National Poetry Month with the Toronto Writers Collective

A person of colour paints the word poetry on a wall

The Toronto Writers Collective (TWC) is a non-profit organization that runs writing workshops for vulnerable and marginalized community members in Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa. As part of National Poetry Month, we asked a selection of TWC mentors and authors to share their favourite poems or poets from this talented community as part of National Poetry Month. The poems featured below are from the TWC's Front Lines anthologies, which will release a new edition this spring.

In my five years of working with the Toronto Writers Collective, I have had the privilege to listen to the poetry and prose of wonderful writers like: Puneet Dutt, Banoo Zan, Tom Hamilton, Andrea Thompson, Jay Teitel, Pat Connors, Al Moritz, Katrina Onstad, Susan Ksiezopolski and Julie Hartley, who inspire, not only with their writing, but through their support of unheard voices and emerging authors in TWC workshops and through our Front Lines anthologies.

Jesse Cohoon, Director of Programming at the Toronto Writers Collective

Mindful Reality by Rana Khan

I have lain imprisoned within prison walls since eternity,
And time, ceaseless, has never ceased to torment me in its passing.
I have seen the days hide behind nights;
Seasons alternate: the heat persuasive, tormenting,
The cold a merciless frozen vacuum.
Yet the core within me remains untouched.
My mind, in deliberate destruction weaves fantasies
As worms wriggle in my head, driving me
To dark shameful slavery.
Madness, chaos and frenzy chortle within me,
For they know I’m theirs forever
Locked as I am within the prison gates
Of my own particular hell.
My days have an unwashed quality about them,
retaining the sweat of a thousand labours
not one of them necessary, yet all essential
Because of them my sanity is still intact.

There is a strong sense of the ebb and flow of an unsettled mind, “retaining the sweat of a thousand labours” returning to sanity in Rana Khan’s A Mindful Reality.

Susan Ksiezopolski, author and mentor for Write On! 2019

Beauty by Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

You would be so pretty,
if you straightened your hair.

You would be so pretty,
if you just wore some makeup.

You would be so pretty,
if you walked like a lady.

You would be so pretty,
if your skin weren’t so dark.

You would be so pretty,
if you lost a few pounds.

But Wait…

I would be so pretty.
if I stopped listening.

I would be so pretty,
if I smiled at my reflection.

I would be so pretty,
if I wore my own style.

But Then…

I would only be pretty.
So, keep your pretty petty words,

because I am fresh, fierce and confident.
I am me and I am beautiful!

Manivillie is a real poet. Many of us like to write poetry but she has a natural sensibility which can't be taught and a developing desire to perfect her craft. Those of us at the TWC and Scarborough Poetry Club with whom she has shared her poetry will be bragging to people that we once knew her.

Pat Connors, Poet and Write On! 2019 mentor

Sanctuary by Chris Kerr

Above all else
I must have a place where
truth is fluent

Sanctuary speaks to me of the urgency and importance of home, where truth is spoken and safety is found.

Susan Ksiezopolski, author and mentor for Write On! 2019

Open A Door by Roberta Taylor

The poem is compact, and evocative, and comes with the best kind of surprise at the end: a quiet wonderment:  'And the dust glistens.'  Who knew that dust could glisten?  But of course, it can.

Jay Teitel, author, playwright and Mentor Write On! 2019

Roberta’s poem creates a vivid narrative, drawing me in with a sense of loss and hope; for, even in letting go, "the dust glistens". 

Susan Ksiezopolski, author and Mentor Write On! 2019

Roberta is phenomenal.

Puneet Dutt, Poet and Mentor Write On! 2019

Highlight Roberta's beautiful poetry!

Susan Turk Mozer, Founder of the Toronto Writers Collective.