cover image: Metromorphoses



21 May 2024

When he first hiked the Don Valley trails / all he heard was river as he strode / beside its glitter of smashing glass

Grounded in the local and immediate – from Toronto’s rivers and ravines to its highways and skyscrapers – Metromorphoses explores some of the radical changes that have taken place in the city during the course of its history.

The collection’s poems focus, in roughly chronological order, on the city’s inhabitants and the changing relationships between people and place, from the original Indigenous presence, through the immigrants of the nineteenth century and the Depression and war survivors of the twentieth century, to the twenty-first century’s setbacks and affirmations. We encounter characters such as Symphony Pete, who whistled classical music while hiking Don Valley trails, Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from southern slavery in a packing crate, or the exhausted anonymous newsboy a photographer caught fast asleep next to his stack of newspapers on a flight of stone steps. We zoom in like time-lapse photography on the changes that a single site has experienced, from wood-frame cottages to foundry to synagogue to furniture store to parking lot to the new provincial courthouse.

These poems bring the reader closer to the impulses that drove the art of the Mississaugas, the escape from slavery or famine of new settlers, or the social awareness of a Dr Charles Hastings or a Raymond Moriyama. Far from Eliot’s “unreal city,” Metromorphoses takes us into the heart of the real Toronto, alive and ever-changing.


John Reibetanz

Published in
Montreal, CA
Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series

Table of Contents