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Introduction by Susan Musgrave

In the fall of 1993 Patrick Lane and I travelled up the coast to Sechelt to give writing workshops. We had a long wait for our ferry at Horseshoe Bay and dinner in a taverna. We talked about dead poets, how many poems you are bound to get written for you after you die. Patrick said we should all have wakes for each other before we die, so we could be there, to see how much we are appreciated, and know how our friends feel about us. Why wait to die to be celebrated?

I wasn't so sure I wanted to know how my friends felt about me. What if I held a wake for myself and nobody came? Patrick said he would come, as long as I bought enough booze. This is one of the things I love about Patrick: his loyalty.

Why wait, indeed? Patrick didn't know it at the time, but for six months I had been soliciting poems written to / for / about him for a chapbook that would be published in time for his 55th birthday, March 26, 1994.

I'd dreamt up the idea because every time I'd sat on a jury or judged a poetry contest over the last fifteen years, I'd found poems dedicated to Patrick. I had written two myself, and, in fact, had become so self-conscious (he must have had more poems dedicated to him than all other poets in the country, including dead poets!) I removed his name from my "Hidden Meaning" when it appeared in a Selected Poems.

I wrote letters to sixty poets asking if they might have a contribution. Only five didn't have poems on hand and weren't able to write anything. They all had the kinds of excuses you would expect from poets who are Patrick's friends: "Couldn't find my typewriter," "have no control over my imagination," "I am being shot out of a cannon on a book tour," "I wrote one but I don't think it's the kind of poem you'd want to include in a laudatory volume," and so on.

Of those who contributed, all but a handful wrote new poems; Ven Begamudre sent a whole manuscript, based on his reading of Patrick's Winter; Ken Belford sent five hot off the press; Howard White, William Robertson and Marya Fiamengo each wrote three poems for me to choose from and Margaret Atwood, George Amabile, Al Pittman, Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe, Alice Van Wart, Glen Sorestad, Charles Lillard and Doug Fetherling each wrote two. And there were coincidences worth noting. When she received my initial letter asking for a contribution, Erin Moure was in the middle of a long poem for Patrick based on a review of his work she'd read in Prairie Fire. Marya Fiamengo phoned to say that she, too, had just started working on three poems for Patrick, after rereading his "Wild Birds." Lorna Crozier, whom I'd asked to co-edit the chapbook (she abdicated when we both realized she was involved in so many of the poems) helped me make some difficult editorial choices.

Some poems were written specifically with Patrick in mind. Others tackled themes related to his poetry. There are poems about fathers and sons; "erotic and personal" (all, not so ironically, by women); poems on poetics; poems to do with birds. There is the "I knew Lane way back when" category--poems that lay ghosts and put old arguments to rest. There are, of course, poems about place, which involve youth and wisdom, aging and wild behaviour (and vice versa). Some poems, such as P.K. Page's "On Reading Albino Pheasants, were inspired by individual poems of Patrick's. Other times poets have used lines from Patrick's poems, or something he has said in conversation, (Patricia Young's "Party Talk in May": "Patrick said to me at a party, 'So you're married to a Taurus, they forgive everything except betrayal.' My poem is a result of where that line took me. Other than this line and the fact that Lorna did look radiant that entire night the entire poem is fictional / invented / fabricated etc.")

"Patrick has evoked (and provoked, no doubt) a great many poems for a great many reasons. And there is no doubt at all that his poetry has influenced a great many poets along the way," writes Glen Sorestad. What seems also true (the proof is in this anthology) is that Patrick evokes (and provokes) exceptionally good poetry. The poems included here go far beyond the occasional.

One of the things I've liked best abouth this project is touching bases with so many poets across the country. I love their enthusiasm, their caring, their idiosyncrasies, but most of all, perhaps, their vulnerability. I don't know how many poets--all with national reputations--who said something to the effect of, "Please don't feel you have to include this poem if you don't care for it." It was enough to make me want to rejoin the League of Canadian Poets.

So I wish to thank, first of all, the 55 poets who contributed--their time, their enthusiasm, their generosity of spirit and their (sometimes) awful ideas for titles. Suggestions included "What's My Lane?" or "What's in a Lane?," "Memory: Lane" (not too bad, actually, but a bit too post-modern for my taste), "Inside Lane," "The Fast Lane," and "Runaway Lane." No, nobody suggested "The Slow Lane." The writers also contributed their royalties, which will be donated to the Woodcock Fund for writers in need.

I'd like also to thank Charles Lillard and Robin Skelton at Reference West in Victoria, who first agreed to publish this as a chapbook. It soon became clear that the book had outgrown chapbook status and Harbour Publishing agreed to include Because You Loved Being a Stranger in its 1994 spring list. Thanks to special project editor Marisa Alps for her faith and support.

And finally, my thanks to Lorna. I know how hard it was for her to keep this a secret from Patrick (I threatened her: my husband used to be a dangerous criminal) all these months when I would call to share my excitement over the latest poem to arrive in the mail, and whisper into the mouthpiece, "Lorna, are you alone?" Lorna would reply (if Patrick was listening in his armchair across the room), "Our garden is full of birds right now, too" or "Yes, we should get together and trade recipes again soon." It's a miracle he didn't know something was up. Lorna and I trade recipes?

So, this is it, Lane. Not a living wake but a celebration of all your living. And this is only the beginning. Wait until you're dead.

-Susan Musgrave