In Toronto, Poets Dance
Just back from a night of poetry in Toronto. One of my favourite cities on the planet, and still such a human scale. The lake. That silty, glacial light. So much thinner and pale than Montreal light. Street cars. Strangely coloured taxi cabs. Distinct, neighbourhoods linked like a chain of islands. The inevitable condo boom. But also crazy gardens and abundant signs of former hippy communes. Big houses. Tiny Houses. Houses cut in half. Two sides, each painted differently. Great street names: Bloor, Spadina, Tecumseh, Roncesvalles, Ossington... Art Crawls. Chinatown. Kensington Market. Entertainment district. Great hotels. Sunny afternoon. Great food. Admittedly a little ecstatic with a break from my eight month old twins, but really, I get this excited every time I am here.
And then there's the poetry. Poetry. Tonight the Anansi book launch but other presses well represented too. Coach House having printed the Griffin Prize Anthology (readings and winner still a way off, but the book on sale now) in the actual Coach House on bp Nichol lane, tucked in behind the University of Toronto (five minutes by bike from the event). Poets and writers at every turn: Jacob Mooney, Paul Vermeersch, Kyle Buckley, Michael Lista, Margaret Chrstakos, Priscilla Uppal, Damian Rogers, Melanie Little...more I'm not remembering.
Then a fabulous line up of readings from AF Moritz, Erin Knight, Erin Moure and Dennis Lee. Highlights for this poet? Moure reading from her new book, The Unmentionable, a book about many things (as all Moure's books are), including language, mourning, war, loss, her mother (the unmentionable), her mother's homeland, travel, irritation, Elisa Sampedrin, identity, thinking, correspondence, preverbal intuition, lyric, philosophy, provocation, play, translation, Calgary, Dick and Jane, mourning, photography, sculpture, theft, heft, belief, sorrow, joy, jouissance, exuberance, contemplation, astonishment, love and song...
The other highlight was Dennis Lee, whom I posted about earlier in the week. He read from testament and while the room was packed and I had to worm my way out, or risk fainting from the crowd, it was a reminder of how wonderful language is when you push it beyond recognition, and then make of it something that terrifies you, something that you yourself have to understand before you give it away.
After the reading book signing yes, but more importantly they remove all the tables to reveal a dance floor. More drinks. Many faces. Dubious moves. Congratulations. Texting, before back out on Brunswick Avenue. Back down Spadina. Night scent lilac. Street meat. Coffee. Portugese Egg tarts. Racoon tumbling out of garbage can. Construction. Skateboards. Vietnamese food. Washes of orange light. Dumplings. Crisp and spicy. Queen Street. King Street. Tiff Lightbox. CN Tower and Roy Thompson Hall. My hotel.
Thanks for taking the thought as far as you do, both Lee and Moure. And thanks to all those fabulous faces I saw, and rubbed shoulders with in the name of poetry. And to the one whose foot I stepped on, I'm sorry. And for squeaking the door as I had to go out for air, sorry. It was jam packed for poetry and I was about to faint for poetry.
As I wrap this up. 11ish, April 25, my editor Tweets to say they are still dancing at the Anansi launch.
This is what poetry is like in Toronto.
Sina Queyras grew up on the road in western Canada and she has since lived in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, and Calgary where she was Markin Flanagan Writer in Residence. She is the author most recently of the poetry collection MxT (2014) and Unleashed (2010), a selection of posts from...