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Leacock Museum curator compiles poetry anthology dedicated to Gordon Lightfoot

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Just in time for Gordon Lightfoot’s 76th birthday, the Old Brewery Bay Press is releasing a poetry anthology in the singer’s honour, for sale through the Stephen Leacock Museum in Lightfoot’s hometown of Orillia, Ontario.

Museum curator Fred Addis summoned more than 50 poets over the course of nine months to write pieces “dedicated to, inspired by, or about” Lightfoot.

“[Stephen Leacock] is probably the person of largest significance in our town, but he’s been dead since 1944. We thought we would look forward,” Addis said. “I’ve wanted to do something with respect to Lightfoot here in Orillia for a while and there has been a movement to start something more formal, but none of it has really gotten off the ground. I chose to make use of some of the writers that have visited here and erect a little monument in verse, if you will.”

50Poems_FrCvr50+ Poems for Gordon Lightfoot comprises pieces primarily by Canadian authors, including Priscila Uppal, Anne Michaels, George Elliott Clarke, and Sue Goyette. Addis began reaching out to poets in February, starting with Billy Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate and the nephew of former Orillia mayor John R. McIsaac.

“I sent him a request, and about six hours later he came back with a brand-new original poem, which opens the anthology, called ‘Vinyl,'” Addis said. “For some poets it just rolls off the pen, and others, it’s a much more gruelling, painstaking process to find a muse, much less focus it. I said to all contributors, ‘It need not be reverential, I just would like it to be real.'”

The book is Old Brewery Bay Press’s fourth publication, designed in-house at the Leacock Museum. It includes a short Lightfoot biography, as well as a full discography and photographs. Addis said the anthology will be on sale at the museum and on its website for now, but he will consider a larger print run and distribution, perhaps to independent bookstores, based on its initial success.

50+ Poems for Gordon Lightfoot is launching at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room on Lightfoot’s birthday, Nov. 17.