Peter Hrastovec’s Expressive and
Vivid Volume of Poetry Will Real You In
Story by Karen Tinsley
Photography by Ted Kloske
While many poets are influenced and inspired by society and world issues, the evocative words and imagery in There Will Be Fish originate from deep within the heart and mind of Peter Hrastovec.
And while Edgar Allen Poe said, “Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words,” Hrastovec’s poetry nurtures and nourishes the soul. Much like fish, his words vary in shape, size, colour and texture. They float, frolic and soothe with a sense of awe and wonder.
There Will Be Fish is Hrastovec’s third volume of poetry, all published locally by Black Moss Press. The first, In Lieu of Flowers was published in 2012; the second, Sidelines was published in 2015. In 2017, Hrastovec was one of Windsor’s “Group of Seven Poets” published in the anthology Because We Have All Lived Here (created to commemorate Windsor’s 125th anniversary).
The delicate, colourful fishing lure gracing the front cover gives just a subtle hint of the substantial, satisfying words within.
Hrastovec credits the late Louis K. “Kim” MacKendrick, Ph.D., his English Professor at the University of Windsor, “a wonderfully gifted teacher who came alive in the classroom”, for defining poetry for him as “a high energy construct”. “This made sense to me and fueled my thinking and passion for this literary art form”.
Peter’s undergraduate degree is in Honours English Language and Literature where he was present on the President’s Role of Scholars each year. At the University of Windsor Law School, he received accolades and recognition as a member of the outstanding class of 1982.
He credits his parents, dad Stjepan and mother Antica, who immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia in the 1950s, for his work ethic. Stjepan, a journalist and himself a poet, fled the country amid disturbing political upheaval.
The family, including Hrastovec’s older sister, re-established themselves in Canada, where Stjepan was forced to take on janitorial work. He later became head of housekeeping at a local hospital where Antica worked as a clerk.
“We lived very modestly, but I always felt like I was the richest guy in town because of my parents’ love of the arts, literature and culture. There was always something exciting going on at home,” Hrastovec recalls.
He was called to the bar in 1984; after a progressively successful career in practice Hrastovec joined Shibley Righton LLP as an associate partner in 2014. Most of his work is focused on employment and labour as well as commercial litigation.
“It just so happens, I fell in love with workplaces,” he laughs.
A prolific writer, Hrastovec not only writes poetry. He was a frequent contributor and editor of Caveat (a local law journal) and other publications. He has lectured on behalf of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) and other legal institutions and is a sessional instructor at the University of Windsor and University of Detroit Mercy. In September 2009, he was honoured by the Law Society of Upper Canada with their Law Society Medal for his contributions to community and legal practice.
Hrastovec is fluent in both English and Croatian. He and his wife Denise, who is a Partner at Baker Tilly Windsor LLP, have three children. He is enthusiastic about supporting his community; he is past president of the Windsor Symphony Society, Past President of the Rotary Club of Windsor (1918) and was Honorary Co-Chair of the local United Way Campaign and many other local organizations. Hrastovec and Denise were recognized by the Jewish Nation Fund as recipients of the Negev Award in 2013.
A true Renaissance man, in addition to writing poetry, Hrastovec has performed in local community theatre productions and coached soccer.
There Will Be Fish celebrates life, love, family, friendship, hopes, dreams and discoveries. The poems embrace eclectic themes and locations (baseball stadiums, jazz clubs, a doctor’s office, street scenes both across the street and across the world). Drawing upon the recent past, from pre-pandemic travels to Croatia and the islands of Dalmatia to the pleasures (and pitfalls) of cottage life on Pelee Island, Hrastovec takes you on an exciting emotional journey—comprising the joys of skinny dipping, coming of age moments and poignant memories of love, loss and landscapes.
You can almost feel the sea mist on your face as the title poem transplants you to the deck of an Adriatic fishing vessel, complete with all the sights, sound and smells:
When we awoke,
the sea had been at work,
secreting its oily scents under a searing sun,
while gently nudging our buoyant vessel,
In the galley of delights,
cook reinvents breakfast,
while the crew above deck
scrub away the daily saline,
primed for captain’s orders
and plotting to pirate
their next shore leave.
The steward works in solitude,
polishing to perfection
his family of wine glasses.
Sleep sober, I stumble in
with my daily query:
“Hoće li biti ribe?”
“Will there be fish?”
“Naravno!”, his reply.
“Bit će ribe… i veći dio toga.”
“There will be fish…and much of it”.
In “This Is a Poem to Say I’m Sorry” Hrastovec chronicles his deep, abiding love for his parents and his late sister Jadranka; “Slip Rock Song” is a heartwrenching ode to his cousin and friend Damir.
The slower pace of the past few years has afforded this Windsor-born-and-raised bard the opportunity to pause and reflect on what is truly vital in his life. Hrastovec has crafted personal reflections with language and imagery that “hook” a reader’s attention.
Peter Hrastovec has a lust for life and a generosity of spirit that shines through every poem.