Canadian writer and artist RM Vaughan was found dead after going missing in his native New Brunswick earlier this month. Scroll down to read more appreciations.
Andrew Gorham is the former arts editor of The Globe and Mail.
We fought like cats that year in 1985. There were two profs in English at the University of New Brunswick Saint John back then. I sided with Richard Papenhausen, a draft-dodging radical American poet, and he with William Prouty, the brilliant and stern traditionalist.
We had staked our claims. That was that.
The problem was, as evident to anyone around who’d bother to notice, Richard Vaughan’s intellect far outshone my meagre offerings. I long ago conceded the point. But in ’85, I wasn’t going to.
I pushed him off a chair one day, poor Mr. Vaughan, in a grimy food court hall in Saint John, because he mocked me in front of my girlfriend, about some now-obviously unimportant point. Something about Walt Whitman, I think.
I pushed because he was right, and I had nothing to come back with except anger and force. But, lying on the tile, he only laughed, knowing he’d beat me. I hated Richard that day, more so than any other, and there were a few.
We drifted apart. The world is large.
In 2002, maybe, I read a piece by him in Toronto Magazine. It was a defence of a much-maligned statue, made as a tribute to fallen soldiers. It was mocked and discarded by all, and Toronto was left with this thing in the middle of a glorious boulevard. But RM, as he became to be known, took time to have a second look at the statue and explained why and how it was spectacular. And again, he was right.
While I was working at The Globe and Mail, I asked him if he would be a visual arts columnist for the newspaper, a position that required no small amount of pandering to art galleries that spent significant advertising dollars with the paper.
He agreed, warning me he was nobody’s fool, and would say whatever the hell he wanted. It was perfect. And he did. I smiled with each and every column.
We were drinking cold beer and laughing on a dock this past summer. I was so glad to have a chance, here in New Brunswick, to do this: to talk and quibble and spar. Like a couple of cats. Playing.
Read more appreciations of RM Vaughan
- Alana Wilcox: ‘He wrote exquisitely in every genre, with panache and precision, and with impeccable professionalism’
- Vivek Shraya: ‘RM consistently showed me kindness and generosity – a reminder of how vital kindness from strangers is’
- Bert Archer: ‘He was, like Derek McCormack and Kathy Acker and Gary Indiana, someone a small group thinks the world of’