LITERARY LOCATION: Breezy Bay Bed 'n' Breakfast, Saturna Island. After arrival at the Lyall Harbour ferry dock, take the second right onto Payne Road, until you see the Breezy Bay gate on your left.

Officially, Ekstasis Editions was founded by Richard Olafson in 1982 in the basement of the now-defunct Galleries Untitled on Government Street in Victoria, B.C. That's where he printed his own first book, Blood of the Moon, on a 1250 Multilith Press. It's also where Olafson met Miles Lowry, who illustrated his book, and 22-year-old gallery owner K.C. Tebbitt who let him sleep on the gallery floor when Olafson hitchhiked to town from Saturna Island.

Equally the birthplace of Ekstasis was the house that became the Breezy Bay Bed 'n' Breakfast on Saturna Island, which was still very much in business under the ongoing ownership of the Saturna Island Free School in 2015. With four guestrooms, the renovated, rustic farmhouse is situated on a 50-acre certified organic farm. It was originally built in 1892 by an English farming couple, Gerald and Elizabeth Payne. The caretaker from 1981 to 1984 was Richard Olafson.

"I was living at the time alone in the big house there and doing chores on the farm and renovating the house to pay for my board," he recalls. "I got offered that job at the Lighthouse Pub. So I split my time between Saturna and Victoria. I did work on books in both places. bill bissett was a frequent visitor at Breezy Bay. It was where he and Martina dropped off their daughter, to be raised on the farm, when they were in difficulty with the law and social services. Saturna is where I bought the printing press and eventually moved it to the Gallery. I laid out the pages of Blood of the Moon on a piano bench in the big old heritage home."

"The Saturna Island Free School had a long history or rescuing kids from the street and giving them a taste of nature. The folks that ran it were refugees themselves, draftdodgers, escapees from Vancouver. Colin Browne was one of the instructors and counsellors when it was a free school."


Richard Olafson is most widely known as the publisher of Ekstasis Editions, a literary press in Victoria that he has owned and operated with his partner Carol Ann Sokoloff, a songwriter, singer and author. The press primarily operated from their first home in Victoria at 1251 Rudlin Street, where they raised their two children. They retained ownership after their move to another house in Victoria, using the Rudlin location for book storage and an office. The Rudlin Street house was destroyed by fire in March of 2015, following an explosion of propane tanks caused by the tenants smoking. The Olafsons lost about 40,000 books, mostly backlist titles, and some personal belongings. Around the same time, the BC Arts Council rejected Olafson's application for funding.

Ekstasis Editions has published over three hundred titles of poetry, fiction, criticism, children's and metaphysical books--an average of about one hundred books per decade--over more than thirty years of operations. Olafson re-published Blood of the Moon as a 30th anniversary edition dated 2012, with a foreword Carolyn Zonailo [See below].

Olafson previously attended the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics during its second year of operation (in 1977) and was much influenced the following year by taking classes from Warren Tallman at UBC's English Department. His other literary influences include Francois Vilon, Dante, Jack Gilbert and Artaud. Also a book designer, he has published many chapbooks and books. His collected poems from 1979 to 1986 can be found in Cloud on My Tongue (Ekstasis, 1998 $12.95). In his own writing Olafson is primarily concerned with metaphysics, love and nature.

The word Ekstasis comes from an ancient Greek word, meaning 'to stand outside oneself.' After publishing 328 titles in 28 years, Richard Olafson of Ekstasis Editions reluctantly found himself in a state of ekstasis in 2009 when he received a letter from Canada Council advising him, in his words, that his operations were "not up to the standards of the Canada Council." Without Council backing, he was forced to pull the plug on his book publishing operations in 2009. "I am one of the few poetry publishers who pays advances to poets," he lamented. The potential loss of Olafson as a literary linchpin in Victoria was also lamentable. His offshoots have included the Pacific Festival of the Book and the City of Victoria Book Prize. In his spare time he somehow managed to publish the Pacific Rim Review of Books. Having received support from writers during a crisis involving his relations with Canada Council two years before, Olafson was not keen to return to the barricades for another letter writing offensive.

Drawn from a series of chapbooks of writing from a period of residency on Saturna Island, Richard Olafson's poetry collection Island in the Light celebrates coastal nature.

Director Michel Poulette's critically acclaimed Quebecois feature film Maina is based on a story that was first published in English by Richard Olafson's Ekstasis Editions, in 2001. Having outlasted a funding crisis, the 32-year-old literary press in Victoria issued a full slate of new books in 2014 that included a coffee table book on the Komagata Maru Incident and a trilogy of novels by Linda Rogers. She had published volume one, Empress Letters, with Cormorant Editions, but her follow-up volume received only a minimal print run, prompting Olafson to jump into the breech, redesigning covers for the trilogy, re-editing all three books and making them all available in November of 2014.

An evening of appreciation of Ekstasis Editions, marking its 35th anniversary, organized by James Felton, was held at Massy Books in Vancouver on May 16, 2018. Those who came to pay tribute to Olafson and his partner Carol Sokoloff, and to read samples of their published work, included Charles Tidler, Bonnie Nish, Walter Hildebrandt, Surjeet Kalsey, Manolis, Tom Konyves, Ajmer Rode, P.W. Bridgman, Jacquie Pearce, David Bertaud, Jesse Boyes, Randy Kohan, Jude Neale, Stephen Roxborough and Robert Martens. Speakers included Trevor Carolan, Carol Sill and Jim Christy.


Blood of the Moon (Ekstasis, 1982; 2012) $22.95 978-1-897430-85-9
The Name of Being
In Arbutus Light
Roses Pearls Ocean Stars
The Ocean And My Body Are One
Ocean of Light, Shore of Shadows.
Cloud of My Tongue (Ekstasis, 1998)
Against the Shore: The Best of the Pacific Rim Review of Books (Ekstasis, 2009), anthology co-edited with Trevor Carolan. 978-1-897430-34-7
Island in the Light (Ekstasis, 2010) $19.95 978-1-897430-02-6
Along the Rim: Best of Pacific Rim Review of Books (Ekstasis, 2014) Anthology co-edited with Trevor Carolan. $22.95 978-1-897430-66-8

[BCBW 2018] "Poetry" "Publishing"