Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Dispatches from the Future Bakery

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Dispatches from the Future Bakery

By rob mclennan

Between the Peacock and the Shoe Museum
you interpret Derrida’s theory as +0.
          Nancy Dembowski, Ninety-seven Posts with the Heads of Dead Men

Bloor Village or Annex, whichever you call it, what I knew best of the city before arriving. “Annexed,” wrapping the Toronto arm around 259 lots originally owned by the pioneer family, the Baldwins, in 1886 from Belford Road to Brunswick Avenue, between western and eastern boundaries, the villages Yorkville and Seaton. A part of the city that now holds Future Bakery, the Toronto Small Press Fair, Book City, echoes of Coach House past and distant, and then, what they became, and meetings over the years with writers and friends and more often than not, both.

The Future Bakery on Bloor, where Michael Holmes wrote his Satellite Dishes from the Future Bakery (1993), produced by Stan Bevington’s Coach House Printing on March 2, in an edition of two hundred and fifty copies, bound and placed inside a cd case. In the small book, where Holmes refers to what American poet Charles Olson said to poet Robert Creeley, the final page writing:

ak – this far i’ve figured:
how we sd what Charles
sd to Bob circa 1950 w/out
sayin anythin but this
bliss (no “Let’s” at all).

on a bus from Y (Keele 4lb,
7:10pm this day 1.15.93)
readin yer War’s book (&
yers too) how it’s there p.5
pressed under Maximus’
girth
       i am a collaboration in excess of
collation, an ecstatic text in yer nomadic
citation: a “patagroper cum swing shifter –
doctor of alchemic sophistry

The decade plus I’ve written in this Bloor Street café with Michael Holmes and others in mind. In every city, preferring a regular space in which to work, write, return. Less about Toronto as a space and more about finding a room of one’s own to work, amid the flurry of reading tours. To ground myself during travel, in familiar spaces and the opportunity to work. A coffeeshop in Vancouver along Hastings and, before I lived in Edmonton during 2007-8, the Second Cup on Whyte or the Power Plant at the University, even back to the early 1990s, in the food court of Montreal’s Alexis Nihon. The Future Bakery in Bloor West Village, the northern tip of the University of Toronto, situating students and other neighbourhood residents, where one could see various writers from Toronto and elsewhere picking up whatever they needed, from Steve Venright picking up bread, New York City poet Adeena Karasick on the payphone downstairs, Jim Munroe working a short film at the next table, or Leon Rooke going through the ends of Rebecca Rosenblum’s fiction manuscript for her Master’s Degree, a year or two before her first collection of stories appeared. “She writes good stories,” Rooke said, introducing us.

Returning as near-resident, there is something familiar even in the unfamiliar. The pigeons wandering the floors, the same New Order or Moby cds in play, repeating. A couple of blocks and a couple of hours, Anik See launching her collection of stories at the Victory Café, where so many have read over the years, for launches or series or both, including myself. It’s never enough, New Order sings. Until your heart stops beating.

Writing my initial discoveries of the neighbourhood, this fragment of the poem “confectionery airs” composed from these same seats in May 1998, ending up in my fourth collection, The Richard Brautigan Ahhhhhhhhhhh (1999):

when the physical place becomes more of the issue
whether i want it to or not

         “sorry, we have chicken” sign, by the way cafe
or satellite dishes in the future bakery, always
positioned near a window or a door, more than just
an invocation of sitting down, of ordering another coffee
& dropping sugar into it

Directly across the street from the north-facing window, the By The Way Café, where novelist David Gilmour used to sit for years, writing. The story of the sign, so it said, the establishment formerly a vegetarian restaurant that sold, and new owners added meat to the menu. Added meat, but kept much of the previous menu; added meat and sign, so as not to alienate their previous clientele. An apology, put up somewhere in the mid-90s, since disappeared.

The years I’ve been heading up Bathurst to visit Janet Inksetter, into her Annex Books, since gone exclusively online. This was during the same period that Michael Holmes worked at the bookstore; once home to her massive Michael Ondaatje collection, as well as Ondaatje’s daughter Griffin, who later worked the same as Holmes. Janet’s former store on Bathurst, meeting place of writers and non-writers alike, book lovers all; where I picked up years of conversation and books, including David Bromige’s Birds of the West (Coach House Press, 1973).

The spider's legs
scrabbling on the glass
inside the jar

& the ticking of the kitchen clock

I can't show you the spider
except to say
it's bigger than I knew
spiders grew to be this way

& when I thought it'd escaped
the hair rose
over all of me
it was at least that huge

Born in England, educated in Canada and in the U.S. teaching for decades up to his death at the beginning of June, 2009, working a very Creeley-esque line and line break. Bromige, in this collection at least, wrote lovely little and long domestics, easily my favourite of his poetry collections I’ve seen. Here’s another poem I wrote at the Bakery in the fall of 2001 in direct response to Bromige, and subsequently published in my name , an errant (2006):

keats, at 206, is very old
           (after bromige

out into that,
wingless view

over annex, &
janets store

of books

true, this only comes
w/ that

or is it time

& then to keep time,
bent
w/ any age

an appreciation
of fact

& this autumn part
of bloor

one loves life
for all the living

***

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of some twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections gifts (Talonbooks), a compact of words (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), kate street (Moira), wild horses (University of Alberta Press) and a second novel, missing persons (The Mercury Press). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview) seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com. He will be spending much of the next year in Toronto.

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