WORDS OF A SOMALI POET ON MONTREAL BUSES

 

ANNE SUTHERLAND (asutherland@thegazette.canwest.com ) - The Gazette

Friday, April 23, 2004


When poet Mohamud Siad Togane went back in 1992 to visit Mogadishu, Somalia, the city of his birth, he was shot at four times.

What a different reception he has received in his adopted home, Montreal: His
poetry is now posted on buses crisscrossing the city.

"I have discovered that Montreal is a city that is very kind to its poets," he said yesterday.

Togane is one of 20 Montreal poets whose work will be featured in Poetry in
Motion. The poems will be mounted on special panels inside 800 Montreal Transit
Corp. buses until May 22.

"People think art is reserved for the elite and is unaccessible," said Carolyn
Marie Souaid, a poet and teacher. "Putting poems on the bus is a good way to
return the arts to the community where they grew."

Poetry in Motion coincides with national poetry month and was conceived by
Souaid and fellow poet and teacher Endre Farkas, in conjunction with the Blue
Metropolis International Literary Festival of Montreal, which took place this
month.

"All of the artists donated their works," Farkas said. "It may not be money (the
poets get) but it is exposure."

The project was funded by a $6,000 grant from the Montreal Arts Council and
corporate donations.

The works of 10 French poets and 10 English poets are featured and on each bus,
one poem will be in French and one in English.

The English is the same size as the French, thanks to a provision in the
provincial language law exempting cultural events.

Emile Martel, winner of the Governor-General's Prize for poetry in 1995, said he
is an enthusiastic participant in Poetry in Motion.

"There's no way you can say no to being read," Martel said.

The 10 English poets are Stephanie Bolster, Farkas, Artie Gold, Tom Konyves,
Claudia Lapp, Stephen Morrisey, Ken Norris, Souaid, Ruth Taylor and Togane. On
the French side are Martine Audet, Claude Beausoleil, Jacques Brault, Nicole
Brossard, Denise Desautels, Jean-Paul Daoust, Helene Dorion, Madeleine Gagnon,
Martel and Elise Turcotte.