Author Tags: Poetry, Publishing

Karl Siegler grew up in Vancouver and joined Talonbooks in 1974, at the age of 26. He became its president and publisher, maintaining full control until accepting an ownership offer from Kevin Williams, formerly of Raincoast Books, in 2008. Siegler remained with the company until the end of 2011.

Siegler was co-founder of the Literary Press Group of Canada in 1975 and a founding board member of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at SFU. He served as President of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. from 1975 to 1977, and he has been a tireless lobbyist on behalf of literary publishers and small Canadian publishing houses outside of Ontario and Quebec. He has degrees in English and comparative literature from SFU, and taught modern literature at SFU from 1969 to 1971. He translated Maria Rainier Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus (Talonbooks, 1977) and edited Sliammon Life, Sliammon Lands (Talonbooks, 1983), by Dorothy Kennedy and Randy Bouchard. In 2001, Siegler, the man who has been most outspoken on behalf of Canadian cultural publishing, was honoured and roasted by his peers during a Bellingham conference organized by Gary Geddes in February. “It might be a good start for recommending Karl for an Order of Canada,” said Geddes.

Talonbooks under Karl Siegler marked its 40th anniversary with a celebration at the Toronto International Writers Festival in 2003. Talonbooks began publishing in 1967, having grown out of small literary magazine called Talon, spearheaded by David Robinson in 1963. The magazine ceased publication in 1968. Robinson, as designer and editor, was joined by Gordon Fidler, as a printer (until 1976), and by Peter Hay, as drama editor (until 1980). Karl Siegler became president and poetry editor; then David Robinson left the press to work in the fashion industry with his partner Zhonda Nellis. Karl Siegler and his wife Christy moved the press' headquarters to Powell River, while retaining an office in Vancouver.

For his role in support of small press publishing, Karl Siegler was awarded the Janice E. Handford Small Press Award, presented by the Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario, in 2004. For his publishing program activities and his work as a cultural nationalist, he received the Jim Douglas Award in 2007. [See below] In 2008, Karl and Christy Siegler received lifetime memberships to the Canadian Association for Theatre Research in recognition of their contributions to Canadian drama over a 30-year period.

[LITHIS / BCBW 2011] "Poetry" "Translation" "Publishing"

Press release, 2004

Toronto, ON. The Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario (OBPO) is pleased to announce that Karl Siegler, publisher of Talonbooks, will be presented with the eighth annual Janice E. Handford Small Press Award at the Eden Mills Writers¹ Festival. The award was established to commemorate the contribution of Janice Handford, who, until her death in 1996, was a beloved member of the publishing community and a passionate advocate of Canadian writing and publishing. To recognise her commitment, Janice¹s colleagues and friends created an award to be presented annually to an individual who has advanced the cause of literary Canadian publishing. "For over three decades, through his involvement with British Columbia¹s Talonbooks and the Canadian publishing industry, Karl Siegler has made an unparalleled commitment to Canadian literature and Canadian-owned publishing," said jury member Simon Dardick. "He has contributed to the cultural and intellectual life of this country." Karl, with his wife Christy, continue a Talonbooks tradition of publishing excellence in poetry, fiction, non-fiction (including environmental and social issues, and literary criticism), drama, and works in translation by writers such as bill bissett, Marie-Claire Blais, George Bowering, Frank Davey, Roy Kiyooka, Mary Meigs, bpNichol, Jane Rule, George Ryga, Audrey Thomas, and Michel Tremblay. The Talon vision encompasses a serious commitment to new writing in all genres, and the translation of the plays and novels of Québecois writers. Karl Siegler co-founded the Literary Press Group of Canada and was a founding member of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. He has been chair of the LPG and president of the Association of Canadian Publishers. Karl was also involved in the creation of Simon Fraser University's Centre for Studies in Publishing and its Masters in Publishing Program. His policy work‹research, position papers, and lobbying‹on behalf of Canadian-owned publishers, particularly literary publishers, has been exemplary. "Karl has been a mainstay of literary press publishing in Canada for thirty years," said jury member Bill Harnum. "In addition to publishing some of our most important serious fiction, poetry, and plays, he has also served as the intellectual godfather of independent publishing in Canada." The presentation will be made on Sunday, September 12th at the Eden Mills Writers¹ Festival, an event for which Janice Handford worked each year.

Jim Douglas Award
Press Release (2007)


There is not a publishing organization in the country that hasn’t been influenced by Karl Siegler’s considerable intellect, analytical skills and involvement in public policy issues as they pertain to the book industry. As a co-founder of the Association of Book Publishers of BC (ABPBC) and publisher of Talonbooks, Karl put these talents to work for the association as its president from 1975-77 and again in 1981 when he wrote many policy documents, which led to important programs such as the BC Arts Council’s Block Funding for Publishers, which continues to support cultural publishing in the province, and the Library Book Purchase Plan, which ran successfully for two decades. He further contributed to the publishing life of the province as a founding member of the Board of Directors of SFU’s Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing and the Master of Publishing Program. On the national stage, Karl was twice the President of the Association of Canadian Publishers and co-founded the Literary Press Group, serving as its chair for several terms.

The ABPBC will present the eighth annual Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award to Karl Siegler for his outstanding contribution to the book industry in British Columbia on April 12, 2007 at a dinner to honour him.

Committed and passionate publisher of award-winning literary, scholarly and ethnographic titles; commanding orator; fervent nationalist; consultant; writer of voluminous briefs and papers on such subjects as aboriginal publishing, consolidation in the industry and book publishing’s place in the national culture, Karl has become an iconic figure in the Canadian publishing landscape. His hard-drinking (coffee) and chain-smoking presence graced many an industry gathering over the years inspiring fear and awe, as well as anger and respect. Whether one agrees with his positions or not, his voice represents a heartfelt belief in the importance of cultural publishing and a determination to ensure the Canadian publishing industry remains healthy and vibrant.

Behind the public, Teutonic persona, however, Karl runs a family business with his life-long partner Christy supporting him and taking an equal role in the success of Talonbooks. It is impossible to image Karl Siegler without imagining the quiet, intelligent presence of Christy Siegler. One can imagine, however, the other personae that emerge from a résumé filled with contributions to our community: one, as a welder and cutter for Hayes Trucks, and the other, as writer of Prehistoric, Classical, Medieval, Ethnic and Aboriginal forms and subjects and their relation to post modern forms of North American literature. Somehow this all makes sense.

It is with great pleasure that the ABPBC presents this long-overdue acknowledgement of the contribution of publisher Karl Siegler to all our publishing lives.

-- Margaret Reynolds, Executive Director, Association of Book Publishers of B.C.