Victor Coleman

Victor Coleman, poet, editor (born at Toronto, Ont. 11 September 1944). Victor Coleman is recognized as one of the major creative forces behind the late 20th-century boom in Canadian SMALL PRESS publishing. Largely self-educated, Coleman's introduction to PUBLISHING came via technical and administrative positions at larger presses. This work segued into his editorship at Coach House Press and his own creative output of POETRY, text-art and audio recordings. Throughout his early career he published with Coach House but also with other young, upstart presses like Talon and Intrepid Press, culminating in an inclusion in the initial edition of Gary GEDDES' standard anthology of Canadian poetry, 15 Canadian Poets, a long teaching career, and his status as an elder statesman of small press publishing in Canada.

Editor, Curator & Teacher

Coleman's early experiences in publishing included stints with the TORONTO STAR and Oxford University Press, but he is best known as the first editor of Coach House Books, the leading publisher of experimental Canadian poetry from its beginnings in 1965 to its temporary dissolution in 1996. Coleman started as an apprentice linotype operator under Coach House founder Stan Bevington before becoming the young press's senior editor, a position he held until 1974. During his eight-year stewardship, Coach House Press produced early books by Michael ONDAATJE, Daphne MARLATT, and bpNICHOL.

After leaving Coach House Press, Coleman spent four years managing Toronto's original artist-run multidisciplinary space, A Space. This was followed by a tenure in Kingston, Ontario where he was employed by QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY as the director of the university's National Film Theatre and a member of its Film Studies faculty before returning to Toronto to teach creative writing at YORK UNIVERSITY. When Bevington relaunched his Press in 1997, Coleman was named the first editor of the new Coach House Books.


The diversity of Coleman's work experience is matched by that of his poetry. His poetic output includes much of what he calls "conventional lyrics" but also concrete poetry, text-art, and poems written in stringent forms like the abecedarian and the acrostic. His inspirations include the formalist invention of France's OULIPO, the mid-century British poets Basil Bunting and Tom Pickard, and friends like bpNichol and the language poet Michael Boughn. Key early titles include one/eye/love (Coach House Press, 1967) and Light Verse (CHP, 1969), which includes the following representative dedicational:

For Basil Bunting

thirteen years . we waited
Appolonius was silent five "
Brag, sweet tenor bull"
the 'r' rolled noisily
under the tongue

Coleman`s later work includes further Coach House Press/Coach House Books titles like his selected poems, Corrections (1985), and the sequence Letter Drop (2000). As his career has progressed, Coleman's books have tended to be thematic collections centred around specific formal requirements or ideas. Many such sequences were collected together for the larger 2001 release, ICON TACT, from Toronto publisher Bookthug, a young press inspired, both in its aesthetic and organizational approaches, by the early successes of Coleman's Coach House Books. Long ignored by national prize-giving institutions, Coleman was a surprised winner of the 2000 HARBOURFRONT Festival Prize.