Torontoist Reads: A Yonge Street Poem By Robert Priest
Robert Priest performing at a 2004 fundraiser for the construction of the Gwendolyn MacEwen Park Memorial.
Torontoist Poetry Contest Reminder! Two weeks ago, we at Torontoist launched a poetry contest to encourage the penning of new poems about our fair city. To inspire you, we now begin a series of previously published Toronto poems that will run until the final week of the contest.
Our first poem is by Robert Priest, who is one of the city’s most beloved poets. Robert has written fourteen books of poetry (for both adults and children), award-winning plays, hit songs, articles for NOW magazine, and a novel which won the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s “Our Choice Award.” This is only a partial bio; go see poempainter.com for writing samples, audio clips and a list of awards.
His poem, “Blue Pyramids” (from the New and Selected Poems of the same title, ECW Press) is “A Proposal for the Ending of Unemployment in Toronto” set on Yonge Street. It was written at 378b Markham Street, where he also wrote most of his second book, Sadness of Spacemen.
Read Robert Priest’s “Blue Pyramids” after the break.
A Proposal for the Ending of Unemployment in Toronto
We should build pyramids on Yonge Street.
Cut blocks out of blue mountains in Collingwood
by traditional methods
and have them dragged here on logs
by the unemployed.
Pay them well.
Pay them $22.50 an hour.
This would get them back to work
at a wage they could buy houses with.
Build pyramids and then build houses.
From all over the world
they would come to see these pyramids.
What a tourist attraction!
Blue pyramids in Toronto!
people with houses!
And let there be good cheer too
about the building of these pyramids,
coffee breaks and full benefits.
Let the builders of the pyramids have OHIP
Yay, and I foresee ten thousand workers
gathered around a single blue block.
They sing the word “LIFT!!”
and it is raised into the air
They march with it to Toronto
with people dancing atop it.
We should build pyramids on Yonge Street
and keep on building them–
great pyramids of peace to let the generations
What is this about unemployment?
We could end unemployment today!
You know and I know.
We must begin building
the blue pyramids of peace.