Culture & Conversation

Posts by Michael Lake

Oh My Darling

In 2007, 24-year-old Kinga Ilyes posed for the cover of MacLean’s annual university issue. A Canadian soldier, Chris Karigiannis, stationed in Afghanistan, saw the cover and wrote to the magazine praising Ilyes’ “natural beauty and incredible sexiness,” a far cry from the “superficial and very overdone” Playboy magazines the soldiers were used to. This exchange charmed many people and Ilyes was photographed again for the magazine and became known as the darling of Kandahar. Shortly after sending a second letter to MacLean’s, Karigiannis was killed by a roadside bomb. He was to be in New Zealand the day he died, but a postponement kept him in Kandahar for one more fateful day.

School’s Out

When thinking back to one’s favourite teachers, it is difficult to put a finger on what made them memorable or particularly formative. It is also difficult to say what all good teachers have in common, except maybe a willingness to adapt. Bad teachers certainly have more in common than good ones; bad teachers think too much in terms of right and wrong, this way or that. But on a larger scale, it’s the system that makes or breaks the quality of education. Rick Salutin’s essay “Keeping the Public in Public Education” examines the public school system and its many downfalls. The system’s focus on standardized testing, the growing number of educational choices (arts schools, “gifted” programs, etc.) are elucidated by Salutin in his impassioned argument for reimagining education in Canada and abroad.

The Most Important Poetry

Alex Boyd believes in the nobility of poetry. Poetry should pay attention to life’s overlooked delicacies: a stranger on the subway, a beggar on the street, or an old woman struggling to open a door. Poetry should assert that “the old Italian man who washed / something small in the fountain” has a beauty to rival that of a Michelangelo. Poetry should root for the underdog, the least important man, precisely because there is no least important man.

Dear Door

Walking up Jeanne Mance between Prince Arthur and avenue des Pins, passersby stop to read texts displayed in apartment windows. One second-floor window says, “Shin jin (true mind)” and another, “Where we live has become our hiding place.” One has to wonder about the person who lives in the apartment whose window reads, “Que ma mort doive durer si longtemps.” People smile at one another as they take pictures and say hello to the neighbours; some even peer in windows to see who might be behind them. “It’s some sort of art,” I hear somebody tell their friend.

Love to All

On Saturday afternoon the McCord Museum was the place for fans of Irving Layton. Local actor Arthur Holden performed some of Layton’s letters and poems, which is to say he read them in his best Poetry Voice. He did a fine job, but I’ve always found it funny when people feel the need to read poetry in a Very Serious Voice with over-enunciated consonants, drawn out vowels, and the inevitable line whispered or shouted for emphasis (in case you don’t know what I mean, this parody should give you an idea). It’s a cliché that really ought to be avoided, although it could be argued that this reading style suits Layton’s irony and sardonic humour.


As book launches go, Linda Leith’s trifecta at Blue Met last night was nice. The atmosphere was friendly (free wine), the room was jam-packed, which is rare, and her new literary press feels like something a little different with its two debut titles The Darling of Kandahar a novel by Felicia Mihali, and Rick Salutin’s essay Keeping the Public in Public Education. There’s also Leith’s new online literary magazine Salon .ll. which, although clunky in design, has some great, mostly local, content.

Don’t Speak

Erín Moure is one of Canada’s most exciting and acclaimed poets and translators. Her multilingual books are a mélange of English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Ukrainian, and Galician. To read Mouré is to see the inner workings of somebody deeply imbedded in the social life of words; her process is to always investigate, challenge, and bring to the forefront. Regardless of what subjects find their way into her books, Mouré seems always to be writing about language.

I Want One, Too

In May of 2008, a group of high school girls from Gloucester, Massachusetts formed a pact: they would all get pregnant and help each other raise…

Desperate Desolation

“Discontent is a luxury of the well-to-do,” says Donald Pleasance’s character in Ted Kotcheff’s film Wake in Fright. But what if, like the film’s main character,…

Infringement Therapy for the Activist Festivalgoer

Since its beginning eight years ago, the Infringement Fest has set itself apart from other arts festivals through its focus on social justice and activism. With a mandate modelled after the original 1947 Edinburgh Fringe, the Infringement Festival is “an artistic protest against corporate elitism and exclusion of local artists.”