An Invitation to contribute to a book of anecdotes and reflections, Jack Layton: Art and Action

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Penn Kemp Penn Kemp's picture
An Invitation to contribute to a book of anecdotes and reflections, Jack Layton: Art and Action

An invitation to join us in celebrating Jack Layton in a new book..., Contributions and pre-orders very welcome!


Dear Friend:

I am writing a book of anecdotes about Jack Layton and his involvement with arts and culture. My working title is Jack Layton: Art and Action. I am looking for stories, from a paragraph to a page or two, on encounters with Jack in the many arts and cultures that intrigued him. Each contributor will receive a copy. I'm also seeking pieces on how Jack has continued to influence our lives and our activism; how his spirit has stayed with people since his death last August. Jack inspired me personally to move from performance poet to poet activist. Like so many others, I still strongly feel his motivating spirit inspiring this book project in particular! His support of and interest in arts and cultures in Canada underlay his politics. Throughout his long municipal and federal political life, Jack welcomed and encouraged everyone to become an activist to effect change. Now the time has certainly come!

Olivia Chow endorses this work, as does his family. She writes: "I heartily encourage folks to send Penn your stories of Jack's relationship with, and his support of the arts. This project is a great opportunity to share our stories about how Jack and the NDP celebrated our Canadian cultures and what we must do together to continue this great relationship. You know he loved to make music and we loved to dance!"

Let us reclaim, restore and rejuvenate the Canada we love! My main aim in Jack Layton: Art and Action is to encourage folks not to abandon politics but to keep positively proactive just as Jack did. He was a strong supporter of our many Canadian cultures that offer us such diversity and perspective. As Jack would say, Never turn down an opportunity to serve! I first met Jack when I lived on Toronto Island through the Seventies, fighting City Hall to "Save Island Homes". Fifteen years ago, I became part of his extended family: my husband's brother is married to Jack's sister Nancy. Jack warmly welcomed me with his customary inclusivity. I called him my outlaw; he called me sister.

Arrangements are being made with the well-respected publisher, Quattro Books, to produce the book. Appropriately, Quattro Books is a publisher that wishes to reflect the unique cultural character and dynamism of Canada now: what it has been and what it is in the process of becoming. Quattro would produce a book of about 150 pages, including some photographs, in time to celebrate May 2, the anniversary of the New Democratic Party becoming the official opposition. I will finish collecting the rest of the material for the book by the end of August and then edit it, with Allan Briesmaster as support editor and liaison with Quattro. On Jack's birthday, July 18, and on August 22, the day he died, we will post PDF sample chapters from the work-in-progress, Jack Layton: Art and Action.

The list price will be $25 per book but pre-orders are only $20. They will be available early next spring from Quattro. The project hinges on having a means of ensuring that the production costs would be covered: one way of financing would be through pre-ordering copies. An alternative would be monetary contributions from individual sponsors. Quattro will retain copies which could be ordered directly by bookstores and by the public through their distributor, LitDistCo. A webpage with more information on Jack Layton: Art and Action is on

Do join me in celebrating Jack's ongoing influence! I look forward to receiving your contribution before August 31. Each contributor will receive a copy of the book. Please contact me asap at [email protected]. For pre-orders, please contact Quattro Books, 382 College Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1S7; Email: [email protected]. Phone: 416-419-3541 (till August), 647-748-7484(fromAugust1).

As Jack would unblushingly say, In solidarity! Let us celebrate this great man.


Penn Kemp is London`s inaugural Poet Laureate. She recently received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for her contributions to Canadian arts and culture from NDP MP Irene Mathyssen. She is the League of Canadian Poets' newest honorary Life Member.

525 Canterbury Road, London Ontario N6G 2N5 519 434 8555


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