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Victor Coleman (1944-       )



Victor Coleman was born in Toronto on September 11, 1944. He grew up in downtown and suburban Toronto, with about three years in early adolescence spent in suburban Montreal, after which he returned to the Toronto Islands, where he had already spent all his summers except his first, and would live there, on and off, for twenty years. His fledgling interest in writing poetry was encouraged by two other Toronto Islanders, Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen, when he was only 15. He dropped out of high school in 1961 to start a family and worked initially for Ken Thomson, then as a copy boy at The Toronto Star, where he made contact with some of the legendary old-time journalists of the day, most notably drama critic Nathan Cohen. Near the end of Coleman's tenure at The Star he met Toronto poet Raymond Souster, from whom he was soliciting advice in the publication of his proposed literary journal Island. Souster put him in touch with a number of English and American poets and Coleman published the journal's first issue in September of 1964.

In 1965 Coleman began working for William Toye at Oxford University Press, eventually becoming Assistant Production Manager. The Souster connections encouraged Coleman to make forays into the US to meet some of these poets, and he began to frequently visit Buffalo, N.Y., Detroit, Mich., New York City, and Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. on weekends. Also during this time he was introduced to Stan Bevington, and began to frequent Bevington's Coach House Printing shop. It soon became clear to Coleman that a career in mainstream publishing might not be quite what his ambitions reflected. He quit his job at Oxford to become a kind of apprentice to Bevington, who taught him how to operate a linotype machine, and encouraged him to exercise his editorial acumen in the first productions of The Coach House Press. Coleman would go on to become the press's senior editor and production manager for the next ten years. During this period he published books with Coach House, Talon, Weed/flower, Imago, and Intrepid Press.

Coleman left Coach House in the Fall of 1975 to become Artistic Director of A Space, Toronto's first true artist-run centre, which he ran agressively for four years, programming visual art, poetry readings, dance, performance art, video art, and an important series of 'loft' concerts by some of the most important jazz musicians working mostly in the free improvisation mode. During his tenure he assisted in the founding of ANNPAC (the Association of National Non-Profit Artist-run Centres). He moved to Kingston, ON, in 1980 to become Director of Queen's University's campus cinema and to teach in the Film Studies program. Shortly thereafter he was appointed Queen's first Creative Writing instructor, a position which he maintained for three years, after which he returned to Toronto to be a programmer/publicist for The Music Gallery.

Coleman taught Creative Writing off and on at York University throughout the 1970s and 1980s. And in the late 1980s and early 1990s he taught The Dream Class in Toronto's Secondary Board of Education Schools. After selling his literary papers to the National Library in 1991, Coleman moved to British Columbia, first to the Sunshine Coast, then Vancouver proper, where he remained until 1995. After returning to Toronto he worked freelance out of an office space provided by Stan Bevington, who was then exclusively operating his Coach House Printing business on the recently named bpNichol Lane, having become estranged from The Coach House Press publishing company after radical changes in the imprimatur's direction. Coach House Press suddenly went out of business in the summer of 1995 and Coleman and Bevington put their heads together to come up with Coach House Books, a publisher that would simultaneously provide print versions and full-text-online versions on the web site: www.chbooks.com, the first of its kind in the world. Coleman acted as Editorial Consultant to chbooks until 2001, when he became Editorial Director for the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, a web site devoted to the promotion of Canadian artists and a history of Canadian art.

Coleman's publications include: From Erik Satie's notes to the music (1965, reprinted by Letters in 1989); one/eye/love (Coach House Press 1967); Light Verse(CHP 1969); Old friends' ghosts [early poems] (Weed/flower 1970); Back east (Imago 15, 1971); Some plays: on words (Intrepid 1971); America (CHP 1972); Parking lots (Talonbooks 1972); Strange Love (1972); Stranger (CHP 1974); Speech sucks (Talonbooks 1974); Terrific at both ends (CHP 1978); Captions for the deaf (Rumour Publications 1979); From the dark wood (Underwhich Editions 1985); Corrections (CHP 1985); Kenkyusha (Letters 1989); Nothing heavy or fragile(The Pink Dog Press 1990); Honeymoon Suite (Underwhich 1990); Waiting for Alice (Eternal Network 1993); The day they stole the Coach House Press (Eternal Network 1994); ICON TACT (Eternal Network 1995); Letter drop (Coach House Books 2000); ICON TACT [poems 1985-94] InstaBook 2002); Mi sing [Letter drop II] (CCCA 2002).