Below is the YouTube link to a video of Philip Cairns reading his poetry at The Free Times Cafe, Toronto, Canada: 






By Philip Cairns

Copyright 2011 by Philip Cairns



Thinking back to the 80s art scene in Toronto.

So much talent and optimism

Gushing onto wet, vibrant canvasses and paper.

New faces, fresh ideas.

Figurative Expressionism was the order of the day.



Painters and writers living off Canada Council grants.

Money seemed more plentiful despite a tight Recession.

Packed, exciting openings,

Crowded parties.

Hot, spinning couples churning out babies and masterpieces.



Galleries and small theatre companies springing up like mushrooms.

Where have all those bright, new faces gone?

Purple, pink and iridescent gold oozing out of tubes of paint.

Queen Street and the Cameron House seemed to be the centre of things.



You could go to 80 Spadina,

Wandering from floor to floor,

Full of galleries crammed with incredible, visionary imagery.

Charmed and surreal lights shone down on us.

Exciting theatre and writers exploding all over us,

Like the money shot in a porno film.

Now, middle age has grabbed us by the throat.

Death claimed many.



Some retreated into teaching,

But still trying to keep the flame alive.

Chroma Zone birthed a lot of energetic life, back then.

No one knew what lay ahead.



We were all gonna become art stars,

With hot-shot dealers selling our work all over the world.

Getting grants till we puked.

Hanging in the Louvre.



I miss those shimmering golden days.

We were Picasso, Liz and Dick, Brangelina, Dali.

Some fell by the wayside and disappeared.



Creating art is an Escher labyrinth.

One needs Loreena McKennitt’s yin and yang to thrive.

You have to paint the Mona Lisa, Monet’s “Water Lilies” and then float it down the lake, as well.

Where is the Canadian “Vanity Fair” or “Interview” magazine to promote us?



Leaving MOCCA, today,

Seeing all that glorious work on the walls,

And Rae Johnson and Andy Fabo,

Took me back to the summer of 1984.



Leaving the opening of “Painting Beyond the Zone” at ARC Gallery on Queen West.

Some of the same people’s work on the walls.

Walking home in the hot, refreshing night.

I had stars in my eyes and glitter on my eyelids,

Despite my crappy little part time job

And dark, Spartan, sweltering apartment.



Images of paintings swirl all around me.

Time zooms by in an elastic instant.

A time tunnel is a tragic place.



We were all part of something special.


Struggling to surface.

Pretty, slim,

Full of everything.

We thought we’d get it all.

Then life got in the way.

The real world opened the door a crack

And then rushed in, like a slow motion waterfall.



I miss seeing the light.

Life was a slurpy, wet Fudgesicle,

Oozing sugar and chocolate and wonder and hope.

Now things have changed.

Life just snuck in and throttled us while we were doing other things.