Toronto Book Awards

Viewing Tom Thomson, A Minority Report

2013 Toronto Book Awards Finalist

What is the place of an early 20th century landscape Canadian painter in the increasingly urban, multicultural world of 21st century Canada? Viewing Tom Thomson, A Minority Report (Frontenac House Poetry) explores the possibilities in poems sometimes personal, sometimes public, in which this iconic painter emerges as a source of inspiration, intrigue, admiration, and ire. Technically, a minority report is a dissenting voice in a larger report agreed upon by the majority. The title plays with that concept with its many possible minorities -- racial, generational and geographic.

What the judges said

The poems in Kevin Irie's Viewing Tom Thomson, A Minority Report locate the Canadian landscape and the paintings of Tom Thomson within contemporary Toronto. In his unique voice, Irie explores Thomson as both an historical artistic icon and a quick signifier for "Canadian" — and what that might mean in today's increasingly urban and multicultural context. From the Humber Marshes, to the Scarborough Bluffs, to the Don River, to the Rosedale Ravine, Irie takes us on a curious trek through Toronto's shadow side of natural spaces "over terrain I've travelled but can't say I know." Viewing Tom Thomson asks intriguing questions about our artistic history and landscape, and how they connect to our current urban, diverse reality.

Kevin Irie

Kevin Irie was born and lives in Toronto. His poetry has been published in periodicals and anthologies in Canada and the United States, Australia and England, and has been translated into Spanish and Japanese. He is also the author of four previous books, Burning the Dead, The Colour of Eden, which was a finalist for the 1997 Toronto Book Award, Dinner at Madonna's and Angel Blood, the Tess Poems. In 2008 he was a finalist for the CBC Literary Award for Poetry. A prominent theme in Irie's books is the city of Toronto.

Excerpt from Viewing Tom Thomson, A Minority Report 

Park Drive Ravine
We were there:
all the places a city grows
unsettled, down sunken ravines,
past weed-shaded creeks. Old orchards strewn
with fallen Winesaps, small sealed pots
brewing decay within.

Lost tennis balls like odd peeling fruit.

Crab-apples, dull agates
in the grass each summer.

Behind Beaumont Road,
its power station standing in overgrown grass,
wild day lilies torched the hillside,
orange jester caps flung on hat pole stems.
A landscape brushed
in Tom Thomson tints. His world entering
into ours. The waiting crown
of our minor campaign
with no sign of resistance but
fall's poison ivy

      in blood-rusted spades,

raised shields defending
their last encampment.