Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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Objects shift, objects move, they change hands and are passed on. They get lost and left out in the ether or insist upon hanging around even when you don’t need them anymore. I have spent the last two months mindfully clearing my life of excess objects in order to bring in a new formation of my existence. I have become obsessed with the way in which we attach ourselves to objects and vice versa.

Yes, I do sometimes think that objects have a will of their own.


Toronto Poetry Vendors is a mechanical poetry journal which operates out of refurbished gum vending machines. Produced twice yearly, issues consist of 10 single, hand-folded broadsides by 10 Toronto-based poets, which can be purchased from the machines for a toonie.’ (from the website)

I am not sure what to think about Spearmint, other than that despite a bumpy ride things have always turned out all right for this sweet little poem vending machine. Although I was certainly privy to the poor little guy’s hostage holding by the bailiffs at This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, my relationship with Spearmint began when the lovely Carey Toane and Elizabeth de Mariaffi decided to relocate the spunky machine to Zoots. I felt as though I was taking in a roaming gypsy of an object, that if personified would be like my friend that chose to live in a tent for a handful of years around North America – a true free spirit. I had this funny feeling, as the screws tightened into the walls of Zoots, that unlike its brothers and sisters Polar Ice, Cinnamon and Snacks, Spearmint was only pretending to find a new home. Once all was set up, Elizabeth hosted a fabulous re-launch of Spearmint with poets Angela Hibbs, Jim Johnstone, Jeff Latosik, Leigh Nash, Aaron Tucker and Zoe Whittall, bringing lovely readings and good vibes to the café. Everyone seemed relieved that Spearmint got sprung.

Now, I am not blaming Spearmint for the ensuing life change, but needless to say, since his arrival at Zoots, all has gone a bit off script. I began wandering to New York on a regular basis. I began dreaming of antique textiles and relocation. I started to drift.


So, I split.

Before I could blink, I was climbing up the ever familiar steps of the Carlton Arms Hotel hoping that Don would be in the pope chair talking in a funny (and fake) Southern Accent and that the old cat would rub up against my leg as I checked in — and I was not disappointed. As usual when I get to New York, I feel the ground shift and possibility coming up to meet me. I become playful. It becomes possible. Now I know that the most recent rhetoric about New York is that its mystique and free-spiritedness is long over for the freshness of such places as Berlin and Detroit, but nevertheless, as soon as I get to New York, I feel something uptight in me give.

That very night I meet a friend for dinner at Keens, where I find myself staring up at the famous ceiling of pipes that are like hundreds of cicadas staring down at me. I roam the over packed salon walls and find myself staring at what may be the original play bill that Lincoln was shot holding — or at least a very good fake.

The next morning I head over to Park Slope, Brooklyn and meet Carey Toane for a lovely social visit that includes a fancy brunch and a visit to the Brooklyn flea. Now as co-founder of the TPV project, she is responsible in part for my new vending machine charge, and so even peripherally in New York City, our little rogue named Spearmint is implicated.

While wandering through the flea, I find myself with an ever-deepening wonder in regards to the effluence and randomness of our cast about ephemera of life on this planet. I finger a smashing leather skirt hand made in France. I gently handle a pair of shoes that were owned by the famous twin contortionists Nita and Zita from the early 20th century. I note the leather shims in the heel to help them in their crazy pretzeling and marvel at the way items bubble up from history and land in front of me. I swear that objects have a life of their own, I do.

(Yes, I now own them…)

I wander through the flea and get caught up with the idea of never leaving. I get caught up with the idea of selling Zoots and becoming a traveling gypsy in the rag trade. The fabric begins to unravel. The itch has started and I blame Spearmint. I finally feel the poems coming on.

Stay tuned to the adventures of a poet and a poetry vending machine as everything continues to come unhinged in my next column….

Melanie Janisse is a native of Windsor, Ontario where she retains memories of old docks jutting out into the Detroit River and the smell of hops. Melanie began her education by leaving home early and wandering around the abandoned houses of inner city Detroit, and then the intense forests of the Canadian West Coast. Formally she holds degrees form Concordia University in Communications and Literature and from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Photography. Melanie has resided in Toronto for the past nine years, keeping active as a visual artist, poet, designer and shop owner. Her work has appeared in Luft Gallery, Common Ground Gallery, Artcite Gallery, Dojo Magazine, Pontiac Quarterly, The Scream Literary Festival, The Southernmost Review, The Northernmost Review and The Windsor Review. Her first poetry book, Orioles in the Oranges (Guernica Editions), tells the tale of on old Metis legend, allowing it to dovetail with Detroit's gritty modernity in an unforgettable series of prose poems. Melanie is happy to be a part of Open Book: Toronto ruminating about books and book-like things around Toronto.

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