Toronto from the 44th Floor

Cold lulls the raindrop
dribbling down the pane
on the forty-fourth floor.


Smoke clouds curtain the sky,
underscoring the stars
that shine below. Street lights


dot swaths of pavement
like constellations too perfect
to exist naturally. Gilded


rivers of flowing headlights
snake across the vast horizon
at a honey-drizzled pace. The city


exhales a parade of brake lights.
Cars depart the cluster, hurl
towards distant porch lamps


where each bulb glows
as though it were a beacon,
a familiar source of light,


a private and faithful sun.


Ben von Jagow is a Canadian poet living in Paris.

Questions and Answers

1. How/where do you find inspiration today?

Plenty of renowned writers will tell you to read. Read frequently and read broadly. And though I fully endorse that statement, I also feel there are other ways for a writer to find creative inspiration. Music has been a phenomenal tool for me, albums especially. I like to view an album as an artist’s means of telling a story. I look at the first song in an album much in the same way I’d scrutinize the opening sentence in a book. Why begin with this song, why transition into the next, etc. At the same time, music has taught me to polish my cadence. I like to think that, over the years, I’ve developed a writerly ear. I attribute that to my familiarity with music, to rhythm and pacing. Lastly, and I think most importantly—music is food for the soul, and poetry demands soul. I listen to artists like J. Cole, Luke Combs, Riley Burns, and Jason Isbell not because they’re technically sound or their delivery is perfect, but because their message resonates with me. At the end of the day, these are individuals who want to share their stories with the world. And when I listen to their work, I become inspired to put my pen to paper and do the same.


2. As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with the Canadian poet Lynn Crosbie, and she offered some powerful advice. She gave me permission to fall in love with my work (madly and passionately). At the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I think many artists, writers especially, feel a sense of guilt for pursuing a creative craft. Maybe they feel there has to be a level of vanity to justify putting one’s thoughts onto paper. But the way I interpreted Lynn’s advice was—that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s a difference between falling in love with your work and falling in love with yourself. When it’s all said and done, the work survives; the artist does not. So, extinguish the guilt and indulge in the craft—that is your duty as an artist.

This poem “Toronto from the 44th Floor” originally appeared in Canadian Literature: 252 Canadian Literature (2023): 136.

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