Torontoist Reads: Gary Barwin's Adventures in Poetry
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Torontoist Reads: Gary Barwin’s Adventures in Poetry

2007_02_19_garybarwin2.jpgTorontoist Poetry Contest Reminder! At the beginning of the new year, Torontoist launched a poetry contest to encourage the penning of new poems about our fair city. To inspire you, we are presenting a series of previously published Toronto poems that will run until the contest closes March 15.
Our third poem, “I Parked My Car Behind Loblaws and Knew I Would Never Die” is by writer, performer and composer Gary Barwin. The poem references the Loblaws near Dupont and Christie, or maybe it’s the Dominion at Trinity St.Paul’s — the author can’t quite remember.
Gary has written several books of poetry and fiction, including frogments from the frag pool (with derek beaulieu) and Doctor Weep and other strange fish (The Mercury Press). Check out his always fascinating Serif of Nottingblog, one of the writing world’s best kept secrets; this week he blogs about everything from “serif metaphysics” to the cultural ramifications of YouTube.
After living in Northern Ireland, Michigan, and Ottawa, Gary moved to Toronto to study music and writing at York University in 1982. He shared two stories about his early days in Toronto at “[murmur] To A Scream,” a 2005 literary walking tour of The Annex:

When I first moved to the Annex, I didn’t know where anything was so I used the first page of bpNichol’s Martyrology 5 which is a map of the Annex. I did enjoy that this was backwards. bp’s text creates mythologies from known geography. I was trying to navigate geography from mythology. The book was my own personal BPS device. When I told bp this (I was studying creative writing with him at York) he seemed to think that this was a perfectly normal use of a poetry book.
I used to busk on the NW corner of Brunswick and Bloor. I would play saxophone. One time my wife stood just down the street selling my chapbooks. After a few minutes she came up to tell me that it wasn’t a good idea. Why? People evidently thought that the poetry chapbooks were a front. They thought she was a poetry-selling prostitute.

Photo courtesy of the author.
Read Gary Barwin’s “I Parked My Car Behind Loblaws and Knew I Would Never Die” after the break.

I Parked My Car Behind Loblaws and Knew I Would Never Die
A rabbi, a schoolboy, and a tailor walk into a bar. Both the rabbi and the tailor order a drink, but the schoolboy tells this story.
He says imagine yourself to be a leaf, imagine yourself to be turning gold. The sound of your hands as they move through water, the sound of your feet walking on dry land. Once when I was 17, I did not do my homework. I became a leaf on a tree in a shopping centre. I became a discount store.
On Tuesday, I was selling shoes, video tapes, German sausage, when a tall blue bird was born from my shoulderblades. I became light as a five or a six, carried by air. I was a leaf turning onto a highway from a street in the suburbs, I was bloodcell spinning in the veins of my tongue. I read the menu out loud, pronouncing each word. The wind picked up signals from Jupiter and a rock that was on my chest became a family of four then a group of stars in the constellation Orion.
I never wanted to become immortal but it came to me so clearly. I parked my car behind Loblaws and knew I would never die.
From I Parked My Car Behind Loblaws and Knew I Would Never Die (Pink Dog Press) and Cruelty to Fabulous Animals (Moonstone Press.).