In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.” Everyone Rides the Bus in a City of Losers is about wandering Montreal’s streets, with an eye on the storefronts and alley cats, and one foot already in the nearest dive bar. From a series of poems about every station on the Metro to music venues long shut down, it’s sometimes fantastical, nostalgic, funny, and even joyful — a sucker for landmarks, always looking out for glimpses of the Farine Five Roses sign, the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the cross on Mont-Royal, and anything still neon.
Montreal’s rich literary tradition is celebrated: A.M. Klein, Leonard Cohen, Heather O’Neill, Gail Scott, Richard Suicide, and Gaston Miron all make their way into the poems. The book also ventures from the hip hot spots of The Plateau and Mile End to Verdun, Côte-des-Neiges, NDG, St-Henri, Petite-Patrie, and Ahuntsic. A restless spirit propels the text further and further into new neighborhoods, but always returns downtown.
This is a book about those who’ve seen the city turn its back on them and leave them out in the cold. Who get lost in boroughs east and west. Who get lonely, garble their French, and never manage to find a seat at their favorite coffee shop. In Jason Freure’s psychogeography, everyone’s a flaneur. And everyone rides the bus.
Freure leads an unorthodox tour through his Montreal in a nostalgic, irreverent debut collection arranged according to the city's metro. Simultaneously flaneur and commuter ("a young man with a notebook"), Freure brings fragments of time and place together in a profound record of lived experience. "I walked into suds bars and tap rooms. I played their VLTs,/ I sampled their eighteen beers, I listened to their patrons complain," he writes. This is a geography of a living city whose multiple axes intersect downtown. "The mountain is not the city's heart," Freure explains; if anything is, it's the transit system pulsing through both the city and the man. This is the quotidian, the minutiae of the unremarkable becoming remarkable in its singularity. Indeed, the collection's title is a nod to a Margaret Thatcher quote, an ironic appropriation that reflects the confraternity of the man on the street, the man of the city. Montreal is Freure's Paterson, and he knows the city's music scenes, literary inheritance, seedy bars, and everything else: "I write their biographies in bric-a-brac, I am a preservationist,/ a curator in the museum of obsolete purchases." Freure reveals the breathing city that, in many ways, is constituted of every one of its denizens.