Writer in Residence

Tribute to Ed Yanofsky

By Koom Kankesan

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No, no, Ed Yanofsky's not dead.

He just happens to be retiring. And... retired.

 

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The retirement is recent. After promoting writers and literary events for the University of Toronto Bookstore, Ed worked for the Humber School For Writers before settling into his role as a civil servant at Ontario's Ministry of Culture.

A poet at heart, I asked Ed if he'd participate in this series of interviews. He declined. Typical Ed. Someone who unstintingly championed other writers, he is restrained about tooting his own horn. Hospitable and warm, Ed is quick to invite you over for a meal and relishes serving up one of his signature pasta dishes. A jazz aficionado, he possesses a wry, easygoing manner, and a generosity of spirit.

 

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Ed's generosity went to great lengths. At U of T and Humber, everyone knew and appreciated how tirelessly Ed worked on behalf of others. He would walk into a party and everybody knew him. A migrant from Montreal, he could be recognized in his trademark beret, with a French scarf draped around his shoulders. Time wore on and he traded in the colourful accoutrements for one of many comfy sweaters, and a purring cat (or two) nestled into the crook of his arm. The socialization and the parties wore off, he slowly withdrew from the scene and became ensconced in his duties at the Ministry. For about fifteen years or so.

 

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Recent retirement has given him time and impetus to write poetry once more. Writers are often hungry and starved for recognition. It takes a special person like Ed Yanofsky to put other people first, to champion the literary scene as one that invites warmth, inclusion, and opportunity. I would like to take today's blog to recognize what a kind, generous person he is. I am only one of many people he has helped unreservedly. He didn't look down on anybody - was as warm to them as he was with his own pets, whom he loved dearly. It was through Ed's dogs, Walter and Poet (yes, Poet!), that I really found a kinship with Ed. Even more so than writing, there was something about spending time with dogs, especially his dogs, that created an ease and fulfillment which permeated the whole house. Walter and Poet have passed on but the animals still outnumber the humans in his household by fifty percent.

 

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So, today, instead of going on about Ed's poetry (which he is picking up again) and extolling his virtues (which remain considerable), I'm just going to post some Open Source images of cute dogs - which is probably what he'd prefer anyway.

 

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The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.


Koom Kankesan was born in Sri Lanka. While his family lived abroad, the civil war in Sri Lanka broke out and this caused them to seek a new home. They eventually settled in Canada and have lived here since the late eighties. He has a background in English Literature and Film Studies. Koom contributed arts journalism to various publications before becoming a high school teacher in the Toronto District School Board. Since working as a teacher, he has taken semesters off now and again to work on his fiction. The Tamil Dream, his new book, is his most ambitious to date. It looks at the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka and how it affected Tamils here in Canada. Besides literature and film, Koom has deep interests in history and science, and an enduring love for comic books.

You can write to Koom throughout January at writer@open-book.ca.