I was fifteen walking around St. Jacobs with my parents, when I saw a sign advertising a used bookstore. Like most used bookstores that I’ve seen, it came out of nowhere, a diamond in the rough, like a random service station off the highway just as you’re running out of gas. It was the best thing that could have happened to me that day.
I asked my dad to pick out a few books that he had read when he was younger, as I grew up reading his old favorites and found that we shared a very similar taste in literature; J.D Salinger, Ayn Rand, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Boris Pasternak, Tolkein, Burgess, the list is endless. But for me, my favorite writer has always been my dad. As a little girl, I thought the world of him (and still do). I never bothered to ask who inspired him, but on that day in that bookstore, I found out.
He handed me a copy of Leonard Cohen’s collection of songs and poems called Stranger Music. Of course, being Canadian, I had heard of Cohen before and was no stranger to his music (oh, the irony). I wasn’t aware, however, that he was also a poet, which was a profession that I regarded at the time to be of utmost desire and importance.
I remember the exact moment that it hit me, one of the most important moments of my life. We were driving home and I was reading in the backseat. The poem was called, “I Had it For a Moment.” I was stuck on this verse:
I’ve lost why I began this
I wanted to talk about your eyes
I know nothing about your eyes
and you’ve noticed how little I know
I want you somewhere safe
far from high offices
I’ll study you later
So many people want to cry quietly beside you
I was only fifteen, and I knew nothing about love. I hadn’t experienced it and while I had heard of it, I couldn’t tell you if I thought it was real or not. Until that moment. Nothing ever made so much sense to me than when I read those lines, and I knew instantaneously that this man was in love. He felt it, he wrote it, he believed it- and I believed him. I knew in that moment that love existed, and I spend the rest of that car-ride and the next five years, looking forward to finding it for myself.
One of the most beautiful things about poetry, I find, is how you can read a poem and without direct references or name-dropping, you can see who the poet was inspired by. I’ve been writing poetry since I was 8, and people always said that they could see my father writing through me. But perhaps my greatest satisfaction came when he read a poem I wrote not too long ago, and he said that it reminded him of Leonard Cohen. Then we both started talking about that used bookstore and he said, ‘I think that was the moment that you became a writer.’
And it was. It was a moment of absolute certainty in myself and in poetry. But more than that, it was the moment that I started to fall in love.