Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

Nick Mount


Winter 2019 - Mount

The Return of Beauty


You find one on Madison Street, near Pike, beyond the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. It hovers on the wall of a makeshift parking lot, over exhaust, rust, old tags. It shouldn’t be here, but there it is – a hummingbird. Life-size and lifelike, put in flight by the old painter’s tricks of shadow and light. You could have thought it real but for its colours, which come from art, not nature – from the graffiti behind it, its backdrop and its ancestor. Its creator says he wants the bird to give pause, and that’s just what it does. Give pause. Because here, in an ugly corner of an ugly city, within choking distance of the wreckage of an ugly act, you have found the opposite of ugly. Here, beauty is back.

This article first appeared in Queen’s Quarterly 115/2 (Summer 2008).


Nick Mount is a professor of English at the University of Toronto. His most recent book is the national bestseller Arrival: The Story of CanLit.