Does Toronto’s “Great” Literary Series live up to it’s name?
The front of the Steady Cafe resembles a small theatre, and standing outside in the rain, the black retro-lettered sign announcing the Pivot Reading Series glows. Inside, I navigate through the crowded front room, through a narrow hallway, and in the backroom where attendees are waiting for this night’s readings to begin. Beers in hand, writers, editors, professors, and usually combinations of all three, mingle. Spread out in the room, everyone faces the performance stage at the back. On the wall a neon pink sign flashes out “Steady” and the DJ booth is a faux palm grass hut.
Odd aesthetics out, the Steady fits well with the Pivot Reading. Great location, medium-sized space for the medium-sized audience. A reliable fit for any event organizer’s need. It may be choices like this that allow the Pivot to make its mark in Toronto’s literary community for more than 5 years. On Facebook and website, it proclaims itself “Toronto’s Great Literary Series”. a cheap sales word, but I was going to find out.
After finding a seat, I wait for the readings. Beside me, a couple students and an adjunct professor are gripping about academics. I am soon sucked into an earful of finding a new college for the upcoming semester and war stories of getting kicked out of classes.
Soon the room hushes as Jacob Mooney, the ginger-bearded, spectacled event director of the Pivot, comes to the mic. First up: Mat Laporte, a familiar figure in the literary community. He introduces himself with an observation that there is an open tin of cookies beside him. Reading from his latest book, “Rats Nest”, its a curious story about blinking lights and singular brain cell.
After Mat, Jason is back. Explaining with dry jokes thrown in how the rest of the night will work. With only three readers it will be reader, break, reader, break, reader. A common scheduling for a good mix of readings and socializing. He ended his host litany with the never forgotten plea to donate to the jar. A beer jug that will be passed around during the break.
The break ends with Adèle Barclay, a poet with poems in well-known lit mags and winners of poetry contests. She came offering little anecdotes behind each of her poems including a poem of resurrecting sparrows and recovering a bad party. Eric Beck Rubin bringing his foray into fiction.
It was a great lineup. Reader bios with books of poems published in one of the many small presses, or published pieces in magazines like the Fiddlehead. Their words themselves fly farther than their voices. Jason rounded up a pleasant evening, with a reminder that the evening would be recorded and broadcasted on Ryerson University’s: The Scope. It’s a nice pledge to commemoration to reader’s performances, that often disappear under the clutter of readings and launches that fill up Toronto’s evenings.
The Pivot doesn’t do anything that makes it unique, no catering, or focus on diversity or new writers. If it holds up its title as the “greatest” it would be in its utter quintessential ness. It hits all the checkmarks for many literary series in Toronto, except open mics. The scheduling is as efficient as they come.
If you want a first-hand experience of what makes a reading series a reading series, then the Pivot is the place to be.