Did You Know?
What’s in the name: The Stroll of Poets
By Leslie Dawson
Thirty years ago, at its organizational meeting, Doug Elves suggested the Stroll of Poets name because it actually was a stroll. It began as an annual event where scores of poets and listeners strolled down Whyte Avenue, from bistro to bar, from bar to bookstore, poets speaking and listeners listening to the poets read their works. Ivan Sundal recalls one meeting when someone pointed out that the word “stroll” was also used to describe “johns” looking for prostitutes. Others said, not to worry, we’ll reclaim the word for our own.
The Stroll was an annual event for nearly two decades, taking place on the first Sunday of October. The venues included car dealerships, where one dealer even claimed to have sold a car at the event. Many poets cut their teeth reading to an audience during the Stroll, including Anne Gerard Marshall, who read aloud for the first time there. Sixty-five poets read the first year, with at least two hundred in the audience, says Alice Major. Afterwards, the multitudes retired? to the No Bards Barred Bar (at the Canadian Legion). Today’s Stroll activities are “relatively sedate,” says Major, admitting, “we were a lot younger then.”
Because the annual event was a lot of work for just a few people, The Stroll evolved into a weekly event, with many volunteers, at the Upper Crust Restaurant. Now, during Covid times, it has transformed into a Zoom meeting called “Haven at Home”. But The Stroll of Poets is not just a literary trick. It really was a Stroll.