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King Karl of Rampike: In his own words Add to ...

For those among us who may not know this remarkable man, his name is Karl Jirgens and he's a Rampikaholic. This is his story; and, you know, so far, so fab (with lots of zest and zoom-kaboom room to grow):

I've been editing Rampike magazine since 1979. So, on the magazine's Massive Three-Oh Anniversary, I'm delighted to say a few words as part of our on-going celebrations. During the past trio of decades, we've featured articles by -- and interviews with -- some of the finest internationally celebrated authors, artists and critics. The function of the magazine has always been to introduce new and emerging talent alongside the more established or experienced. It's proven a winning strategy.

I believe, at any rate, it's a strategy that provides a valuable service to the community (whether we speak of local, national or global issues); however, given its international recognition, the "community" Rampike now serves has expanded from the local (namely Windsor, Toronto and Ontario) to the whole of Canada and far beyond it.

Not bad, not bad at all for a publication that originally started in my basement in Toronto before it moved with me to Northern Ontario when I landed the job at Laurentian University prior to it accompanying me to my position as Head of the English Department at the University of Windsor. I'm happy to report that my term as Department Head concluded and I'm now busy on a research leave, during which time I've published this exciting 30th-anniversary issue while working on a couple of new books. We've had a great response to the cover on this issue with its image by Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge. A parody of a Renaissance painting by Breughel, it provides a visual critique of ecology and the sorry condition of our world's fresh-water supplies. In subtle (and sometimes in-your-face) ways, Rampike has covered important social issues. Our previous issue, for example, shone the spotlight on ecology; but, we have brought topics such as erotica, violence, propaganda, ontology, electronic media, First Nations peoples, the 400th-anniversary of Quebec City and crazy but fun topics (including "creative misunderstanding") into focus.

Just this past weekend, we played an active role in Windsor's annual BookFest, the wonderful ever-expanding and exponentially improving cultural event which simply grows bigger and better each year under the direction of Lenore Langs. What a trooper she is; and, given the fact she volunteers four months of each year to help make BookFest Windsor the stunning success it is, what an unassuming and gentle woman! It's a near-thankless job; but, somehow, our beloved Director possesses the perfect temperament to keep it all together no matter the mood nor the mind of the weather nor the like-minded friends of a feather who flock together.

This year, we toppled many records, both individually and collectively. I'm particularly pleased to report our session as well as the one organized by Marty Gervais were the two best attended at the Fest. Marty presided over a celebration of 40 years of Black Moss Press featuring a dozen hot writers. [My Dear IOWers? Stay tuned for a mind-glowing insider report on the Black Moss Press Phenomenon later this week. JF]

Meanwhile, our "Poetry Twist" included the Governor-General Award Poetry nominee Brian Henderson alongside authors and professors Nicole Markotic and Susan Holbrook. We also hosted a second session featuring Stan Rogal theatrics and crazily insane and overwhelmingly touching fiction by Stuart Ross (not to mention energetic sound poetry from Richard Truhlar).

When we launched the 30th-anniversary issue, we provided complementary copies to a standing-room-only audience spilling into the hallway. How gratifying, satisfying and, once we wrapped our segment with some excellent Delta Blues, how unforgettably inspiring. Rampike goes beyond poetry: It also showcases fiction, non-fiction, visual art, sculpture, photography, reviews and critical commentary from world-recognized cutting-edge theorists.

A bona-fide "underground" or "small" magazine, Rampike (literally produced, for the most part, in a basement studio) continues to receive international critical acclaim. So, well . . . yes; I believe we are accomplishing "big" things despite our "little-mag" designation, thanks to our incredibly loyal fans, artists, organizations and repeat subscribers. It's not every day you turn 30, is it?

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