I consider myself an every woman and there is no shame in that.
If I am eating at Hawksworth Restaurant in the Hotel Georgia, it better be for good reason (and I better have a slicker pair of slacks to wear than the ones I am currently writing in because if that mustard stain is old, no amount of Tide To Go can help me now).
I do not get to bypass lines in places that have them (because at best, I ride the coattails of others who ride the coattails of others and so on. This, to the people overseeing said lines, is apparently considered a few degrees of separation too many and therefore, “yeah, you are going to wait right here, young lady”).
A t-shirt over $18 is one I would probably walk in the opposite direction from (because much like bottoms evidently, I would just dirty them in no time and realize it far too late).
In this town (and many others in this modern age, I am sure), I think these are pretty standard sentiments for the every man and woman, or what from now on I will call ordinary people. Another one felt might be alienation from art and poetry, the stuff of supposedly upper echelon life.
But the rest of this post is to say: feel alienated no longer! A couple years ago with the help of Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants program, Vancouver’s new poetry alternative, Wolf Mountain Writing Collective, started a public art project called the Main Street Trail in an attempt “to make poetry tough again” by bringing it to the streets. The reason behind this mission stems from ordinary people seeing poetry as (stereotypes tell us) sitting in a dimly lit cafe listening to a poet belt out something raw and emotive to which the crowd praises by nodding in agreement and repeatedly clicking their fingers. First, that form of applause has got to cause some arthritic inflammation, no? Second, this is not Greenwich Village, New York, circa the 1950s (although, in a heartbeat I would live and write in such locale and decade, barring the purpose of this post. To sip with Allen Ginsberg on the off-chance I might run into Jackson Pollock at a bar a few feet away? Sign me up). Alas, the Main Street Trail was born to demonstrate how poetry reads and looks in Vancouver, British Columbia, circa the 2010s – by way of a wicked literary spray paint scavenger hunt.
So without further ado and in any way you want that is not clicking your fingers, rejoice because the poetry sketched on the sides of buildings at 11 locations spanning the length of the Mount Pleasant ‘hood adheres to none of the abovementioned stereotypes. The Trail is about recognizing young emerging artists with a message, sure. But more importantly, it is about renewing the art form of poetry to ordinary people. It is about exploring and engaging with one’s surroundings and inspiring Main Street’s subset – whether artistic or not – to connect with each other in the community and decipher meanings together. I know of no better neighbourhood in Vancouver that could house this idea that what is too often considered a stiff and elitist pastime can be brought back down to Earth with some written word and a can of spray paint.
The sketchings serve a much-needed reminder that one does not have to be well-read or possess an English literature degree from an Ivy League to appreciate poetry. It is enough to open those eyes and witness artful creations that have the power to lift moods, lend insight, provoke thought and opinion, and above all, change landscapes in a subtle way to reflect the not-so-subtle spirit of Mount Pleasant: built tough and stubborn like graffiti on a wall, yet tender and accessible enough to wear its heart for every passer-by to see. This public art project is a definite “to do” on your weekend list, not to mention an awesome embodiment of walking in the opposite direction of a $50 t-shirt (see above).
And hey, as an every woman, I can relate to that.