Antoine Noel Corege – The Story of Leptis Magna

It was in a Bathurst St rooming house in downtown Toronto over the period of several months before the millennium that I shut myself away to assemble and complete a series of poems that I had been working on.

One of the poems from that time was ‘Leptis Magna’, a poem that had gestated over the years, on a reflection from childhood, which still held a unique poignancy for me.

Later that year, I would emerge from my self-exile, to read it along w/ a series of other poems, in the basement of Tower Records to an unfamiliar audience. I read w/ bated breath, for you see, I was quite nervous and had never read my pieces before. Afterwards two people approached me.
The first was a rather intense but friendly young dude, a guy who would later become one of my closest friends, Grey Coyote.  He told me he’d enjoyed my verse which meant a lot to me. Someone else steeped in the knowledge of Baudelaire, Cohen and Ginsberg was a novelty to me at the time and our friendship grew from there, to the imbibing emporiums of Kensington Market in the years that would follow.
The second was a lady who told me that she also knew of the house that I had described and which had evoked the poem. For her, it also held a vague air of mystery, something neither of us could quite put our finger on.

‘I’m not sure if it’s still there’, I recall her saying.

Recently, I coincided a return visit to Toronto from Belfast w/ the Writers In Exile reading but also w/ the Canadian launch of this site. A big part of my creative focus for the site has been the expansion of my concept for the ‘enhanced poem’ (you can read about it by cicking here).

My idea for incorporating an enhanced element to my poem ‘Leptis Magna’, was to return to the house described in my poem and shoot some footage of it, thus providing a suitable visual backdrop for the audio accompaniment of me reading it. I brought my camera w/ me from Belfast for this explicit purpose and was all prepared to meet up with my old friend Kip when I happened upon something.

should say, the house in the poem existed, let me first make that clear. When the woman who had approached me at the reading had shared w/ me her memory, it was the first confirmation to me that my poem was rooted in hard truth and that I was not the only person who had been affected, ruling out the possibility that the house had been an imaginative figment of a misplaced childhood. That in itself gave me some comfort and reassurance.

I had lived for a time in a part of Toronto north of Bloor to which I had rarely returned. It was always a bit too stuffy and corporate for my liking and was certainly no urban bohemia. Attending school there had felt more like a series of 90210 in which I was the token “po’ boy”. Whatever…

The exact address was what I had been looking to confirm and like a treasure map of sorts, I’d previously charted it’s rough position on a scrap from the original draft of the poem written all these years ago: Glengrove Ave W, at the corner of Duplex and Glengrove, THAT’S where it stood. It was number 53 to be precise, at Lawrence and Yonge in North Toronto.

Getting a grasp of my bearings on Google Maps in preparation for the shoot, I quickly discovered a problem.

The house of my poem, no longer appeared to be standing and in it’s place, stood a modern North Toronto edifice, remarkable only in that there was actually nothing at all remarkable about it.

I went on to read that the owner of the property, had been viewed locally as somewhat of a weirdo and that upon the owner’s death in the mid 90’s, the building had been unceremoniously levelled, much to the joy of neighbours. Chartres Cathedral it may not have been but locals had certainly not embraced its eccentricity.

‘It mangled the minds & eyes of all that was around them’

The non-descript replacement now erected in place of ‘Leptis Magna’, was far easier on the eye of course and seemingly far less of a bane, especially to those concerned w/ matters of real estate. What art had been inherent to the structure of the building and it’s aura of mystery, had been discarded w/out a thought as to any artistic merit or historical significance. There is no plaque to be found, no trace, no nothing, just a normal looking house shivering and dwarfed by the fleeting memory of this bygone aura.
So who was it that masterminded this architectural debacle or structural marvel?

Was it:

‘…dark midgets practicing new cults of fiction drinking absinthe aged a hundred years…’ ?
The trail lead me to Antoine Noel Corege, sculptor. It had been his home.

‘I often wondered whether the person responsible for it’s intense landscape was an artist creating some explicit mockery of something far beyond my years…or maybe his/her work paid testament to some strange illness’.

At this stage there is little else I know and the mystery remains.

He died and they levelled the place and his art w/out a thought, bastards…that much I  do know.  You can almost picture the property developers foaming at the mouth in septic glee at the possibilities offered by levelling the vacant property.

From my menial research, there is however one other curious trace that exists for Antoine Noel Corege, just one small remnant.

This is in the form of an application for a patent where Corege:

‘…a Canadian citizen, do hereby declare the invention, for which I pray that a patent may be granted to me, and the method by which it is to be perfonned, to be particularly described in and by the followingstatement:

This invention relates to a toy of a type which a user holds in his hand and moves skilfully to obtain a desired result.

Mechanical toys have been designed which require a user to manipulate the toy in a predetermined manner to achieve a desired result. The user must exercise his physical co-ordination and he enjoys comparing his skill with that of others who try the toy. “

The patent was sealed with this application dated August 1973 but elapsed a few years later owing to a non-payment of fees.

It exists now only in words, the grand building with the yellow brick letters that said ‘Leptis Magna’, the house that seemingly stupefied so many, myself included.  The only images that I have to share with you are those that the memories of this house evoked, the possibilities it’s mystery presented and the reflection that helped pick up the pen and write what became my prose poem from all those years ago.
So it has been however, that on the foundation of the word, that knowledge and memories have been passed down over the annals of time, where images, photos and paintings could not.

Words have the power to evoke, to repel, to capture, mimic and revel as they have always done and I am grateful to Antoine Noel Cortege for making this journey possible.

Wherever you are, whoever you were, I thank you and look forward to further traces of you coming to light.

Indeed, whatever you did, you: ‘…did not do it without committing a perfect crime’.

Do you have memories of this house or do you know anything else about Antoine Noel Corege? If so, please share in the comments area below!
References Corege, A. (1973) Wikipatents (online). Publishing info: GB1326849 A – 1973-08-15. Available from: HYPERLINK “http://www.wikipatents.com/GB-Patent-1326849/toy” http://www.wikipatents.com/GB-Patent-1326849/toy. Accessed 03/07/2011

 

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