Arts·Poetic License

'As the city sleeps': Joseph A. Dandurand poignantly captures life on the streets in his poetry

Dandurand's most recent book of poetry, The East Side of it All, is on the Canadian shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Dandurand's most recent book of poetry is on the Canadian shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize

'As the city sleeps': Joseph A. Dandurand poignantly captures life on the streets in his poetry

CBC Arts

8 days ago
0:49
Dandurand's most recent book of poetry, The East Side of it All, is on the Canadian shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. 0:49

It's National Poetry Month, and for the fifth edition of Poetic License, we decided to celebrate short poems from poets across Canada. In these illustrated videos, you'll hear from emerging talent, award-winning poets and poets laureate, plus the three Canadians on the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist — the world's largest international prize for a first-edition single collection of poetry written in or translated into English.

Joseph A. Dandurand is from Kwantlen First Nation in B.C. He is a poet, playwright and archaeologist. (Note to self: the next round of Poetic License should be all archeologists.) As someone who studies human history, Dandurand's empathetic observations beautifully humanize his subjects, providing a poignant depiction of life on the streets — like in this video where he performs his poem Violins.  

His most recent book of poetry, The East Side of it All, is on the Canadian shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize, but you might already know him from any of his previous 12 acclaimed poetry books. 

Listen to Joseph A. Dandurand perform Violins — an excerpt from his Griffin Poetry Prize-shortlisted book, The East Side of it All — in the video above and read the poem below.

Violins

by Joseph A. Dandurand

-----

As the city sleeps
there are those who
go up and down the alley
picking up whatever may
be laying on the ground
that they toss into carts
and all you hear are
the squeaking wheels
as each cart is pushed
and pushed until it stops
to pick up a pop can
or beer can to toss
into their pile of gold

They are usually half
the man they used to be
Some are drunks and
others addicts but they
collect as if collecting
for their choice of church —
God welcomes them all
though some gave up
on God long ago.

-----

See more from Poetic License.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now