"I think he should be remembered as a mentor and an impresario of poetry." -- Ellen Tallman.

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Writing about writing, sometimes called literary criticism, as opposed to literary appreciation, is not exactly a popular field, and yet writing about the alcoholic genius of Malcolm Lowry has emerged as a mini-industry unto itself. Meanwhile, biographers of other B.C. writers include Sandra Djwa (Roy Daniells), Elspeth Cameron (Earle Birney), George Fetherling (George Woodcock), David Stouck (Ethel Wilson), Alan Twigg (Hubert Evans), Ben Metcalfe (Roderick Haig-Brown), James Hoffman (George Ryga), Anthony Robertson (Roderick Haig-Brown) and Betty Keller (Bertrand Sinclair).

Few English professors have been more influential in B.C., in terms of fostering writers and books, than mentor and impresario Warren Tallman. He and his wife Ellen Tallman were chiefly responsible for inviting an influx of American poets to Vancouver, giving rise to the TISH poetry newsletter which was published from 1961 to 1969. "The journal started by George Bowering, Frank Davey, David Dawson, Jamie Reid and Fred Wah,"; wrote George Fetherling in 2001, "is probably the most influential literary magazine ever produced in Canada, of greater significance than even Preview or First Statement, the two that brought poetic modernism to the country in the 1940s.";

Born in Seattle in 1921, Warren Tallman was raised in Tumwater, Washington. He went to college on the G.I. Bill, writing dissertations on Henry James and Joseph Conrad. At Berkeley he met Ellen King, whom he married in 1951. They came to teach at the UBC English department in 1956.

The Tallmans' house became a literary community centre, hosting friends such as Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom came to Vancouver for literary events and parties. Most importantly, Tallman organized a poetry conference in Vancouver in 1963 that featured Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Margaret Avison and Philip Whalen. A similar conference was held in Berkeley in 1965.

The poetic links with southern California for many years made Vancouver appear to serve as a branch plant for a distinctly American approach to writing.

Tallman was also a strong defender of bill bissett, and an influence on writerly publishers such as Stan Persky, Howard White and Richard Olafson-to name a few. He was co-editor with Donald Allen of New American Poetics, a widely-used textbook. His main books were Godawful Streets of Man (1978) and In the Midst (1992). He once rented the Vancouver East Cultural Centre to deliver a diatribe against Canadian nationalist Robin Matthews who has consistently viewed Tallman as a negative influence on Canadian culture. Warren Tallman smoked incessantly, drank Black Label beer chronically and died in 1994.


FULL ENTRY:

Warren Tallman smoked incessently and he drank Black Label beer. He also gave rise to a writing movement known as TISH, an anagram for shit, that produced, among many others, the first Poet Laureate of Canada, George Bowering. As the years spin into decades, Tallman will likely be remembered primarily for his role as a catalyst for TISH. In 2001, writing in The Georgia Straight, George Fetherling succinctly summarizes, "When it stopped publishing in 1969, TISH had a circulation of 400 copies. That was a 25-percent increase over 1961, when the premiere issue was cranked out on a mimeograph machine. To say that the reach of this 'poetry newsletter' was out of all sane proportion to the size of its readership is an absurd exaggeration. The journal started by George Bowering, Frank Davey, David Dawson, Jamie Reid and Fred Wah is probably the most influential literary magazine ever produced in Canada, of greater significance than even Preview or First Statement, the two that brought poetic modernism to the country in the 1940s."

Born in Seattle, Washington on November 17, 1921, Tallman was raised in Tumwater, Washington. He went to college on the G.I. Bill, writing dissertations on Henry James and Joseph Conrad. At Berkeley he met Ellen King, whom he married in 1951. They came to teach at the UBC English department in 1956. "A rumour began..." recalled George Bowering, "There was this strange skinny anarcho-muse on the wrong side of the UBC English department. You could sleep on his floor and read his peculiar little poetry books, borrow his car, stay up all night reading your lyrics to him." The Tallmans' house became a literary community centre. Their close literary friends included Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom came to Vancouver for literary events and parties. Most importantly, Tallman organized a poetry conference in Vancouver in 1963 that featured Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Margaret Avison and Philip Whalen. A similar conference was held in Berkeley in 1965. The poetic links between southern California for many years made Vancouver appear to serve as a branch plant for a distinctly American approach to writing. Tallman endorsed a vocal form of poetry in association with the Black Mountain school, but on a broader basis he was linked to the Beats, the New American Poets and the Language Poets. He was exceedingly influential at UBC during the rise of the so-called TISH movement that featured the likes of George Bowering, Frank Davey, Daphne Marlatt, Fred Wah, Jamie Reid and Georgia Sraight publisher-to-be Dan McLeod, who served as an interim editor of TISH in 1964.

As well, Tallman was a strong defender of bill bissett, and an influence on writer/publishers such as Stan Persky, Howard White and Richard Olafson. He was co-editor with Donald Allen of New American Poetics (Grove), a widely-used textbook, and his main essay collection was Godawful Streets of Man (Coach House Press, 1978). In addition, he produced In the Midst (Talonbooks, 1992) and various articles. Mostly he talked a good game and coordinated a series of well-attended poetry readings in Vancouver. He once rented the Vancouver East Cultural Centre to deliver a diatribe against Canadian nationalist Robin Matthews who consistently viewed Tallman as an overly American influence in Canadian literature. Matthews was not alone. In 1969, when Tallman was appointed to serve on a three-member jury for of the Governor-General's Award for Poetry, protestors began picketing the Canada Council office in Ottawa because Tallman was an American citizens. Additional RCMP officers were hired to ensure that year's award ceremonies were not disrupted. The poetry prize that year went to George Bowering, a TISH mainstay, who proceeded to become the Poet Laureate of Canada.

Tallman died at age 73 on July 1, 1994. Warren Tallman's papers are kept at SFU Special Collections. [PHOTO: 1969]

[For other authors pertaining to literary criticism, see abcbookworld entries for Abbey, Lloyd; Asals, Frederick; Bowering, George; Breton, Rob; Brook, Susan; Budra, Paul; Buitenhuis, Peter; Burnham, Clint; Candelaria, Fred; Clews, Hetty; Comeau, Paul; Cook, Meira; Cooperman, Stanley; Crawford, Julie; Daniells, Roy; Danielson, Dennis; Davey, Frank; Davis, Leith; Delany, Paul; Delany, Sheila; Derksen, Jeff; Doyle, Charles; Dunham, Robert; Gerson, Carole; Gillies, Mary Ann; Goldfarb, Sheldon; Gomez-Moriana, Antonio; Good, Graham; Grieve, Tom; Guy-Bray, Stephen; Hardwick, Joan; Hatch, Ronald; Hekkanen, Ernest; Howard, Lloyd; Hulcoope, John; Kroller, Eva-Marie; Lane, Richard J.; Macey, Samuel; Markson, David; Matthews, Robin; Maud, Ralph; Merivale, Patricia; Messenger, William; Morra, Linda; Moss , Laura; Murphy, P.J.; Nadel, Ira; New, William; Novik, Mary; Petro, Peter; Potter, Tiffany; Quartermain, Peter; Ricou, Laurie; Saltman, Judith; Schellenberg, Betty; Schmidt, Jerry; Schraner, Margrith; Scobie, Stephen; Serafin, Bruce; Stephens, Don; Stevenson, Warren; Stewart, Jack F.; Struthers, J.R.; Summerfield, Henry; Thompson, Dawn; Warland, Betsy; Warner, Janet; Wisenthal, Jonathan; Woodcock, George.] AS OF 2010.

[BCBW 2010]