Steve McCaffery is a Toronto poet and scholar, who taught at York University and currently holds the Gray Chair at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
Born in Sheffield, England on January 24th, 1947), McCaffery lived in the UK for most of his youth. After graduating from the University of Hull, he moved to Toronto in 1968, where he sought out fellow poet bpNichol. Together with Rafael Barreto-Rivera and Paul Dutton (now in CCMC with Michael Snow and John Oswald) they formed the influential sound poetry collective The Four Horsemen. Considered the country's first sound and performance poetry ensemble, the group released two 12" vinyl records, two cassettes, and three print collections. They remained active for almost twenty years, until Nichol's death in 1988.
McCaffery and Nichol also collaborated on the Toronto Research Group, a 1973 group which “critiqued established forms, values, and meanings via exuberant performances of fragmentation and dispersal; and they applied poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory to poetics to expose underlying socio/cultural assumptions.” (Pauline Bunting and Susan Rudy).
He is the author of countless books and has twice been nominated for Canada’s Governor General’s Award.
The Steve McCaffery archive is offered for sale by Granary Books. It comprises over sixty boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, journals, sketchbooks, address books, flyers, lecture notes and audio and video tapes.
For more information, visit Granary Books, here. The five or six posts that follow will feature examples of postcards and letters sent to McCaffery from concrete poets, Fluxus artists and others.
"When I came from England the only poet that I really wanted to meet in Canada was bp Nichol, whose concrete poetry I’d become acquainted with through little magazines. When we first met we realized we had both been working in relative vacuums, and two people interested in the same thing naturally led to collaboration.
After the Four Horsemen formed in 1969, bp and I started the Toronto Research Group, dedicated to investigating alternative forms to the standard expository or critical essay.
Later came my correspondence with Dick Higgins, which led among other things to Six Fillious—a collaboration with Filliou himself, bp, Dick Higgins, George Brecht and Diter Rot (a predominantly Fluxus gathering of poet-artists).
Later followed the collaboration with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Ray Di Palma, and Ron Silliman that resulted in Legend. All of these collaborations came out of pure chance (on my coming to Canada, on bp living in Toronto rather than say Vancouver, Dick Higgins contacting me by mail, etc.). Yet they were all informed by the common, fundamental desire to get away from that romantic ideologeme of the lyric self. The sheer energy of collaborative writing exceeds isolated subjectivity, for one is always in collision and in cooperation with another; the creative primal scene here is both community and alterity. It’s interesting that the collaboration with bp Nichol involved integral destructive elements, i.e. we would freely delete each other’s words and phrases substituting are own. (I talk about the dynamics of dictation and transcription that governed so much of the TRG collaboration in the Introduction to Rational Geomancy.) By contrast, the five-way collaboration on Legend was very structured and clean; it was based on discrete accretions with a high integrity placed on distinct contributions. When I started collaborating by deleting other people’s lines and phrases it created a certain amount of opposition."
- Steve McCaffery, to Ryan Cox, 2007