Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Spearmint (Part Two)

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The adventures of one Poet and a Poetry Vending Machine named Spearmint continued from last column.


A good friend of mine picked me up in Buffalo from the airport, and as a fellow lover of old things, he let me bend his ear about this rekindled interest in the ephemera of our last century. We even stopped at a thrift shop in St Catharines on our way back and I scored two rather amazing Yves St. Laurent sweater dresses from the '80s.

A few days later I was walking out of Kensington Market with some groceries for the café and thought I would take Kensington Ave towards Dundas. Just towards the end of the street a tiny for rent sign stopped me right in my tracks. Now, perhaps if it wasn’t the particular little blue house that was on the market, I would have kept going, but number 2 Kensington and I have a very long history - one of longing on my part. I used to stop into the old Pineapple Room in the late '80s on my way to Windsor from my studies in Montreal, and I would make a point of a visiting the old owner and his fantastic collection of vintage. The Pineapple Room left such an impression on me that over the decade I have lived in Toronto, I have popped into the old double room on the main floor of the house to try and imagine the way it used to be. I have dreamed of taking down the old fluorescents and of pulling up the grey industrial carpet to reveal the old wood floors I know to be hiding under there.

As soon as I saw the "For Rent" sign I got that strange sideways feeling again, like my life was on a tilt-a-whirl ride. Something was totally afoot. So, I called the number.

All I can say is that within a couple of days the old Pineapple Room was mine. I even called the shop Pineapple. As for Zoots, the mortar began to loosen as more and more thoughts of selling came and went from my brain. All the while, Spearmint sat complacently on the wall, as if waiting.


I went back to New York in a vintage totem pole sweater, as if I was commanded.

A friend’s play, L.A Party, was running for the weekend and I wanted to see it for myself. I landed in New York and waited in the lobby of the Carlton Arms hotel for David to come and meet me. After an hour of talking to Don (residing as usual in the pope chair), we took off into the night to play Stag Hunter in a tucked away Tiki bar in Gramercy.

The next afternoon, while waiting to check out his play, I got talking to a lovely woman about my vintage Michelle Mason boots. As it turns out, Debbie had a rather stunning vintage collection of her own and invited me over for tea the next day at her place in the Upper Westside. Swinging on my vines of fashion and several cappuccinos later, I leave Debbie’s place with a feeling of levity and a vintage Bonnie Cashin coat. One of my strongest impressions of her home was the collection of hand-painted tins that she had placed everywhere, inside little treasures grouped like poems.

On my way home from Debbie’s, I get a text message from my airline telling me that my flight had been cancelled due to an incoming winter storm.

I know that not much of this has to do with books. I know. But here is the interesting thing. Upon my return to Toronto I was scheduled to read at the Pivot Reading series with Claudia Dey and Catherine Black. My flight gets rescheduled to the next afternoon, giving me hardly any room for error to get to my reading.


I walk into the Press Club a little out of breath, my suitcase stowed in Pat’s car straight from the airport. My moccasins are still wet from a morning walk through Central Park. The first person that I see in the crowd is a businessman that was on my flight. We had a harried conversation during the long walk from the plane to the exit of the airport, and I had mentioned that I was running late to a reading. He made fun of me because I was dragging my dad’s old leather duffel bag behind me as I rushed along.

Claudia read from her newest book, How to be a Bush Pilot, in her most amazing good girl/bad girl voice, taking us through some saucy advice and anecdotes about the nether region of a woman. Catherine read from her most recent book, Lessons of Chaos and Disaster, gracing us with her hauntingly beautiful prose poems. I was becoming more and more aware that I truly had nothing on me to read. All I had in my brain was my morning walk through Central Park, and all of the images and inner thoughts that went along with it, and so I decided to go at it David Antin style and tell a Ramble about the Ramble.

George King III, in his cuff links and Seville Row suit, on business from London, fit in seamlessly with my table of gypsy friends and the night was super special, thanks to the amazing readings and the lovely host of Pivot, Sachiko Murakami, and her co-organizer, Angela Hibbs, who were responsible for bringing us all together.

Here is a link to my Central Park story:


Spearmint and I are both relocating.

Zoots is for sale and I have gotten lost in the jungle of New York. The good news is that Spearmint is coming full circle back to Kensington. Yes, Spearmint is moving to Pineapple, where (at least for a while) he will happily dispense a poem and some bubblegum to anyone who has a toonie. As for me, I am looking at broken-down old pick-ups and wondering what kind of auctions there are between here and New Jersey. I am currently obsessed with trains in and out of Manhattan and can only say that Pineapple and Spearmint keep me in part hinged to Toronto, but only just partly.

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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