Douglas Isaac

As a lapsed mennonite, Douglas Isaac has shed many of the moral, heavy-duty concerns of others from that milieu, though he has retained the sense of humour of one of his infamous ancestors, Jakob Hoeppner, who purportedly took a bribe from Catherine the Great to lead the first 88 families from Danzig to the wasteland of the Lower Dneiper River, Russia, in 1788.

With the dubious distinction of being known in China as Mr. Chaos, a friend once told him: "I've never met anyone like you; one who could destroy so much in so short a time, then rebuild it in less."

He's a still photographer, filmmaker, and poet. In the sixties he was in Montreal, a cool, informed observer of an underground scene including Leonard Cohen, Claude Jutra, and Paul St. Jean. "It was a wild and wonderful time," Douglas recalls. "The Bistro was the hang-out. It was the place where you could spot all the up-and-comers, all the artistes."

Douglas is himself a bit of a paradox: he's worked 6,000 feet underground, 40,000 feet in the air, and at various altitudes in between. He's earned salaries in excess of 0 a year and has subsisted on welfare and the help of friends and relatives. He has produced videos, critiqued films, cut Christmas trees, and worked with rock (as a hard rock miner). He is a skilled senior communications consultant, having worked for Bell Canada, British Telecomm, Motorola, software companies like SoftImage (during the Microsoft takeover), and at the governmental level of Ministers at Environment Canada and Transport Canada. Douglas figures that, these days, he "should either be a deputy minister or a vice president at a spin-doctor firm." Instead he is writing full time from a flat in East Vancouver. In 1990, after a break from writing, he returned to poetry, and staged a show at Off the Boulevard in Montreal. "Many people discovered I was really good at it." It was an easy step from there to the creative writing Master's degree at Concordia, granted in 1994. He's witnessed death: at the hands of an Israeli soldier, at the hands of a member of Spain's Guardia Civile, and while working on the Gorge Highway outside Radium, BC. He's witnessed conflict: in China, in Portugal after the revolution and in Palestine after the peace accord. It's rumoured that Isaac spent an intriguing couple of weeks with the Baader Meinhof and Red Brigades in Naples, 1976.


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