I received this impressive book last night - its 300 pages
crammed into my tiny village mail box.
I'm pushing this book for the many reasons:
Jack was the only living Canuck politiko I reluctantly
came to believe in, he was a supporter of the arts, & a
wannabe artist himself (Jian Ghomeshi claims Jack as
a mentor, but calls his musicianship 'dodgy'!), & Jack
got things done on every level of politiks.
My longtime friend Sylvia lives in what is still known as
Jack's riding in Toronto's east end. An abandoned fire
station at the bottom of Pape Avenue above Queen St.
E. was the perfect location for a women's shelter,
but the NIMBYs fought it tooth & nail. Jack & Olivia
won out, and every night when I'm in TO we walk our
dogs past this monument to Jack's conviction &
stubborness. In nice weather the residents come & go,
or relax by the grand entrance, and almost always
someone will call out to us and pet our dogs.
I'm lefthanded & a poet, so I don't read books in
conventional fashion. I start at the back & read to the
front, & of course I mostly read the poetry first. Last
night I read until blurry eyes forced me to let the book
drop. I enjoyed pieces by old poetry friends and
comrades, many of whom I've shared pages with in
other anthologies and tributes.
Penn Kemp's consulting editor is Allan Briesmaster,
and some of Allan's poets from CROSSING LINES:
POETS WHO CAME TO CANADA IN THE
VIETNAM WAR ERA are here remembering Jack:
Daniel Kolos, Ellen Jaffe, Terry Ann Carter, Ronnie
R. Brown and myself.
There are terrific poems by People's Poets like Joe
Blades (with my favourite poem so far - simple &
funny & capturing Jack at an airport - sans
bodyguards or retinue, relaxed, unassuming,
sipping red wine). Another favourite is the poem
by Andreas Gripp, who has dragged an uninformed
friend to an event, & who insists on confusing the
histories of Irving and Jack LAYTON! Every
poet has a similar tale of a good friend with a very
blind spot regarding the appreciation of poetry, &
this piece is a romp.
Robert Priest's tale of performing the tail end of a
music gig, with Jack being the only audience
member left standing, proves what a fine essayist
Robert has become. Poet - yeah, he's TO's poet king,
& why the hell Priest never got the acclaim for his
music while far lesser bangers & wheezers got the
Junos - well, at least we got him as a People's Poet.
There's a launch coming up at The Ravioli on May 2nd,
with an after party at Q Space. This is in the truest spirit
of Jack Layton - parties with music & singing & a glass
or two of red or an arm swinging in time with a frothing
beer attempting escape.