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?
I guess, even though Rampike started as my baby, it's grown to belong to an astonishingly gifted roster of parents including the list of authors and artists who have appeared in it, an eclectic "Who's Who" of contemporary art and literature: Laurie Anderson, Paul Auster, Kathy Acker, Russell Banks, Carl Beam, Charles Bernstein, Nicole Brossard, William Burroughs, Joseph Beuys, George Bowering, Chris Burden, Janet Cardiff, George Elliott Clarke, Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come, Frank Davey, Jacques Derrida, Christopher Dewdney, Umberto Eco, Martin Esslin, Marty Gervais, William Gibson, Tomson Highway, Kenneth J. Harvey, Noel Harding, Linda Hutcheon, Thomas King, Julia Kristeva, Robert Kroetsch, Robert Lepage, Alistair MacLeod, Robert Mapplethorpe, Daphne Marlatt, David W. McFadden, Eugene McNamara, Steve McCaffery, Judith Fitzgerald, Norval Morrisseau, Louise Nevelson, Dennis Oppenheim, bp Nichol, Joyce Carol Oates, Al Purdy, Nino Ricci, Harvey Pekar, M. NourbeSe Philip, Josef Skvorecky, Rosemary Sullivan, David Suzuki, Phillipe Sollers and Fred Wah (among many others). I apologize that I can't ID all of our contributors; but, many others are listed on our website and, often, on the back covers of the mag.
Rampike, continually and continuously praised by internationally respected and influential critics from Frank Davey (University of Western Ontario and Editor of Open Letter) to Standford University's cultural observer Marjorie Perloff, will always primarily focus on contemporary innovative expression including conceptual and postmodern texts and theory; that's our little niche, that's what's made room for us and provided us with opened doors on four continents. Additionally, it doesn't hurt that, for many years, our publication was printed by Coach House where, in celebration of 30 years of thriving beyond surviving, Rick Simon's designed the cover for this special anniversary issue (Vol. 18.2). Coach House Publishing always does a great job!"
Me? I've enjoyed some fascinating encounters with international celebrities I've interviewed, Joseph Beuys (whom I visited in his leather-lined studio in Germany), for example, comes immediately to mind. We sipped coffee. He talked about his conceptual art and unconditional commitment to environmental issues. Near the end of that encounter, he asked me if Toronto was far from New York and whether I might know Andy Warhol.
"Toronto's reasonably close," I responded, "and, well, of course, I knew Andy Warhol -- who didn't?"
"Okay," replied Beuys sans façon, "when you next visit Andy, say 'hi' to him from me" (as if, you know, Andy and I were old pals!).
In a way, we are; and, in fact, each reader, contributor, supporter and subscriber is, in an odd way, an "old pal," a fact for which I shall always remain both grateful and genuinely surprised. The 30th-anniversary event also got me to thinking, all nostalgical-like, of the time I was to interview Julia Kristeva in the cafe on the main floor of a very ritzy Toronto hotel . . .
Julia Kristeva! She came waltzing out of the elevator drinking from a large glass of red wine: "I know in Toronto you must not carry glasses of wine in the elevator; but I am Julia Kristeva!"
Yes, yes, it's true. I'll say 'hi' to Andy for her, anytime, too; but, in the meantime, and in its own big small ways, Rampike will keep sponsoring local arts events and, most importantly, none of us will ever forget turning 30, thanks to BookFest Windsor and the world of culture at large. We are blessed beyond measure, a fact I know we shall always treasure.
Karl Jirgens is the author of four books including two works of fiction published by Coach House Press and Mercury Press and two scholarly studies published by ECW Press. His scholarly articles on postmodern / postcolonial literature appear in international journals such as La Revista Canaria de Etudio Ingleses (Spain), Q/W/E/R/T/Y (France), Open Letter (Canada), and World Literature Today (USA). He wrote the entry on Jacques Lacan for the Dictionary of Literary Biography edition on Twentieth-Century European Cultural Theorists. His fiction and poetry appear in Canadian journals such as The Tamarack Review, Only Paper Today, Impulse, Descant, The Journal of Canadian Fiction, Inter, Filling Station, and internationally in The Ontario Review (USA), Tyuonyi (USA), UNIverse (Germany), Essex (USA), the International Symposia of Concrete & Visual Poetry (Australia), and Offerte Speciale (Italy), among others. His fictional works have been anthologized by Coach House Press, Black Moss Press, and Mercury Press. Jirgens is a grand-master of the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. His theatre / performance works have been presented nationally and internationally including at the Ultimatum Fest in Montreal and at the INTER-Festival in Quebec City. Jirgens has edited Rampike, the international literary journal of post-modern art and writing, since 1979. He served as the Head of the English Dept. at the University of Windsor from 2004 to 2009. He is currently writing a novel as well as a scholarly study on the inter-face between literature and digital technology. J.F.