This past weekend, a poem appeared somewhere on the streets of Toronto. Now it sits, typed on delicately collaged scraps of paper, waiting for someone to claim it. It is enclosed in a vintage red-and-blue air mail envelope, emblazoned in a calligraphic hand with a single word: Love.
“When I hide the poems, I get this weird rush,” says Toronto writer and arts educator Lindsay Zier-Vogel. She refers to the 500 love poems to Toronto that she began hiding around the city over the past couple of days. It’s part of The Love Letter Project, a personal creative endeavour now in its seventh year.
The concept is simple: Zier-Vogel asks the public a question – for example, “Where was your first kiss?” This time, that question is “What do you love about Toronto?” She then uses these suggestions to write short poems – love letters. Then she turns them into little works of art by printing them on multicoloured scraps of maps and Japanese paper and popping them in pretty envelopes.
She will spend the next few weekends hiding her poems in some of the very places that inspired them. They will sit there until someone picks them up – she has yet to meet someone who has found a letter, though she is hopeful it may happen this time around.
Here’s an example, based on someone’s love for The Dance Cave, that less-than-high-class drinking and cavorting establishment on Bloor Street West. “Love is loud/and lights/and too late Friday nights/where initials are/carved into bathroom/stalls/and nothing matters/until tomorrow.”
Other Toronto wonders worthy of a poem? The back seat of a streetcar, Jet Fuel lattes with a big teaspoon of wet brown sugar, the back lane behind the old Green Room, and the twisted staircase in the AGO.
The energetic 32-year-old has placed love letters in cities across North America over the past seven years, including Montreal, Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary, Saint John, Washington, D.C., and a little town in Nebraska called Marquette. This is the first time, though, that the city itself has been the topic of the poems on such a massive scale.
“It’s been a big project, but it’s also allowed me to rediscover my own city,” says Zier-Vogel. “I go to these places, do these things and see how amazing they are.”
So if you’re lucky enough to spot a red-and-blue envelope dangling from a tree or taking up a subway seat, open it and find another reason – care of Zier-Vogel – to love your city.