Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

War of the Words

At Poetry Idol, contemporary verse is very much alive—at least when it’s onstage.

The other night, your correspondent found himself—geographically, but spiritually, too—in Toronto’s financial district. It was rush hour, and professionals in suits and business casual were streaming past. Only one busker (on alto sax) and a few scalpers held their ground; the rest were off to other pleasures: home, dinner, Cougar Town. You can feel a little silly in such bustling company, especially when you’re on your way to a poetry reading. But you can feel a little superior, too, like the speaker in that great report of rush hour, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman: a sensitive soul stuck in traffic.

Down by the Harbourfront Centre—where twenty poets were set to read in what was being called the “Battle of the Bards”—were actual ferries, with names like Mariposa Belle and Empress of Canada. But they didn’t appear to be going anywhere. A box ...

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