Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Death of an Honorarium: What I Bought Today at Word on the Street

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Word on the Street Toronto came and went again today and, though I can’t be sure, it seemed like an oversized crowd compared to past editions. There was a steady torrent of bodies filtering past the endless row of market booths and enough listeners at every tent for it to feel like a full room. When I arrived, my official 2009 Word on the Street bag contained only my reading copy of The New Layman’s Almanac and some loose papers, but when I left that bag was full, and riding along inside the larger bag (see item 8) I got as an upgrade. Here’s a full accounting of what I purchased, took, or had thrust into my willing, greedy hands. A rough chronological order is attempted throughout.


1. One copy (signed) of The Last Shot by Leon Rooke
Leon can read like nobody’s business. As he was hitting the high note in his tale of misery and woe, the sound system magically began broadcasting a conversation between two volunteers about where to put a monitor. The official reason was “radio interference,” but I think Leon felt we needed some comedy to lessen the tension.

2. Four books from the back catalogue of Proper Tales Press
Stuart Ross said they were four for ten dollars. I said: Suh-weet, give me any four, then. Here are the four he gave me: “A Lesson from the Orphanage (and other poems)” by Bill Knott, “Meet me under the elm tree tonight at eight o’clock; tell Tom and Mary to come too” by Opel L. Nations, as well as “Father, the Cowboys are Ready to Come Down from the Attic” and “Wooden Rooster” by the previously-mentioned Stuart Ross

3. One copy of Joy is So Exhausting by Susan Holbrook
Everyone remembers how much ass Susan Holbrook kicked when she read at The Scream in High Park this past summer. She was scheduled for the very middle of an exceptionally long set and, when an audience could be expected to drift a bit, held us in complete attention with poems that were filled equally with great comedy, and great pathos. I’ve been looking forward to this collection (from Coach House) ever since.

4. One copy of the Summer, 2007 edition of Taddle Creek.
It’s the red one. With the guy on the cover. Includes: Peter Darbyshire, Hal Niedzviecki, Cary Fagan, Elyse Friedman, Matthew Tierney, Catherine Graham, Evie Christie, Katia Grubisic, and more.

Edit: It was at this point that I went to the tent where, several hours later, I was supposed to read and be part of what the moderator would call a “micro-symposium.” I got my nametag, put it on, and went back to the market booths in the hopes that instead of having to buy all this stuff, someone might give me something for free. Needless to say, that didn’t really happen. Item #5 represents the only thing I got for free.

5. One copy of The Holy Qur’an, offered by Icna Book Services
Because it takes longer to say, “Actually, I’m an atheist and while I don’t mean to sound overconfident about myself, I don’t have any interest in your religion” than it does to say “Sure, whatever. Stick it in the bag.”

6. One copy of the Arc Magazine Poetry Annual, 2010
Eight dollars seemed like a fair price to pay for a whole year’s worth of poems from the not-too-distant future.

7. Two back-issues of PRISM international, dated Fall and Summer 2008
There were a lot of different issues to choose from. Looking back, it seems I took one because it had some Jennica Harper and Tom Wayman, and the other because it had some Sam Cheuk and Elizabeth Bachinsky. Of course, it’s possible I just took the two issues with the prettiest cover designs.

8. One copy of The Walrus Magazine….
along with a year’s subscription to said magazine, and a great big tote bag with said magazine’s logo on it. Total price? How about a WOTS-only $20 bucks? Sound fair? This was such a staggeringly good deal that I creeped the hell out of the guy who sold it to me by maintaining constant eye contact until the transaction was complete, out of the fear that he would prove to be a mirage and disappear into the forest. Twenty dollars for a year of this country’s best magazine is about as good as it gets. The issue I got was the as-yet unreleased November 2009, highlights include Roger Martin on the slow-bleed of public education funding, Robert Hough on The Trailer Park Boys, and a great poem by my soon-to-be publisher-mate at M&S, one Melanie Siebert.

It was a wonderful and exhausting day, all in all. I met up with some old friends, found some new ones, sold a book or two, and heard some unique and memorable readings. What more could a guy playing hooky from work ask for?

(How about a beer tent next time?)

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Jacob McArthur Mooney

Jacob McArthur Mooney is the author of the acclaimed collection of poems The New Layman’s Almanac (McClelland & Stewart, 2008) as well as an upcoming second collection from the same publisher.

Go to Jacob McArthur Mooney’s Author Page