News and Interviews

All Booked Up - Pivot Reading Series


The roots of Pivot Readings stretch back to 1998, when poet Paul Vermeersch started a fiction and poetry reading series in Toronto’s adorably dilapidated I.V. Lounge. When that venue closed in 2008, the I.V. Lounge Reading Series relocated west on Dundas to the Press Club, and was renamed Pivot (wise choice, since the series hopped bars a few times after that).  Currently housed in the Tranzac  Club’s Tiki Room, Pivot presents a mix of new and established poetry and prose writers every second Thursday at 8 pm.

The series has been co-hosted by poets Canisia Lubrin and Michelle Brown Colistro for the past two years, but the busy duo passed the torch at the end of May. On the night I attended in April, writer/Pivot aficionado, A Light Zachary, ably guest-hosted, presenting a wonderful mix of talent:  Craig Calhoun, Simone Dalton, and Oubah Osman.


I spoke to Canisia Lubrin about Pivot past, present and future:


Pivot has been around for a long time and the list of past readers is like a who’s who of Canadian letters.  When you took on co-hosting/curating duties, were you looking to carry on a tradition or shake things up?


I meant to curate readings that brought together the writers producing vital work and the readers engaged in their own rigorous cultural practice of books at many levels.



What were some of the highlights for you from the last two years?


Every show brought its own memorable moments. The shows that enthused me in some new ways were the ones that involved a queer mix of things. One where theatre met poetry met fiction met song met monologue. There’s also that show we fit 15 readers into. The lovely regular audience members who warm the room, whatever season. Helen who has fed us and brought us flowers and put some chairs out for us. Every small and big help to keep the volunteer work going.



I noticed there were a lot of writers in the audience on the night I attended—and that people stuck around after the readings to socialize.  Is that part of Pivot’s appeal, you can discover new work and also hang with the local literary community? Was that something you and Michelle tried to cultivate?


That happens on its own. Aided by the something of the ethos of a thing other things tend to coalesce.



Both you and Michelle stepped down at the end of May.  What qualities were you looking for in the new curator/host? 


What is needed. Host(s) who keep a healthy awareness of what is needed. And there’s also the obvious skill-based stuff.



Do you have a vision for the future of Pivot Readings? What changes would you like to see?


I am well past my expiry date to make that claim. We will have to trust the next people who take the helm to do the work to keep Pivot alive and relevant.



Elyse Friedman was born in Toronto, where she still lives. She has written three novels (The Answer to EverythingThen AgainWaking Beauty), a book of short fiction (Long Story Short, a Novella & Stories), and a collection of poems (Know Your Monkey). Her work has been shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award, the Toronto Book Award and the Relit Award. Her short fiction has appeared in the Journey Prize Anthology and Best Canadian Stories, and she won the Gold National Magazine Award for Fiction for her story The SootherKnow Your Monkey was selected as a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year. Elyse has also written for screens large and small, radio, magazines and the stage.