Notes from Toronto poet Lillian Necakov on a poetry reading marathon held on January 18, 2017 to benefit PEN Canada.
In the spring of 2015 I embarked on a year-long project that would see me write one thousand very short poems about birds and post them daily onto twitter. The project was born out of hope; if I wrote one thousand poems, my wish would be granted. It was an exciting, emotional, and at times, tedious undertaking, but I loved every minute of it.
Once the project was complete, my dear friend, writer Stuart Ross asked if I would agree to a marathon reading of the poems. Of course, I agreed. Stuart would organize and host and we would both come up with a list of possible readers.
On January 18, 2017 a reading of my 1,000 bird poems took place in a Kensington Market restaurant in Toronto, Canada. The reading was held as an Empty Chair event in support of imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, who has been sitting in a prison cell 11,484 km away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia since 2011. But on that night, he was also with us in that room, up on that stage and in our thoughts. How could he not be?
I am so grateful to the over 30 readers who brought my words to life and to all those who came to support us in our efforts. I felt a tremendous sense of community that night and that gives me hope. We raised quite a bit of money for PEN, but more importantly, I believe, we raised awareness.
Eskinder, I am humbled by you and I wish you freedom, hope and flight. Please know that you are not alone, we hear your song!
This one is especially for you:
In sleep we fly
as if riding a tricycle
as if the shudder of wakefulness
does not exist.
Lillian Necakov is the author of several poetry collections, including The Bone Broker (Mansfield Press) and Hat Trick (Exile Editions). She runs the Boneshaker Reading Series in Toronto, where she lives with her family. Follow her on Twitter here and check out the thousand poem project here.
To read more about Eskinder Nega, click here.
Photo: Linda Tanner