Archive for July, 2009

July 28: Humour in loss and rock ‘n roll in poetry

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , , on July 28, 2009 by theartbar

Duncan Armstrong

Duncan Armstrong was the first reader of the evening, bringing his kinetic energy and satirical humour to the stage. He has published several chapbooks including Lament for Anna Nicole & Shooting off Sparks. Duncan describes his own style as “urban as opposed to traditional CanLit” and his technique “a welter of narcissism, superstition & habit.”

He had the audience laughing and totally engaged in his reading, even bringing out beatboxer SoulFistikato to back one of his poems.


Spoken-word artist and human beatbox SoulFistikato


Catherine Graham

Bubbles at the end of red stems.
The illusion of looking out is looking in.
~”Doll’s EyesThe Red Element (Insomniac Press, 2008)

Catherine Graham, the author of three acclaimed poetry collections, took the stage second. Of her most recent book, The Red Element, writer Angela Hibbs says, “Sticking to the poetic doctrine less is more, this collection is a tour de force in minimalism.” Graham’s work captivated the audience, packing an emotional punch into these short poems, deftly conveying both melancholy and humour. Graham turned to poetry as a result of “loss and grief” as she describes it, and “as a way of capturing the people and places [she’s] loved.” Her poems have a quiet and unmistakable power. She still manages to find humour within the sadness, describing her parents’ idiosyncrasies and fragments of memories from childhood, like her mother’s “piano face.”


Chris Doda

Chris Doda, the evening’s dapper closer—wearing all black save a white blazer—read from his most recent collection, Aesthetics Lesson (Mansfield Press). D.C Reid writes of this book “Christopher Doda’s glosas are… my search for superlatives comes up short.” Doda is also the author of Among Ruins (Mansfield Press), an award-winning critic, and an editor for Exile: The Literary Quarterly and Exile Editions. And he is the book reviewer for Studio, an online poetry journal. Doda read a substantial sampling of new work, full of his characteristic acerbic wit, wordplay, and a dense layering of both political and social commentary. The audience was so absorbed in Doda’s poems, that even the intrusion of someone’s cell-phone couldn’t pull us out of the reverie.

In Doda’s own words his goals are: “to practice poetry as both an art and a craft, wanting to take on the attendant uses and misuses of language in our contemporary society and distill them down into poetry, all the time with an eye to the past, to foundational myths and stories, that can be fed into and reinvigorated in the present. With every poem I want to feel like I’ve bitten off a piece of the world.”


– Myna Wallin


July 21: Three women

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , , on July 21, 2009 by theartbar

Three women who write poetry in extraordinarily different approaches complimented each-other wonderfully at the Art Bar on July 21.

One addressed people in her life in personal, declarative verses, another quietly voiced tiny and towering truths in softly-spoken, zen-like poems, while another found comic mileage in princess stories gone horribly wrong.

Nashira Dernesh

Nashira Dernesch‘s poems confront love, death and the everyday with honesty, unvarnished sincerity and kindness. She claims the goal of her poetry is “to make a feast of all her losses.” The poems from her chapbooks, It’s No Secret You’ll Feel Better and This Snowing Under are full of personal history. Nashira dedicated the reading to her sister, Shannon, who was on hand to listen for the first time.


Souvankham Thammavongsa

Once again, Souvankham Thammavongsa proved that neither a loud voice nor towering stature were required to command the attention of a room as she presented compact, keenly-crafted poems which focus on both the minute and the cosmic. Souvankham says the architecture of her verse concentrates on “material, proportion, and balance.”

Her 2007 poetry collection, Found, is now a short film.


Sandra Kasturi

Poet, publisher and soon-to-be novelist Sandra Kasturi delivered an animated, frequently irreverent performance of work that drew on genres such as science-fiction, horror, fairy tales (the earlier, gut-level kind, before the Disney treatment), a hint of Gothic, bodice-ripping romance, along with a generous dollop of kitchen-sink humour. Young mistress, behave!


– Stephen Humphrey

July 14: Poets explore inner and outer landscapes

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , on July 14, 2009 by theartbar

Setting is considered a staple of Canadian poetry.

The featured poets on July 14 surveyed sweeping Ontario landscapes, the city of Toronto with its occasional grandeur, lingering poverty and troubling lack of bathhouses, and, of course, emotional landscapes, charted by family, friends and strangers that people our lives.

Desi Di Nardo

Desi Di Nardo‘s poems have graced official Canadian residences, appeared on Starbucks coffee cups and and been displayed the Toronto subway. Many of her poems reflect a love of nature and the outdoors. Complex feelings and nuanced speculations on life and death are explored through observations of plants, trees, animals and lakes.


Paulos Ioannou

Paulos Ioannou was born in Cyprus. After authoring four full-length collections in Greek, Ioannou decided to write in English, which he’s done for the past four years. His writing, originally inspired by the inter-communal strife between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, is marked by a longing for justice. His poems address issues such as war, poverty and human rights.


Lauren Carter

Lauren Carter made the trek from Orillia to Toronto to deliver poems set around Northern Ontario, which often address family members and other figures from her own life. She is currently working on a novel.


– Stephen Humphrey

July 7, 2009: Sci Fi poetry, painter poet and fast-talking Brits

Posted in Art Bar Poetry, Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on July 7, 2009 by theartbar

The Art Bar‘s usual eclecticism was in full effect on July 7, 2009. Poems drew on themes ranging from the personal to the cosmic. A widely-published veteran author was followed by a poet who refuses to be published in print altogether.

Francine Lewis

Art Bar board member, poet and sci fi fan Francine Lewis began the night with delicately crafted verses that drew on imagery from mythology and science.

Katerina Fretwell

Painter and poet Katerina Fretwell ranged between humourous and poignant as she drew on life experience and a highly visual imagination.

MC Jabber and Jem Rolls

British performance poet Jem Rolls turned up hoarse-voiced from multiple Fringe performances and a bout of the flu. Luckily his fast-talking mate, MC Jabber was on hand as relief poet.


Jem Rolls has been returning to Toronto, and the Toronto Fringe Festival for nearly a decade in good health and bad.

MC Jabber

Brit performance poet MC Jabber comes by his name honestly. Between sharp breaths he recites faster than most humans think. He presented his own one-man show at the Toronto Fringe.

– Stephen Humphrey


Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2009 by theartbar

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~ Cynthia