Tuesday 22 July 2008

"Important companions"

Twenty or so years ago, novelist and translator David Homel referred to our street, in a journalistic piece, as amiably run-down Roy Street. In the intervening years since then, gentrification had its way (and it must be said we were part of the process)—rooming houses became single-family dwellings once again and condos sprang up like urban mushrooms. Not long ago the city planted trees and the Plateau Mont-Royal borough is becoming greener year by year.

Regrettably, the future does not look good for the young trees lining the streets of our neighbourhood. Due to the high-speed kamikaze tactics of the borough’s mini Caterpillar drivers who barrel down our narrow streets during the winter months gouging trees (and hydro poles) as they go, the trees are at risk. In our own survey (both sides of Roy Street between Laval and Colonial; and both sides of Colonial Avenue between Roy and Napoléon), out of a total of 40 trees, 32, or 80%, have been damaged. At greatest risk are the trees on Coloniale. In a recent newspaper article, City of Montreal executive committee member Helen Fotopulos was quoted: “Trees are our most important companions... particularly in the downtown boroughs where every tree counts.” Let’s hope that as the mayor of Plateau-Mont Royal, she takes steps to preserve our green heritage.

Monday 21 July 2008

Maisonneuve Online

A couple of interesting pieces over at the Maisonneuve site. Toronto poet Jason Guriel files a hilarious report on the June 3 and 4 Griffin Poetry Prize events. And Vancouver poet Zach Wells releases his correspondance with publishers FSG on the issue of Elizabeth Bishop's Canadian identity.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Canada Day Poem

The newest Signal Edition, fresh as of last month, is Christopher Wiseman's 36 Cornelian Avenue, a collection of poems that revisits -- to powerful effect -- Wiseman's wartime childhood in Scarborough, England.

Richard Harrison, who read with Christopher at the launch in Calgary, e-mailed us afterward with these thoughts about the book.

"It's a kind of making peace with wounds and a settling, too, of scores. My own mother was evacuated from London during the Blitz, but she rarely talks about the experience. Reading Chris's book, I get a glimpse of why. It's a fascinating reflection on the nature of the self. My favourite line: "Another train and I'd be someone else." That war threw so much into chaos. I don't think that much -- really -- settled back. We have no idea what we'd have been had it not happened."

The story Wiseman tells gives us a sense of the larger price paid for the national birthday we celebrate today. Here, from 36 Cornelian Avenue, Wiseman takes stock and counts his blessings.


The worldwide roaring after dark
as the heavy loaded bombers climbed
ponderously from all those airfields,
one huge solid noise, an hour
or more, trembling the kitchen plates.

The Wheatcroft siren, shattering night,
its slow start, its pulsing waves sharp
but full, filling all our houses,
all our heads, pulling us, feared
and flushed, from sleep into the shelter.

My young brother's deep coughing.
His own war – pneumonia then croup,
my mother sitting with him all night.
Dr. Roxburgh's car up the road,
buzzing to our door. Her voice.

And wonderful, cheerful, in all of this,
Mrs. Johnson's familiar loud
yodel, heard right down in the woods,
bringing news to her sons, as we played,
that food was on their table, ready.