Archive for October, 2009

October 27: Dissidents, imposters, poets and the school teachers who love them

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on October 27, 2009 by theartbar

The October 27 readings began with a clever trickster and ended with a good-natured pessimist. Nestled in-between was a woman who never gave up on childhood ambitions to be a poet.

Many thanks to Cynthia Gould, who took several wonderful photographs and interviewed poets throughout October. Things couldn’t have been left in better hands.

Stephen Humphrey

Daniel Scott Tysdal

Daniel Scott Tysdal’s writing has lyrical flair, but he seems suspicious of that talent, which might be why planted audience members interrupted the impostor who read his first poem with demanding queries about meaning and context. Daniel seems also not entirely at ease with intellectualism, which is why he made one poem into a Mad Magazine fold-in. He teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, which he apparently treats as a chance to unlearn what he knows.


Susie Berg

Spurred on by her favourite elementary-school teacher, Susie Petersiel Berg began writing poetry at the age of 10, but only returned to it seriously five years ago. Her poems are about the quirky thoughts, small moments and little heartbreaks that occur from relations between people, whether a single mom and hockey dad or a predatory Austrian father and his exploited daughter.

About her own work, Susie says, “I have joked that I write about two main topics: kids and death. When I hear a painful story, I take it very personally. So the only way for me to deal with the pain, even if it’s not my own, is to filter it by writing about it. But I think what I write most about is appearance and reality. We all think the other kids are cooler or other people have happier relationships or better jobs or an easier time of things. In reality, we have no idea what goes on in other people’s lives, so I like to explore what some of those realities might be.”


Rafi Aaron

Rafi Aaron admitted people thought his last book was a bit of a downer, but said he couldn’t come up with many laughs about atrocities of Stalinist Russia. Nonetheless, he never seemed to run short of sardonic observations while bridging his serious, lyrical poems with bone-dry wit. The Toronto Star described Rafi as a poet “who allows simple, fresh, vivid words to cut individual jewels out of the material of language.” He was also full of sensible advice. For example he told the audience, especially rapt during his reading, it was all right to breathe.



October 20: A trifecta of tale-tellers from the dreamy west coast

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on October 20, 2009 by theartbar

Poetry is often a home-town phenomenon, so it’s often a gamble out-of-town poets to stand alone in an unfamiliar city. Nonetheless, three – count ’em three – traveling Vancouver bards were greeted with enthusiasm by Art Bar regulars with a warmth that belied the dipping temperatures outside. Gentlemen, welcome to Toronto.

Photos and interviews once again by the inimitable Cynthia Gould.

Psychedelic versions by Stephen Humphrey.

George McWhirter

George McWhirter is Vancouver’s first poet Laureate. He reached that storied city by way of Belfast, Ireland, which occupies some poems in his collection, The Incorrections, and rumbles through his unmistakable speaking style and knack for a cracking good yarn.

George says his poetic mission is “to make sense out of the senses — like the cat, to get crazy leaps to fall on all five feet, then the sixth. Consider my poetry a cat with six feet.”

Here is one of his slender sonnets, which appears on Vancouver buses.


Where I ramble
By Jericho in the March
Mist and murk to take stock,
I glimpse an eagle perched
On a hemlock,
Above a bramble
Patch and rabbit that cannot dissemble
Its giddy nibbles in the grass, a pet bunny,
Its bum left to bob like a yoo-hoo to a tummy
In a tree. Fast food, it will tremble
And jerk, then clog the eagle’s throat
Without redress, like a fur
On a hamburger.


Sean McGarragle

Sean McGarragle has a serious side, and apparently he reserves it for Toronto, which he considers a tad less giggly than his adopted hometown, Vancouver. As both national slam master for Vancouver’s poetry team and a mental health and addictions worker, Sean adores what is beautiful and upbeat about Lotusland, while devoting some sad words to the poor and desperate among the city’s population.

“I tend to mix the severity of some facets of life with the comedy that gets me through my days,” is how he describes the mix.

Sean is also responsible for the longest off-season Mother’s Day greeting on record.


Chris Gilpin

In true Blakean fashion Chris Gilpin urges listeners to “put their finger in the wonder socket.” He also encourages stand-up comedians and poets to do it like the plant community and cross-pollinate. Chris wants people to spend seven dollars on the book he published with co-Vancouverite Sean McGarragle titled Seven Dollar Bill. He also strongly advises people to visit the website, which he curates, to learn all they need to know about the Vancouver poetry scene.


Psychedelic version

October 13: Dreams, dialectics and the middle of nowhere

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , on October 13, 2009 by theartbar

Cynthia Gould_1

(Photo by Stephen Humphrey)

The underslept but unflappable Cynthia Gould is pictured here doing her signature hostess kung-fu, as she tries to elicit a ‘whoo-hoo!’ from the audience for Clinton’s sweet potato fries.

Allan Safarik

(Photo by Stephen Humphrey)

For a guy from the west coast who resides in a tiny Saskatchewan town, Allan Safarik has a lot of memories of Toronto, many of them based not far from Clinton’s. His poems are populated with characters, whether they be rural folk, big city folk or Can-lit giants, who happen to be old friends, such as Dorothy Livesay and Milton Acorn.



(Photo by Cynthia Gould)

Writer and filmmaker Leanne Averbach took a detour from her path to becoming a poet into radical leftist politics. Her poems reflect a number of social concerns along with an unmistakable passion for living.


John Barton

(Photo by Stephen Humphrey)

Poet and editor John Barton can’t help seeing fish as flesh, dreams as sex and spies in his hallway. He also can’t sit down with a menu without correcting it. His ninth collection of poems, Hymn, was published this fall.



(Photo by Cynthia Gould)

October 6: Poets get intimate with immensity and Menudo

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , on October 6, 2009 by theartbar

The adage about finding a busy person to get things done is true in spades of the incredible Cynthia Gould, who already performs a whole range of duties for the Art Bar while juggling a busy professional life (not to mention a three-piece garage band) she also handled the interviews, recording, etc. for the blog this week. See her wonderful photographs.

Myna Wallin

The lovely and luminous Myna Wallin hosted the evening with her usual aplomb.

George Fetherling

The ever-quotable George Fetherling keeps a dream diary, can write legibly in the dark and knows no amber – only green and red. His most recent poetry collection is Singer, An Elegy with Anvil Press. Random House will publish his new novel, Walt Whitman’s Secret, later this year.


Anne Compton

Poet and poetry scholar Anne Compton read selections from her book, Asking Questions Indoors and Out, which  argues with god, portrays dream life as travel and views many sides of love, including the grisly side, through the lens of maturity.


Salvador Alanis

Salvador Alanis hails from northern Mexico, but lives in Toronto, where he works as a translator for Spanish-language publishing houses. He says he’s interested in the idea of lip-syncing – of letting his poems, translated from Spanish, speak through other people’s voices. Throughout his reading, Salvador conscientiously credited the translators of his verse.

In conversation with Cynthia he spoke about length about the former boy group Menudo and how, literally by accident, he fell into visual art.