Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Loyalty from afar

Read more articles by

Editors Note: Spacing is pleased to be participating in the Toronto Public Library’s One Book program again this year. Last year we looked at how Consolation connected to places around Toronto. This month the library hopes the whole city will start reading Loyalty Management, a poetry book by Glenn Downie, set in part in the Junction neighbourhood. Throughout the month Spacing Toronto will present a series of posts exploring the book.

I was recently asked by The Dalhousie Review to write a big review essay about a stack of new books of Canadian poetry. It was about fifty books, and I was all, like, “free books!” — until I sat down to actually read all of them. It was a good sampling, and Loyalty Management from Wolsak & Wynn stood out as one of the best books among them. Some really didn’t stand out, a few did. That essay isn’t out yet, but here’s what I will be saying about Glen Downie’s book there:

“Loyalty Management displays a sensitivity to the world in its excoriation of human folly: ‘we encourage screaming in the houses / of parliament,’ the poem ‘Door-to-door’ states,
‘to ask why
welfare why day-care why one-legged
cancer patients why not the military why not
the banks why our only hope should be to consume
our way out of recession & into planetary devastation it’s
clear cut if we don’t cut out clear-cutting no one will
spot the spotted owl soon we’ll be unspotting spotted
owls & spotting only upspotted owls in uncleared spots &
will the bottom line be uppermost in your mind . . .’ (36)

These poems weave a critique of the human order into considerations of the everyday that is highly successful . . . .” Sure, that’s review-speak, but I do appreciate the perspective that Downie offers. The book is trenchant, and its range across the city makes for a great choice for this year’s Keep Toronto Reading / One Book event. Loyalty Management also, significantly, won the Toronto Book Award for the year.

I don’t really like quoting myself, but hopefully doing so shows that Downie’s book is out there, getting read, and that its criticisms of the social world work very well. As someone who recently moved from Toronto to Halifax for work, I have a lot of loyalties to Toronto that I need to figure out how to manage. This book helps that. And when I get to one of the book’s opening poems, like “Fafard’s cows take Toronto,” I’m left chuckling over the image of cows wandering downtown, below the CN Tower and Eaton Centre, crapping all over the streets. But it’s also a serious take on the city that we’ve created, where a few cows would throw all order to the wind.

I’m looking forward to blogging more about this book for the next few days.


One comment

  1. I relished this series last year (thank you), and am eager to read the ‘One Book’ Spacing entries to be posted in the next weeks, throughout April.