Poetry has taken on many trendy forms since its inception thousands of years ago. It’s also found ways of alienating audiences (spoken word) and creating new ones (spoken word). Another defining feature — Griffin Prize aside — is its status as one of the world’s most lackluster ways of making money. So when local Toronto poet Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Pivot Reading Series host Carey Toane announced they were creating something completely different for the poetry scene, the scene wasn’t disappointed. “It’s like a poetry juke box that ‘plays’ poetry instead of music,” said local poet Troy Donald at the machine’s launch this past spring.
The Toronto Poetry Vendors is a quick and easy way to read something new and local for a couple of bucks. Once simply a gum vending machine, the prose dispenser is now a vital force in the poetry distribution cause. The small broadsizes of single poems by Toronto poets includes new work from fan favourites Dani Couture (featured on page 41 of this issue), Paul Vermeersch and Stuart Ross. Each poem costs a toonie and the machines are scheduled to be springing up in indie bookstores across the city.
Toane and de Mariaffi had noticed vintage poetry machines making the rounds in L.A., and the duo also cited the late 1990s classic (and still running) Distroboto movement in Montreal as an example of how a similar concept has been working in other cities. “The more we read about them,” says de Mariaffi, “the more we wanted some machines of our own. I think the machine provides a little novelty to the broadside business, and broadsides are just a fantastic way to get a taste of a poet’s work.”
So if you’re less inclined to fork over $16 for an entire poetry collection, but could see yourself plunking in a couple of bucks for a single poem, you’re in luck. The first prototype is located at Type Books in Toronto.