Remembering R. M. Vaughan

Winter, 2020–21 / No. 46
Mark Lyall

R. M. Vaughan, the author, artist, playwright, and critic who died in October, at the age of fifty-five, contributed to this magazine for two decades. Many of those contributions were poems—“Tree,” his first for Taddle Creek, with its specifically placed tabs, is famous around the office for testing the limits of the digital team’s coding capabilities in the early days of the Web—but he also provided art commentary, charming letters to the editor, and a photographic collaboration with an unwitting Sears Portrait Studio employee that is among Taddle Creek’s favourite things ever.

Richard hailed from Saint John, New Brunswick, where he attended the local university, eventually earning his master’s degree in English from the University of New Brunswick. His first published poem appeared in Cormorant magazine, in 1989, the same year he moved to Montreal. He relocated to Toronto in 1991, encouraged by the playwright Sky Gilbert, who saw promise in the scripts Richard had been submitting to Buddies in Bad Times theatre. His own plays followed, as did a dizzying array of books, including the poetry collections Invisible to Predators and the deeply autobiographical Troubled, the novel A Quilted Heart, and the short memoir Bright Eyed. He also became a noted art critic for publications including the Globe and Mail. His artistic output was varied and vast, and his advocacy in helping queer culture reach the mainstream is largely unsung. He had little tolerance for the boring status quo, Taddle Creek’s favourite of his qualities—that and his penchant for dandy scarfs. Earlier this year he returned to U.N.B. as its writer-in-residence and, by all accounts, had ingratiated himself to the students, as he did with nearly everyone.

Richard was never anything but a loyal and good friend to Taddle Creek, and he is already missed by many.