Valentine’s Day poetry event at Union Station intrigues local commuters

By Alexander Sowa

‘Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines’ lets travellers get a personalized love poem written by one of nine professional Toronto poets

Union Station passersby were encouraged to engage in early Valentine’s Day festivities by allowing Toronto poets to personalize a poem for them.

Commuters and visitors were invited to sit down, enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate and doughnuts while the poets did their work.

“You sit with a person in an intimate space, at a desk. Not across the desk, but together. And you just ask them questions. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart? What do you think of when you think of train travel?” said Kate Marshall Flaherty, organizer of the event.

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Flaherty continued to explain what the participants could expect at the end of their session with their Toronto poet.

“Eventually, as any poet will tell you, you get an image or a spark or an idea, and then you write for a minute or two. And then you read it to the traveller. Even amongst ourselves when we did it, it was very powerful. I can only imagine what it must be like for an unsuspecting traveller,” she said.

Hannah Martin, a marketing company owner, said that it was interesting to have someone attentively listen to what they had to say, as well having questions posed to them that people would not normally ask.

“(The poets) ask you questions … like ‘What is it in your life that’s going on that you need this for?’ And then you have to think about it,” said Martin.

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, one of the poets, described the writing process as wonderful and intimate.

“It feels like you create a space very quickly where people aren’t strangers anymore, very fast. But it’s tough because with only a couple of questions, you have to get a whole bunch of images to put in the poem,” he said.

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Chloe Catan, the public art program manager for Waterfront Toronto, said that she gained a great admiration for the poets.

“I decided that I wanted to give my husband a poem for Valentine’s Day. I told Dominique the story of how we met in Mexico City. He listened to me for a few minutes, and then wrote a beautiful poem. I’m really happy,” said Catan.

‘A big first step’

The event, “Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines” was presented by the League of Canadian Poets.

According to Ayesha Chatterjee, the league’s former president, they are a “non-profit organization whose mandate is to encourage and promote poetry in Canada, as well as Canadian poets.”

This event is the first of its sort to be held by the league. “We usually don’t do events. Usually what we do is we’re in the background, we help to provide funding, we tweet, we use social media, we do stuff like that. We have an annual lecture at a conference, but this is the first time we’ve done anything quite like this. It’s a big first step,” said Chatterjee.

Flaherty emphasized that it was important for the poets involved to be from Toronto and showcase diversity.

“We really tried to have a cross-section of Toronto, which I think is the most multicultural, most diverse population in the world. It’s really important that we covered a microcosm of the world in Toronto,” said Flaherty.

The nine poets involved are all Toronto residents - Lesley Belleau, Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Ronna Bloom, Michael Fraser, Suparna Ghosh, Jessica Hiemstra, Max Layton, Rajinderpal Pal and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

The Right Time

Flaherty said that she was inspired to create the event in 2017 after being sent a video of “The Poet Is In,” a similar event that was held at Grand Central Station in New York.

Since Union Station had just been renovated, she said that they were working hard in order to make it accessible, arts friendly and community wide.

Flaherty said that she hopes to make this an annual event and that they are working with Union Station to make it happen.

If you are interested in more events like this at Union Station, you can view a full calendar of all the free activities they offer at torontounion.ca/event.

New food options available for commuters as Union Food Court opens

By Severina Chu

Commuters now have a variety of new and tasty meal options with the opening of the Union Food Court at Toronto’s Union Station.

Part of the Union Station revitalization project, construction for the food court was first approved in 2009 and originally scheduled to be completed by 2015. Several delays later, the food court finally opened in late November of 2018.

It is located on the lower level of the GO York Concourse and offers 10 new food retailers and seating for up to 600 people. Many of the food vendors offer meals that cost $15 or less which allows students to grab a bite to eat before class, work, or on their way home.

The Union Food Court offers food from local vendors around the city. While commuters can still buy from familiar chains like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and Pizza Pizza, they now have the option of choosing healthier and more culturally diverse meals. Here’s a closer look at what’s on the menu.

Loaded Pierogi

In its newest Toronto location, this retailer serves the traditional Polish dumpling dish with a twist. Customers can get pierogies, either fried or boiled, loaded with various meat and vegetable toppings.

One of Loaded Pierogi's vegetarian options, Baba's Classic ($9) is topped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and green onions. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

One of Loaded Pierogi's vegetarian options, Baba's Classic ($9) is topped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and green onions. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Bangkok Buri

Inspired by the street food served in Bangkok, Bangkok Buri serves traditional Thai cuisine with a modern influence. The menu includes noodles, rice, and salad dishes, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian choices.

Roywoods

Known for being an authentic taste of the Caribbean, this established Toronto business has now made its way to Union Station. They are well-known for their jerk chicken, which they offer either in a platter meal or on a sandwich with Jamaican coco bread.

The jerk chicken sandwich ($10) is served on Jamaican coco bread and comes with a beverage. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The jerk chicken sandwich ($10) is served on Jamaican coco bread and comes with a beverage. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Paramount Fine Foods

Paramount Fine Foods is serving up authentic Lebanese cuisine, including classics like shawarma and falafel served in a wrap, on rice, or on salad. The Union Station location also offers fresh bread and house-made sweets.

Scaccia

A family-owned and operated Italian restaurant in Toronto, Scaccia has expanded its brand to a quick service location. The scaccia, a stuffed flat bread from Sicily, is made with various combinations of meats, vegetables, and cheeses that makes for the perfect meal on-the-go.

Scaccia has a wide range of good eats, from hearty meat and cheese sandwiches to lighter vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Scaccia has a wide range of good eats, from hearty meat and cheese sandwiches to lighter vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Shanghai 360°

Shanghai 360° serves dishes typical of northern Chinese cuisine. With familiar Chinese takeout favourites such as fried rice and dumplings, the Union Station location also offers a noodle bar with your choice of noodle and soup base.

Sushi Shop

Despite the simple name, Sushi Shop is not your traditional Japanese menu. Here you can get sushi in creative forms, such as burgers, tacos, and burritos, along with unique flavour combinations.

The Union Food Court is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.