‘I write to be brought into the world’

Montrealer José Acquelin, left, has a different take on life – as one might expect of a poet. He recited some of his poetry and expressed his thoughts on writing when he attended a benefit recently at York’s Glendon College. Dominique Millette, a York alumna (Glendon BA ‘89), sent this account of the event:

A fixture on the scene in Montreal for many years now, José Acquelin came to Toronto to recite his poetry for the benefit of the Société des écrivains de Toronto (SET), the French-language Toronto Writers’ Society, on May 6 at Glendon College. It was the last event of the school year for SET, which will resume activities in September.

“I wasn’t brought into the world to write. I write to be brought into the world,” Acquelin said to describe his motivation for creating poetry. “There is only one true art. It’s the art of living. All other arts converge towards it. And what is the art of living? It’s to learn how to die.” If art is a form of medicine, he added, “it isn’t to be ‘more’ but to be better.”

Acquelin is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Tout va rien, Le Piéton immobile (Hexagone, 2000), LB oj finit la terre (Les Herbes Rouges, 1999) and L’oiseau respirable (Les Herbes Rouges,1995). His book Jaune Rouge Bleu garnered the Grand Prix des Métiers d’Art du Québec 2000. During 2000, he was the invited writer in residence for the Casa del Escritor in Mexico.

Fans of Franco-Ontarian literature would be interested to learn that Patrice Desbiens is one of the authors who made an impression on José Acquelin and encouraged him to become a poet.

However, the oriental presence appears the most important: in the work of this Québec poet, one can read several quotes by Rumi and Attan. Omar Khayyam was also an influence.

SET’s literary evening also featured readings by Cécile Cloutier, Claudette Gravel, Marguerite Andersen, Lélia Young, Lara Chemali, Simone Sakoun and Dominique Millette. There was also an exhibition of the artwork of Simone Sakoun. The event was organized by York Professor Lelia Young, Department of French Studies, Faculty of Arts, and sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts.