Curt’s Poem

It is book launch eve.  Of course, I am nervous! I am reflecting back on the journey that this book has been.  I will miss it.  For some reason, I find myself thinking of one of Curt’s poems.  It is untitled and undated.  My best guess is that he wrote it sometime in the mid sixties:

If you want to see someone smile,

Send out your mind, secretly

like a thief,

Gently like a butterfly,

Silently like a loving glance.

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In Conversation

Michael is a writer, who like me, lives in North Vancouver.  He was a neighbour of Curt’s friend, Fred Douglas, and curious about my book.  I gave him  copy of my manuscript and on a Saturday afternoon, he came over with his tape recorder and we chatted about Curt and the process of writing about him.  To hear us,  just click Claudia in conversation with Michael:

The book is done!

I’m happy to announce that I have finally finished At the World’s Edge.

On the left, is the cover–designed by Jan Westendorp.  It combines a picture of Curt snapped sometime in the late sixties with a photo of Vancouver’s  Granville Street which Curt took in 1972.  This was part of a mammoth street photography project Curt undertook.  The National Gallery in Ottawa has a few of Curt’s images, but the vast majority (approximately 12,000) now reside in the Vancouver Public Library–Special Collections.   If you click on the previous link and search for Curt Lang, you will find the library has made a few photos accessible electronically.  At the World’s Edge, however,  includes many images that are not available elsewhere.

I was rather amused a few weeks ago, when I called the Vancouver Public Library’s Special Collections to get some information about Curt’s photography.  “Oh,” said the librarian,  “We have ordered a new book about Curt Lang.  It will be arriving in the fall.  Perhaps that might help you.”

‘Who else could be writing a book about Curt?’ I wondered.  ‘And why had I heard nothing about this project?’ Then the penny dropped.

“Is the book called, At the World’s Edge, by any chance?” I asked the librarian.  After a minute’s silence, she replied, “Yes that’s it.”

“That’s my book!” I exclaimed.  “So it’s not going to help me, unfortunately.”

Jan is still working on the design of the book’s interior–combining images and text.  I should have more to report about that in a couple of weeks.  I am very pleased that Greg Lang, Curt’s brother, has provided an introduction and David Beers, publisher of the on line magazine Tyee,  is writing a foreword.  Dan Francis, BC historian and the author/editor of more than twenty books had this to say about At the World’s Edge: “Lang was a pivotal member of Vancouver’s ‘beat generation,’ the hipsters, writers and artists who set themselves against the comfortable pieties of post-war consumer society. Cornwall’s book is a fond recollection of her subject and the times in which he lived.”

Mona Fertig at Mother Tongue Publishing has been arranging a busy fall reading schedule for me.  I will be announcing dates later, but so far,  appearances will include the Vancouver Public Library, the West Vancouver Memorial Library, the Lynn Valley Library,  and the White Rock Library.  If you know an institution,  group (a book club, perhaps, or photography club) that might be interested in a talk or reading, shoot me a comment!


Curt Lang’s Vancouver: 1937-1998

Will the real Curt Lang please stand up?

Curt was a beatnik poet, painter, photographer, beachcomber, boat builder, fisherman, and software entrepreneur. He was born in Vancouver in 1937 and died there in 1998. He and Freddy Douglas were known as the two hippest guys in Vancouver during the late fifties and sixties. This book is my portrayal of Curt and the wild and crazy scene that swirled around him.  It will be published by Mother Tongue Publishing in the fall of 2011.

I remember  hiking in a forest with Gordon and my two children.  He was telling them a story about a Druid wizard called Clang. “Clang” was part of Curt’s email address and the wizard bore some resemblance to Curt. We were climbing higher and higher between the Douglas Firs. A mist hung between the trees. I think the story revolved around a major construction project that the wizard was mounting. There were obstacles, delays, frustration. And then I remember that Gordon was overcome by sadness. He couldn’t continue. “It’s too close to the bone,” he said.

There was something wizard-like about Curt. I think that in an earlier and less sophisticated time, a person like him might very well have been so regarded. A shape-shifter he was. Not only did he transform himself several times during his lifetime, but the people around him saw him in such radically different–wildly different–ways. Read more »