Write on the Street (Re)Opens During National Poetry Month

Justin Million of Show and Tell Poetry Series and bird, buried press sits as a "writer in the window" for this iteration of Write on the Street. Photo courtesy of Jaime Boyd-Robinson.

If you’ve walked down George street recently, you may have noticed some strange happenings taking place in the windows at 388 George street. Since April 1, local writers have been seen in the windows, writing on display for all who pass by. If you’ve been wondering what on earth these people are doing, you can wonder no longer.

388 George street is the latest iteration of local artist and educator Janette Platana’s brainchild, Write on the Street. First catching Peterborough’s attention in 2015, Platana opened a writing studio in a storefront as part of Peterborough Artsweek. This was the first time Artsweek had included the art of language in their programming.

After the success of Write on the Street in 2015, Platana contacted Justin Million, who had just been featured in an Electric City Magazine article by Ann Jaeger titled “How to Start a Poetry Scene in Your Backyard.”

Platana and Million’s shared interest in fostering the growth of Peterborough’s poetry scene sparked conversations between the two about the possibility of opening up a studio like the original Write on the Street.

Almost four years later, here it is. But as Platana notes, the process hasn’t been easy: “It’s an aligning of the stars to get the landlord, the space, time, money, enthusiasm.”

Lucky for Peterborough, and thanks to Million and Platana, the stars have aligned on 388 George street, and just in time for National Poetry Month.

For Million and Platana, Write on the Street is about the visibility of and the solidarity between writers. It’s about unpacking and deconstructing the many misconceptions around writers and writing. For instance, Write on the Street is about showing the process behind the writing – the hard work that manifests in a polished final product.

“Everything that’s involved in what we’re cranking out involves process, involves sweating it out a bit, involves doing it on the spot, involves vulnerability,” Million said. “And that’s extremely important.”

Putting the process on display allows newer writers to see that even the best poets need to put a lot of work into their practice. It shows people walking down the street that anyone can write — sometimes you just have to sit down and do it.

Platana continued, “Write on the Street is a way of saying that if you’re walking and breathing, you have a right to make art.”

Million also mentioned how it is important for people to “actually see writers writing.”

“It’s known as a solitary act, something people do in their basements, corners in bars,” he explained. But for Million and Platana, so much of their best work has come out of writing in community with others.

This space aims to foster this kind of community. After its first week, the space has already welcomed over 40 local writers. They have wall space for writers to showcase the work they do in the space, including a space designated for a community-written poem.

Write on the Street also hosted a reading of “Leda and the Swan” by W.B. Yeats, during April’s First Friday Art Crawl.

Million and Platana are just getting started. They hope to keep the space open for as long as possible, and planning on offering writing workshops and readings from local poets. Wednesdays at 388 George street have been designated as a day for women and non-binary writers to occupy the space.

For more information about Write on the Street, or to find out how you can write in the window, visit their Facebook page or their Instagram. Or, stop in any weekday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They’ll be happy to take you on a tour of the space.

About Nick Taylor 37 Articles
Nick Taylor is a queer settler living and learning in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough. He is in his fourth year of an International Development and Philosophy BAH with a specialization in Ethics. His journalistic interests include politics, student affairs, gentrification and urbanism, and arts and culture. They write from the left of centre. (he/him/they/them)