Peter Jickling has a casualness about him. He sits, relaxed, sipping a beer as he relates the inspiration for his new book of poetry, Downtown Flirt. The book itself reflects a period in his life where he explored moving to Toronto to see what was possible outside the Yukon.
“I knew I wanted to move to Toronto to write,” Jickling said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I’d hit a bit of a slump.
“The stuff I wrote, 95 per cent of the stuff that is in the book, I wrote while in Toronto.”
Jickling admits the title was meant to be a bit provocative, so it would be catchy and memorable. It also reflects the double entendre of a young man seeking romance in Toronto, while also being out of his element and unsure of if downtown Toronto is where he should be.
“Under it all is this undercurrent of a guy unfamiliar with the big city and charting a course within that,” he said.
Jickling describes the collection itself as a “variety of urban vignettes of Toronto interaction.” He’s a bit self-deprecating that he kind of stumbled upon the idea. The first poem was about an incident he saw take place on a street car. One passenger had accidentally knocked a woman with his cart and she was very upset and letting him know it. “Everyone else was like, ‘It’s an accident!’” he said with a laugh. “And I thought to myself, that’s a poem.
“I decided to do this (kind of writing) until the real inspiration. Then I realized this was the real inspiration.”
There are a number of developing storylines that carry through many of the 60 poems. Jickling relates how, in one sublet, he was responsible for taking care of an orchid. The flower is a bit of a recurring theme. Likewise, the aforementioned streetcar incident reflected an important part of his downtown life, so there are some strange interactions on public transit.
But underneath it all remains that exploration of new, unfamiliar surroundings and finding out where you fit.
The 84-page book is being officially launched at a free event on Feb. 26 at the Woodcutter’s Blanket. Jickling wants to invite friends and colleagues to come chat about the book and celebrate being published. The event is open to anyone who wants to stop by and learn more about the anthology, or what Jickling is up to next.
He’s already working on his next collection. “I’m about one or two-thirds of the way through a book of the same length,” he said. “My new poems are a bit shorter than in Downtown Flirt. I’ve become more minimalist.”
The Yukon is certainly a little more calm than downtown Toronto, so being more of a minimalist here just seems right.