A Throwaway: An Ontario poet laureate on the solo project and the value of community

Who: Randell Adjei

Where: 612 Bloor St. W. (just west of Bathurst and Dufferin avenues)

Website: randelladjei.com

What: An Ontario poet laureate’s first solo project.

“People can’t assume that just because they met me they are going to like me because they met me,” says Randell Adjei, 35, with some measure of exasperation. He’s launched his solo project, A Throwaway, out of the quadrant of Toronto he’s called home since childhood. Published this week, it is the English translation of a first collection of poems first published in French by Random House.

The book, Adjei says, is “a chronicler of what the everyday feels like to the immigrant, an account of the inconceivable life that you are thrown into by changing nationalities.” Adjei had all the trappings of the Canadian Dream, he says, and yet he felt a sense of diminished standing after his return from Lebanon after graduation.

When his grandmother’s death went unrecorded, he says, he found himself blaming her for the mess of life, and what followed was years of wandering. “I had a place in the Canadian musical industry,” he says, “and was a cult figure in a couple of circles, but I was a member of a club of one.”

During the long series of buildings on the Bloor Street demo it took for Mervyn Peake’s What a Buffalo meal restaurant to be built, it was critical to survive for him. Here, he found refuge, recalling the dive bar scene, a church service and the smell of moporythess orchards.

“I was sleeping over at great friends’ and making decisions like, ‘Well, we really need to write more. This book had to be finished today.’ It was like the sleepwalker’s way to find a new home.”

On the canvas is a blend of prose poems and illustrated poems, some drawn from the womanhood of Adjei’s mother and father, a stanza or two of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and a wholly new story about the land and its and beneath the grime, a dream. “The collectivity of all humans, coming into Canada and then being taken away from it, are inspired by Inuit writing and Maori writing. The weird conjoined strangeness of it is a kind of entertainment that brings people together.”

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