The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, September 18, 2006

This Bus Contains the Passionate World

by Andrew Tibbetts

My new job in Toronto begins two months before I move there, so I’m commuting six hours a day. I’ve been getting a lot of reading done. And I’ve fallen in love with poetry.

Poetry is the perfect read for a long bumpy ride full of interruptions and distractions.

Reading a novel I get a little sick. I think it’s the extra effort to stay on the right line. Your hand is jostling the book one way and the vehicle is jogging your body the other. Someone steps on your foot and you lose your place. Your eyes get tired. Your face gets sore from squinting. Public transit prose will age me.

With a slim book of verse in my hand, I take in a line, close my eyes and savour it. Toss it around the mind, see what it draws out. A line of poetry is a magnet. Taking in Anne Michaels’ descriptions of moonlit lovemaking is just about the best thing I’ve done with my ability to read. The feeling of younger days, past lovers, dewy grass on my skin comes rushing back.

Open my eyes and I go right back to where I left off on the page, because the line breaks and subsequent white space create landmarks to orient the eye. Take in another line. See what it does to me.

I picked up the Michaels’ and a book of Anne Carson’s in the bargain bin of a big box bookstore. Both gorgeous and I got change from a ten!

The last time I read poetry was in high school. I liked it. I liked analyzing it, too. I liked reciting it. I won a prize for saying Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” out loud in a sweaty gymnasium. I didn’t really know what it meant but it had an incantatory pull that reminded me of Patti Smith or Siouxsie and the Banshees. And I rode it. I'm really not sure why I stopped reading it.

I’d like to say this poetry out loud to the slumbering commuters as the grey coach cuts through the dawn to the city. But I doubt I’d win a prize.

So I close my eyes and let the poem say itself to me.

* * *

Click on the title to follow a link to Anne Michael’s “Night Garden” from her most recent volume Skin Divers, which has been keeping me company from Kitchener to Toronto.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What a nice glimpse of your life between Kitchener and Toronto. I can see you swaying and reading and closing your eyes; swaying and reading and closing your eyes. Hope you keep this love affair with poetry going even after you move in to your new place.

Mon Sep 18, 12:04:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

A surprise discovery on your time consuming commute - how lovely!

Mon Sep 18, 12:41:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

lovely poem Andrew, what a great place to disappear into...thanks.

Mon Sep 18, 08:36:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

maybe you should write some poetry of your own on the trip? It could be assembled into a nifty chapbook.

Tue Sep 19, 03:14:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Lovely post, Andrew.

Tue Sep 19, 10:42:00 am GMT-4  

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