CRAN, Brad




Author Tags: Downtown Eastside, Poetry

Brad Cran has been the publisher of Smoking Lung Press, a contributing editor at Geist Magazine, an event host at the Vancouver International Writers Festival and a guest editor for Emerge: The Writer's Studio Anthology, 2005. He also edited an anthology of poems loosely pertaining to the theme of the blues, Why I Sing The Blues (Smoking Lung Press, $19.95), and had an abbreviated stint as a co-executive director for the Federation of BC Writers. His first poetry title is The Good Life (Nightwood 2002) was followed by Ink On Paper (Nightwood 2013), described as a collection of political poems. It was nominated for the City of Vancouver Book Award.

With his former partner Gillian Jerome he co-edited Hope and Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp, 2008). Hope and Shadows evolved from a project that distributed 200 disposable cameras to residents of the Downtown Eastside. It was nominated for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and received the City of Vancouver Book Award.

In 2009, Brad Cran's became the city of Vancouver's second poet laureate (following George McWhirter) from April of 2009 to October of 2011. Cran distinguished himself by having the guts to criticize the Olympic arts bureaucrats who had the gall to require B.C. artists to contractually agree not to badmouth anything to do with the Games. His essay Notes on a World Class City looked askance at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

In 2010, Cran spearheaded a successful publishing program for reviving ten out-of-print ‘classic’ titles from a variety of B.C. publishers in 2011. The first to be re-released was Daphne Marlatt & Carole Itter’s Opening Doors. The other non-fiction titles were: Who Killed Janet Smith by Ed Starkins; Along the No.20 Line by Rolf Knight; A Hard Man to Beat by Howard White. Fiction titles were: Crossings by Betty Lambert; Class Warfare by D.M. Fraser; A Credit to Your Race by Truman Green; The Inverted Pyramid by Bertrand W. Sinclair. Poetry titles were Day and Night by Dorothy Livesay, Anhaga by Jon Furberg.

[BCBW 2015] "Poetry" "Downtown Eastside"

Hammer & Tongs (Arsenal $14.95)
Info



Chapbook publisher Brad Cran has edited the ‘best of’ Smoking Lung Press for an anthology, Hammer & Tongs (Arsenal $14.95), featuring twelve emerging ‘under-published’ writers, two of whom—Carla Funk and Billie Livingston—have new books of their own this year. 1-894442-00-8

Why I have declined to participate in the Olympic Celebrations



Notes on a World Class City: Why I have declined to participate in the Olympic Celebrations
By Brad Cran
Poet Laureate
City of Vancouver
2009-2011

In the early 1950s when George Woodcock moved to Vancouver there were few fellow writers and virtually no publishers in the city. By 1994, the year in which Woodcock was awarded the Freedom of the City (Vancouver’s highest civic honour) our writing community had matured and our growing number of publishing houses rivalled the older literary presses in Eastern Canada. Woodcock was an anarchist so he did not have a love of government but he enthusiastically agreed to accept the award because he believed that the city was a bastion of intellectual freedom and that his association to Vancouver through this honour would help ensure that our tradition of mental and physical freedom would not be lost.

As a city, we should not forget George Woodcock and we should not forget the stories that have been recorded by our writers over these years since he first came to this “terminal city” that was dubbed rather unambitiously, as the Liverpool of the West. If we are told in 2010 that Vancouver is a world class city then it is our literature that tells us how we got here. Perhaps the question at hand is whether we are indeed a world class city and I would argue that we are but for different reasons than the world will see during the Olympics.

While the Cultural Olympiad is surely impressive: of the 193 events listed on the VANOC website only 6 of them are labelled literary events and only two of them actually are literary events that include local writers: The Vancouver International Writers Festival’s Spoken World and Candahar, a recreation of a Dublin pub that will host readings and performances as curated by Michael Turner, and may turn out to be one of the most inspired creations of the Olympiad.

There are Canadian writers involved in a few of the other 193 listed events but when it comes to the celebration stages our writers are not just neglected, they are totally ignored. As Poet Laureate I was offered time on one of the celebration stages where I would be allowed to read poems that corresponded to themes as provided to me by an Olympic bureaucrat. One of the themes was “equality” but since VANOC had blown the chance of making these Olympics the first gender inclusive Olympics in history by including a female ski jumping event I didn’t think they would appreciate a reading of the one Olympic poem I had written on equality: “In Praise of Female Athletes Who Were Told No: For the 14 female ski jumpers petitioning to be included in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.”

In fact a reading of this poem would violate a clause in the contracts that Vancouver artists signed in order to participate in the Cultural Olympiad:

"The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC."

I do find this to be an unjust attack on free speech but more importantly it shows that VANOC is misrepresenting Vancouver. Vancouver is the most politically progressive city in North America with a strong history of political activism which most Vancouverites are proud of. Rather than finding a way to celebrate these important attributes VANOC has gone the other way and tried to suppress them. As George Woodcock teaches us: our freedom as a city is a tradition that should be protected and we should not underestimate an attack on that freedom whether symbolic or otherwise.

The muzzle clause, which VANOC says is standard procedure despite the fact nothing like it was included in the Torino or Salt Lake City games, came at a time when our provincial government has announced its plans to cut arts funding by as much as 90%. This has put many cultural organizations in jeopardy and created tension in the arts community between those who are now prevented from speaking their mind because of their contracts and those who feel it is the right time to speak up.

