Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Wade Bell : And So Monty’s Magazine

from Report from the Reid Society, Vol. 1, No. 1






Monty and I met at the inaugural meeting of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta in, I believe, 1976. Convened by Aritha van Herk and Rudy Wiebe, it was held in an office in Edmonton’s warehouse district. You could feel the excitement in the big room, sniff the nerves. Arrivistes like me who’d barely had time to conceive of ourselves as writers were going to have an organization!

My only publication, The North Saskatchewan River Book (stories set in Edmonton and Jasper), was newly out. The major downtown bookstore refused to carry it. Claimed it insulted the city. It did. But still.

I didn’t think anyone had read it but Monty had. A model of calm and collectedness, he complimented me on it. Hearing my name, Bob Kroetsch bustled over and showed excitement for it too. So four people knew I existed as a writer: Aritha, Rudy, Monty and Bob. Heady stuff.

After the meeting some of us went on to Reg Sylvester’s house, I believe it was, to drink beer and chat. In the living room people had clustered around Aritha, in the kitchen around Rudy. Bob, Monty, and I, like fish in a stream, headed for the back yard.

 “The Yard” (Monty Reid, 1976) (abridged – sorry, Monty)

          The yard arranged for convenience
Yellow caragana
purple, white lilacs

Birds glide in
from another yard

We pulled some lawn furniture together, sat and began talking. People poked their heads out the door but we must have looked wholly absorbed because no one joined us.

Energy flowed from Bob. I saw it enter Monty. I can’t remember what was said before one of us, or maybe all three at once the way it can happen sometimes, brought up the idea of a literary magazine. Neither Monty nor Bob thought there was one in Alberta. At least not one that might have cloaked itself in the avant-garde mantle.

What to call it? Suggestions were offered but none accepted so we put that search aside to tackle one that was even more essential. Who would run it? Who be managing editor? I thought Kroetsch would be too busy. I guessed that Monty thought so too. I dreaded the responsibility that could land on my shoulders. I wasn’t known to be particularly reliable. Besides, my job in the oilfields left me enervated.

So when Monty volunteered I was grateful. Bob smiled. You could see the teacher in him.

It wasn’t that Monty wasn’t busy. He had his poetry plus teaching or another fulltime job, for all I knew. But he had the enthusiasm to get a magazine off the ground and, as it turned out, the stamina to carry it beyond the initial impetus.

And in volunteering he provided us with the name. He lived in the town of Camrose so it would be The Camrose Review.

No one ever looked prouder.

That it was a success, publishing in its first three issues, Patrick Lane, Ron Smith, Michael Ondaatje, Barry Nichol, Sharon Thesen, Robert Hilles, Douglas Barbour, Erin Mouré, Myrna Kostash, Bruce Hunter, James Cooper, Mary Howes, Phil Hall, Sharon Riis, Stan Dragland, Blodgett, Harris, Sorestad, Banting, Barclay, Wallace, Rodriguez, was largely Monty’s doing.

Fine poet; enthusiastic, discriminating editor.

And when The Camrose Review arrived with the subtitle, “A Journal of Lutheran Thought,” well, that descriptor did not go unnoticed. But it did go unchallenged. It was just Monty. Pure Monty. I can see his wry smile.   








Wade Bell: Born in 1941 in Stettler, Alberta, and at the age of one week was moved by my mother to an Edmonton tenement where we lived in wartime food rationed poverty. Joining the RCAF my father had left her pregnant. I went to Carleton University, wrote my first book in Ottawa and stayed in the city to work for the CRTC.

Following a devastating marriage breakup, I quit the safe government job and went travelling.

Back in Ottawa in need of money I drove taxi, the lone Anglo in a French crew stationed at the bus depot. I saved some money and I left to travel again.

Through a series of fortuitous connection made in Ireland I was invited to spend three months in Spain. I went and stayed five years.

Many of the stories in my three subsequent books are set in Barcelona or the Catalan countryside.

With a Spanish bride and needing money I came back to Alberta to work in the oilfields, mostly in the wilds of the boreal forest. 

I am now 81 and living in Calgary. In addition to my four books, I have published over 50 stories and poems in literary magazines, anthologies and text books in Canada, the US, Japan, Denmark and Italy.

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