Run (Black Moss Press, 1986,
also available on cd-rom from Discus) and poems At Home On Earth
(Black Moss Press, 1991).
His poems, short stories, articles and reviews have appeared
in numerous magazines and anthologies, including: Antigonish Review,
Arc, Books in Canada, Canadian Author & Bookman, Canadian
Forum, Canadian Literature, Dandelion, Exhibit B, Greenfield Review,
Paragraph, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Saturday Night, Love and Hunger
(Aya Mercury, 1989), Windfield Review, Windhorse Reader, Great
Canadian Murder and Mystery Stories (Quarry Press), We Stand On
Guard: Poems and Songs of Canadians in Battle (Doubleday Canada).
Ted Plantos: 1943-2001
Eulogy by Robert Priest
It is hard in the brief time allotted here to credit all of Ted
Plantos' gifts and achievements. He did so much for poets and
for the poetry community in his ‘activist’ mode that
it has tended to overshadow the accomplishments of his poetry.
Ted was writing and winning prizes for his protean and magical
writings since the late sixties. Although he wrote well in the
‘fabulist’ tradition he was also a master of what
many call "people’s poetry." His poem "Stan’s
Complaint", for instance, is a comic masterpiece which really
nails the voice and the concerns of working man Stan in such a
way that no-one could listen to it without busting a gut laughing.
But it wasn't a laughter of scorn or distance, it was a laughter
of self-recognition – commonality. And that was key to all
of Ted’s massive output – commonality. But never at
the expense of lyricism or imagination. Ted was not didactic or
preachy. His rich imagery and euphonious manner floated the poems
into instant accessibility and engagement whether you agreed with.
their content or not. And yes, Ted was an excellent reciter of
his own poetry, which helped. For further tastes of what was at
the heart of his verse it might be efficient to recite some of
the titles of his books – many of which are little poems
in themselves. For instance: She Wore a Streetcar to the Wedding,
or All the Easy Oils of Energy, Mosquito Nirvana, or my favorite,
This Tavern Has No Symmetry.
At the time of my own arrival on the Toronto scene in the early
seventies Ted was already a well-established literary figure.
He had published several books, received prizes and honour of
all honours had his poem "The Light Is on My Shoulder"
printed on a poster and boldly displayed on posts and hoardings
throughout Cabbagetown. This might have led many a poet to ascend
to Olympian heights of disengagement and disdain. In fact, quite
the opposite, it accorded Ted a position from which he could exercise
the true generosity of his nature by helping out other up-and-coming
poets. At that time Ted was the convenor of a poetry series at
the house on Gerrard, right in the heart of one of Toronto’s
grittiest sections. He ran this series for eight years, often
featuring and mentoring and publishing poets who were to continue
on in the People’s Poetry movement which Ted so cherished
and fostered. A partial list of some of his other activities in
this arena: Ted edited and published Cross-Canada Writers’
Magazine. He helped found the Canadian Poetry Association. He
established and ran the Milton Acorn Memorial People’s Poetry
Award, edited and published People’s Poetry Letter. He edited
the League’s own Museletter for several years and befriended
Milton Acorn, who oft needed befriending. The list goes on. As
James Deahl has said: "No one ever did more to promote People’s
Poetry and the poets associated with it than Ted Plantos. No one."
For myself I can say that Ted gave me my first reading, published
some of my first poems and always had words of thoughtful encouragement
to offer when we met. He beamed with positive energy, never a
word of jealousy or mean-spirited spite. He was loyal to his friends
and more energized to give prizes than to seek them. He was definitely
a true people’s poet, a great guy and a generous being.
In the years to come as we re-read and re-evaluate his works I
know that we will find many lasting poems that will continue to
enliven our literature. Ted himself, though, is gone and will
be sorely missed for a long time to come.
League of Canadian Poets AGM 2001