Another event probably helped the visibility of Le Hibou a great deal. Harry Howith, who organized the poetry readings on Rideau Street, had applied at that time for a Canada Council grant to bring in nationally-known poets for readings at Le Hibou. I was incredulous and sceptical, and did not think anything would come of it. But to my great astonishment, the Canada Council agreed to pay $700.00 for the seven poets to cover their expenses. Le Hibou was to pay for advertisements and provide the venue. I was overjoyed. To cover these costs, I charged only 50 cents. I wanted as many people to come to the readings as possible.
David Sutherland, a friend and a CBC graphic designer, designed a poster for the event. Our first reading was with Irving Layton on January 10th in 1962. I remember well that it was a cold and bitter evening. A large crowd patiently waited outside to be let in. We squeezed in as many as we could — 70 to 80 maybe, some standing up, but we still had as many waiting outside. I asked Irving Layton if he would agree to do a second reading, and he graciously accepted. More astonishingly, the crowd outside continued to wait, stamping their cold feet and running for coffee at the nearby restaurants to warm up.
The readings went on every Tuesday night (our regular poetry reading night at the time) till February 22. Others who followed Irving Layton and were very well received included Peter Miller, John Robert Colombo, Gwendolyn MacEwen, James Reaney, Jacques Godbout (in French), and Louis Dudek. The series went quite well and the 50 cents covered our costs. What was so heart warming was the poet’s reaction to such an enthusiastic crowd. On this special and rare occasion, the poets had the chance to connect directly with their audience. The Canada Council, along with Harry Howith, who also introduced the poets, deserve a big thank you for the series.