October 27: Dissidents, imposters, poets and the school teachers who love them

The October 27 readings began with a clever trickster and ended with a good-natured pessimist. Nestled in-between was a woman who never gave up on childhood ambitions to be a poet.

Many thanks to Cynthia Gould, who took several wonderful photographs and interviewed poets throughout October. Things couldn’t have been left in better hands.

Stephen Humphrey

Daniel Scott Tysdal

Daniel Scott Tysdal’s writing has lyrical flair, but he seems suspicious of that talent, which might be why planted audience members interrupted the impostor who read his first poem with demanding queries about meaning and context. Daniel seems also not entirely at ease with intellectualism, which is why he made one poem into a Mad Magazine fold-in. He teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, which he apparently treats as a chance to unlearn what he knows.


Susie Berg

Spurred on by her favourite elementary-school teacher, Susie Petersiel Berg began writing poetry at the age of 10, but only returned to it seriously five years ago. Her poems are about the quirky thoughts, small moments and little heartbreaks that occur from relations between people, whether a single mom and hockey dad or a predatory Austrian father and his exploited daughter.

About her own work, Susie says, “I have joked that I write about two main topics: kids and death. When I hear a painful story, I take it very personally. So the only way for me to deal with the pain, even if it’s not my own, is to filter it by writing about it. But I think what I write most about is appearance and reality. We all think the other kids are cooler or other people have happier relationships or better jobs or an easier time of things. In reality, we have no idea what goes on in other people’s lives, so I like to explore what some of those realities might be.”


Rafi Aaron

Rafi Aaron admitted people thought his last book was a bit of a downer, but said he couldn’t come up with many laughs about atrocities of Stalinist Russia. Nonetheless, he never seemed to run short of sardonic observations while bridging his serious, lyrical poems with bone-dry wit. The Toronto Star described Rafi as a poet “who allows simple, fresh, vivid words to cut individual jewels out of the material of language.” He was also full of sensible advice. For example he told the audience, especially rapt during his reading, it was all right to breathe.



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