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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

One Book: Poetic ConJunction

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Editors Note: Spacing is pleased to be participating in the Toronto Public Library’s One Book program again this year. 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. 

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In Jacqueline’s previous post on Glen Downie’s Loyalty Management, she provides a link to a short video of Downie discussing his book and its view on Toronto. At the end of the video, Downie says that he hopes that there is something in the book that people will think that their fellow citizens should hear. This got me thinking more about the structure of the book, and the sort of conversations that can come out of it.

Downie’s winning of the Toronto Book Award has led to a focus on how the book relates to Toronto, and the Junction in which a large portion of it is set, but the book is more than that too. It begins by imagining Joe Fafard’s cows One of Joe Fafard's cows from the TD Centre. Flickr photo by an unruly presence in the heart of the city’s capitalist core (as I talked about last time), before it gives us its tight evocation of the Junction. But it moves out from the Junction in the next part of the book towards a series of poems on Chile, discussing life under Pinochet. What is the relationship between Toronto and Chile? It’s abstract, but links are there to be drawn, from the poems that rail against capital and consumption to ones that detail the Chilean dictatorship.

That’s probably the macro level of the book. That level is also conjoined with a personal level — probably the most narrative part of the book — that follows the poet from the birth of his daughter to the death of his father. As someone who recently became a father, the poems about the poet’s daughter speak to me, and in particular the title poem, “Loyalty Management.” That poem looks at how the poet’s new, unruly child is slowly becoming connected to the world of capital and the large-scale world around them (among other things).

One of the blessings of poetry (and, Downie notes in the video, of the Toronto Book Award’s willingness to readacross different genres) is that it doesn’t need to be continuous. On first reading the book, the poems set in Toronto and the Junction are at odds with the poems on Chile. All of that is, in turn, at odds with the more personal poems. But the separations crumble upon rereading and rethinking. Poetry can be read slowly or quickly, but, either way, a good book of poems stays with you.