Jul 2, 2014

Onto Toronto - Toronto's First Berlin-Style Poetry Collective

Photo: Annina Luzie Schmid

When I first came to Berlin in 2007, I didn't know anyone. I had just quit a depressing internship with a large corporation in Munich. A city that I, on top of hating my job, never warmed up to. Its topography didn't make sense, and to this day the sexist culture that is its yearly Oktoberfest brings tears to my eyes.  Instead of fulfilling nonsensical formatting requests, I wanted to write. I didn't want to move outlines by two millimeters, I wanted to enter short story competitions and blog on Words On A Watch

For a while, family friends had been offering me their holiday home in Berlin as a writing space. They didn't want any rent and said Berlin was the perfect place for young poets. Self-absorbed and clueless as I was, I didn't see the perks of writing groups and didn't believe that Berlin had much more to offer than my hometown Frankfurt. Surely, Frankfurt was famous for its airport and financial district rather than its literary scene, but I had visited Berlin before and could barely remember anything other than Brandenburg Gate and the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall. And yet, I had five months to kill before grad school and nowhere else to go. 

Thus, I moved onto the border between Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain. From there, I set out on long BVG trips to find other writers. Armed with a paper map and the most recent edition of zitty, I travelled from one literary event to the next. After two weeks or so, I found Lauter Niemand, a 'literature lab'. At the time it was headed, amongst others, by Adrijana Bohocki, a fellow poet. Little did I know that Lauter Niemand was the creative hub for a number of now famous contemporary German poets: Steffen Popp, Daniel Falb, Ann Cotten, Monika Rinck, Ron Winkler, and Hendrik Jackson, to name but a few. 

Thanks to Adrijana's encouragement, I spent a lot of time writing. And discussing my writing, too. I had never shared my work with other authors before, let alone with such talented ones. Our weekly workshop sessions helped me understand the importance of continuous advice and support in the development of some one's voice. Writers need encouragement. Female writers especially benefit from the patronage and promotion offered by established networks.  

Last fall, I got the chance to attend one of Donna Stonecipher's poetry workshops in Berlin. This was shortly before I moved to Toronto, and posed another great opportunity to focus on my writing and get competent and valuable feedback on it. 

Here in Canada, I miss a place like that; I miss discussing other people's work as much as the discipline that comes with regular writing homework. In the hopes to find like-minded people, I launched Onto Toronto today, Toronto's first Berlin-inspired poetry and literature collective. Besides frequent writing groups, I would like to teach and host workshops, organize readings, and of course, publish the free magazine that the Onto Toronto blog will hopefully become. 

For this to work, Onto Toronto needs participants. If you are a writer, or know of someone who might be interested in sharing their work, please let them know that we are currently accepting submissions (find out more on how to submit original work here). You do not need to live in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area to be considered for publication - just write a poem, a story, or submit a photo!  

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