In a bold act of ignorance the Federal government has announced their intentions to cut funding to cultural magazines with a circulation of fewer than 5000 copies. This issue needs to be highlighted as it illustrates a lack of understanding of the literary community and the purpose of these magazines. Our small press literary magazines should not be judged by the numbers of their readership but in their important role of cultivating Canadian writers. The combined effect of arts cuts at all levels but the civic level means that many important literary publications are in jeopardy. To add it all up from the point of view of the writing community: 2010 is not the year for writers to put on their red mittens and smile.
If the muzzle clause and the decimation of our cultural funding structures on the eve of the Cultural Olympiad were not enough to upset the ghost of George Woodcock then I’m sure this internal Library memo sent out to VPL staff should do the trick:

“Do not have Pepsi or Dairy Queen sponsor your event. Coke and McDonald’s are the Olympic sponsors. If you are planning a kids’ event and approaching sponsors, approach McDonald’s and not another well-known fast-food outlet. If you have a speaker/guest who happens to work for Telus, ensure he/she is not wearing their Telus jacket as Bell is the official sponsor. If you have rented sound equipment and it is not Panasonic or you can’t get Panasonic, cover the brand name with tape or a cloth. If you are approaching businesses in your area for support and there is a Rona and Home Depot, go to Rona. If there’s only a Home Depot don’t approach them as Rona is the official sponsor.”

If this is coming from our libraries, the custodians of the written word, where do we find the civic freedom that George Woodcock cherished and represented? Where do we find the essence of our highest civic honour, The Freedom of the City?

As darkly comic as much of this is, I am still not anti-Olympics. For this reason I made two suggestions to an Olympic organizer. The first was that a Canadian poet read one poem each night on one of the celebration stages. The second suggestion was that they somehow incorporate Al Purdy’s great Canadian poem “Say the Names” into the celebrations. Both of these suggestions were rejected and I in turn declined their offer to publically appear during the Olympic celebrations.

I believe in our literature and I believe it is a better representation of who we are (and from where we have come) than the vision being presented about us by VANOC. I remain excited about events in the Cultural Olympiad but in regard to the Olympic celebrations, without a significant involvement from our writing community, and with restrictions on our freedom, the Olympics are a world class celebration happening in Vancouver rather than a world class celebration of Vancouver.

The great irony is that when we look to celebrate ourselves in 2010 we have simultaneously, if only temporarily, allowed bureaucrats to ignore and distort the basic principles that make Vancouver a city to be envied. There was something important that Woodcock saw in Vancouver: the freedom to be a great citizen as judged by a civic criteria that was so respectful of freedom that it could even include an anarchist like him as one of its most decorated citizens. Through our artists and through Woodcock and the writers who came after him, we have become a home to great thinking and artistic expression. That needs to be celebrated not muzzled or ignored.

City of Vancouver Award, 2013
Article



The first poet to win the City of Vancouver Book Award was Downtown Eastside activist Bud Osborn for Keys to Kingdom in 1999. Bill New did it last year for his collection YVR.

Now Brad Cran has a chance to become the third poet since 1989 to win that award, as well as its first two-time winner, with Ink on Paper (Nightwood Editions $18.95).

Cran first won the 2008 City of Vancouver Book Award for his non-fiction book Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (with Gillian Jerome), a social justice initiative, sold on streetcorners, that has reportedly raised $50,000 for marginalized people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

As a Poet Laureate for the City of Vancouver from 2009 to 2011, Cran first made the news when his criticisms of 2010 Olympics Games in an essay called “Notes on a World Class City” went viral on the internet, raising the hackles of Olympic organizers. His new volume of Vancouvercentric verse most notably contains his civic poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Grey Whale and Ending with a Line from Rilke."

Other shortlisted books include: Jancis M. Andrews’ The Ballad of Mrs. Smith (Hedgerow Press); Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved my Life (Arsenal Pulp Press); Harold Kalman’s and Robin Ward’s Exploring Vancouver – The Architectural Guide (Douglas & McIntyre); and Sean Kheraj’s Inventing Stanley Park (UBC Press).

The five shortlisted titles were chosen by an independent jury that included: Elee Kraljii Gardener, an award-winning poet and director of the Thursdays Writing Collective; Paul Whitney, a retired City librarian; and Andrea Davies, owner of Hager Books in Kerrisdale. The 25th annual award ceremony will be presented at the Mayor’s Arts Awards Gala at Science World on November 22.

978-0-88971-281-2

[BCBW 2013]

Ink on Paper (Nightwood Editions $18.95)
Article (2013)



The first poet to win the City of Vancouver Book Award was Downtown Eastside activist Bud Osborn for Keys to Kingdom in 1999. William New did it last year for his collection, YVR.

Now Brad Cran has a chance to become the third poet since 1989 to win that award, as well as its first two-time winner, with Ink on Paper (Nightwood Editions $18.95).
Cran first won the 2008 City of Vancouver Book Award for his non-fiction book Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (with Gillian Jerome), a social justice initiative, sold on streetcorners, that has reportedly raised $50,000 for marginalized people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

As a Poet Laureate for the City of Vancouver from 2009 to 2011, Cran first made the news when his criticisms of the 2010 Olympics Games (in an essay called Notes on a World Class City) went viral on the internet, raising the hackles of Olympic organizers. His new volume of Vancouvercentric verse most notably contains his civic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Grey Whale and Ending with a Line from Rilke.

978-0-88971-281-2