On canned writing

Did you know toilet lit is a thing? My friend Bridget kept an Instagram page that ended up a book of photos on called “What’s Written in the Ladies”. I find it fascinating. I particularly like the exchanges. My favourite was in a restroom at York University where I wasted 40,000 bones on a creative writing degree. It read, “JESUS SAVES!” and below someone had put a smiley with a response: “But Allah puts in the rebound.” It’s nice to laugh as you poop. The Millions has an essay on the form.

Photo by Bridget Canning

What qualifies as urinal lit? Well, technically it’s anything that someone is brave enough to scribble on a bathroom wall. I’ll admit, most of these scribbles are nonsense, as alcohol fuels a tremendous amount of urinal lit (though the same could be said, I suppose, for lit lit). Urinal lit often has a sense of urgency, as well as a clarity typically reserved for a form like haiku. The best urinal lit uses an economy of language that makes Raymond Carver seem positively prolix. The urgency of urinal lit comes from the necessary brevity of scrawling a message in a public place without being seen. Given the amount of graffiti in bar bathrooms, I’m amazed I’ve never actually caught anyone in the act.

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