Saturday, November 20, 2010

Toronto Poetry Vendors: collect 'em all ...

Toronto Poetry Vendors: "(in)dispensable poetry"

The site maisonnueve reports that two Canadian poets have found a way -- finally -- to bring poetry to the people in a familiar and user-friendly method: the vending machine. For a toonie ($2 Canadian) the buyer receives a previously unpublished poem printed on bright-colored stock about the size of a pack of gum, sealed with a Toronto Poetry Vendor sticker. To sweeten the deal, each poem comes with a piece of Dubble Bubble gum. This should be comforting news for all consumers and their sweet tooth, with the potential for all kinds of imaginative applications: point-of-sale in doctor's offices, grocery stores, and banks.

Or not -- the machines are currently located mostly in Toronto coffeeshops and bookstores -- but the idea of finding poem-packets next to the candy and soda machines in the office break room or school lunch room in some alternate universe is worth at least a fleeting happy thought.

Rebecca Rosenblum calls the brightly-colored packages from the poetry-vending machine "baseball cards for the litsy set": The neat thing is that the poems are just stacked in there, and so when you turn the crank, you just get the next one in the queue, no picking and choosing. So after this afternoon’s lovely launch (excellent readings, excellent cookies), everyone in the audience bought a poem, and then milled around asking each other, “Who’d you get?” “Who’d you get?”

The fall edition of Toronto Poetry Vendors (TPV) was released in October. Here's an excerpt from the post at maisonnueve:

Inspired by the Distriboto machines she’d seen in Montreal, Toronto poet Carey Toane dreamed up the idea of a machine that would dispense poems. When fellow poet and fiction writer Elisabeth de Mariaffi got on board, they found themselves sourcing Wrigley’s Excel gum machines on Craigslist and 3 months later, in April 2010, launched Canada’s first mechanical poetry journal, Toronto Poetry Vendors (TPV).

The idea came out of the renaissance in handmade, DIY self-publishing in Toronto and the larger lit community, with all the beautiful hand-bound chapbooks and letter press books just begging to be handled and cracked open and enjoyed for their tactile qualities as much as for their content. I covet these things,” Toane says.

... The Fall 2010 issue, launched last month, includes poets Jeff Latosik, Michael Lista, Angela Hibbs and Nancy Jo Cullen, among others. The poems are printed on brightly coloured paper measuring the same dimension as a Wrigley’s brand package of Excel gum. “I’ve come to associate poets with a particular colour,” de Mariaffi says.

... The machines have names: Polar Ice is currently located at Toronto’s Type Books; Cinnamon is at a café called Ezra’s Pound, and Spearmint is located at Zoot’s Café. A travelling machine called Snacks — a former cigarette dispenser — is used for such events as the Brooklyn Book Fair in Brooklyn, New York, and Toronto’s Canzine fair. For three dollars, Snacks also delivers a poetry 2-pack wrapped in bright ribbon.

... Each broadside is weighted with a piece of Dubble Bubble because it helps with the mechanics of dispensing the product through the machine. Toane and de Mariaffi see the TPV as a way of broadening poetry’s exposure. “We wanted a way to showcase Toronto talent in a format that the average café patron would find intriguing but not intimidating. Books and reading and poetry can come across as stuffy and serious and not so much fun, which is a shame.”

For updates on the Toronto Poetry Vendors machines and launches, go here.

(Photo of TPV packet from maisonnueve; Carey Toane photo from Rebecca Rosenblum's blog Rose Coloured.)


The above fore-mentioned. said...

How fun! It reminds me of the book vending machine I saw in Paris. I once entered a travel writing competition, where you had to write a short story to accompany a travel picture you had taken. I wrote mine to go with the photograph that I took of the book vending machine and managed to win Bill Bryson's complete back catalogue, all signed.
Thanks for a great post!

Julie Kinnear said...

It is a great idea to get poetry around people, as for some reason not too many are willing to pay for poetry books and this seems to be quite a smart compromise. Somehow it reminded me of poetry for the passengers I once saw in the Prague subway - simple yet far reaching.

M Bromberg said...

Fiona: wow, quite a prize -- a picture definitely worth more than a thousand of Mr. Bryson's words.

Julie: that "underground poetry" in Prague sounds great! What a great way to reach an audience ....