Archive for December, 2009

December 15: Several novel selections on Dead Poets Night

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2009 by theartbar

The Art Bar generally likes to celebrate vibrant and living poets, but once a year we make a little bit of room for the deceased.

This year, for some reason, a number of our poet guests reached a little further than usual into the attic of cultural memory and dusted off several unexpected cultural nick-knacks, many of them by authors better known as novelists.

The strange, disembodied sounds of the Beatles, Rush and the Tragically Hip permeated the reading. Their decidedly unsupernatural cause was eventually discovered, much to this writer’s embarrassment. Sometimes our gadgets turn on us, especially when we don’t turn them off.

Stephen Humphrey

David Clink

Either out of graciousness, love of literature or morbid curiosity, Rowers Pub series organizer and one-time Art Bar overseer David Clink again returned to host Dead Poets night.

Lisa Young

Lisa Young presented the supernaturally-themed poem “Earthbound” by “Highwayman” author Alfred Noyes, appropriately using a ghost story to kick off a night of dead poets.


Nik Beat

Nik Beat, a long-time fan of the Romantics,  read poems by George Gordon Byron, the club-footed English baron better known as Lord Byron from a big, handsomely-bound book.


Violet Fodor

New mother and poet-novelist Alison Pick read a creation by Al Purdy appropriately titled “The Dead Poet“.

Edward Fenner

Poet and communications consultant Edward Fenner read from two clever curmudgeons of letters, Stephen Leacock and Mark Twain.

Violet Fodor

Violet Fodor read material by the much revered and long-lived American poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

Francine Lewis

Poet and budding sci fi novelist Francine Lewis read some curious rhyming poems by adventure writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who influenced her since childhood.


Kurt Zubatiuk

Kurt Zubatiuk takes home the prize for dressing the part for reading the work of his selection, the 20th-Century Ukranian poet Anna Akhmatova. He heartily toasted the anti-Stalinist writer with quaffs of vodka.


Phoebe Tsang

Keeping with the trend of trotting out verse written by fiction writers, recent feature Phoebe Tsang presented  three prose poems by Ernest Hemmingway, written to preface his stories.


Dane Swan

Dane Swan is a poet who straddles the worlds of music and straight-up writing, which was reflected by his choice, folk singing legend Odetta, who passed away last year. “She considered herself more a historian than an artist,” he said, “which to me makes her a poet.”


Clara Blackwood

Clara Blackwood added a touch of old-school decadence to the night when she presented poems by French Romantic, Orientalist, proto-surrealist and hashish advocate Gerard De Nerval.

Catherine Graham

Waxing lyrical about the emerald isle, but not to the point of breaking into song, Catherine Graham read selections from Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh.


Rocco de Giacomo

Rocco de Giacomo saw fit to regale the winter-bound audience with that hoary old rhyming tale of the wild frozen north by Robert W. Service, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew“.


Nashira Dernesch

Nashira Dernesch presented a case study in merging the concerns of science an poetry via the words of Czech poet, essayist and immunologist Miroslav Holub.


Ray Hsu

The letter H is brought to you today by Ray Hsu, who read poems by Martin Heidegger and Homer. Congratulations to Ray for making the difficult choice between Heidegger (“What a jerk!”) and Einstein, and for braving the potentially infinite regressions of classics in translation.¬† Additional congrats for being the first Art Bar feature to conduct the reading entirely from his iPhone.


Heather Cadsby

Author and longtime pillar of the Art Bar Heather Cadsby closed the evening with tender, elliptical verses from Gertrude Stein, which have fascinated her for years.



December 8: Poets, priests, professors and one-time dancers

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on December 8, 2009 by theartbar

The force of winter became undeniable this night, but attendance was generous, nonetheless, at Clintons, no doubt owing to the calibre of talent on hand.

Mind, body and spirit were well tended to as people were treated to an intellectual poet, with freshly-inked Ph.D, a prolific Toronto-area poet who also pursued his calling to become a priest and a veteran dancer who found a second life in the ryhthm of words.

Robert Winger is funny and smart, and if that makes him sound like a catch, we’re sorry ladies, he’s taken.

After taking pointedly humourous swipes at literary cliches and academic jargon during his reading, Winger delivered his own modern verse take on the ancient poetry form, the ghazal. Winger’s ghazals incorporate a slew of contemporary references, including lyrics by the Clash. Free-verse ghazals were the topic of Winger’s doctoral thesis, so he must know his stuff.

Winger is currently poetry editor for ARC Poetry Magazine in Ottawa, where he lives with his family.


The melodic voice and well-selected words of Toronto’s one-time poet laureate Pier Giorgio Di Cicco graced the ears of rapt listeners at Clintons that night. However, by dint of some subtle agency, his words were too effervescent to be harnessed for long by wordly recording technology. That or someone forgot to flip the tape. However, you may hear his thoughts about the blessings, the importance of preserving a public realm and who poetry and priesthood are complimentary careers.


Recording gremlins proved even less kind to dancer-turned-poet Moira MacDougall. Her reading did not fully make its passage from the sound board to the recording machine, but a brief interview survives. Moira’s first career was in ballet and modern dance, and dance is a subject of her poetry, along with sex, religion, mythology and entertainment legend Eartha Kitt.

Her first book, Bone Dream, was published by Tightrope Books.


December 1: What’s a myth or two between friends?

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , , on December 1, 2009 by theartbar

It’s nice when friends get together. It’s even nicer when they happen to be three gifted poets who get to read together.

Clara, Andrea and Dane agreed we might as well get together before the reading to hash out movies, mythology, music and how to eat pomegranates.

Sometimes the conversation is drowned out by the noisy, youthful Clinton’s crowd. Consider these moments Jungian, voices from the unconscious bubbling up to tell you why the king of the underworld is such an attractive archetype.

Stephen Humphrey

Valentino Assenza

The night’s host, Valentino Assenza. Who doesn’t that guy know?

Andrea Jarmai

Poet, translator, one-time falconer and lifelong student Andrea Jarmai presented poems from her Lyricalmyrical collection, Fools and introduced newly-polished poems intended for a new collection with the working title, In the House of Pomegranates, which she partly borrows from Oscar Wilde. Pomegranates are not merely a grocery store item for a sensibility so tuned to myth and symbol as Jarmai’s, which her conversation with Clara Blackwood makes clear.

She read in a hypnotic, measured voice enriched by Hungarian heritage, head tilted like a curious bird.


Dane Swan

Dane Swan‘s influences draw on hip-hop, olden-time blues, science fiction and the canon of American and Canadian poetry.

Dane, known for winning slams across North America, gave an understated reading, releasing his energy through word and wit. You’re floored by his imagination and smarts. It’s a surprise attack.

Due to technical problems, unfortunately, only the early fragment of Dane’s reading recorded. However, the mishap left plenty of time to include a discussion about his evolution from rapper, to slam poet, to an author whose work increasingly lives on the page.


Clara Blackwood is in love with poetry, myth, pop culture, the 90s Goth scene and yes, even the Twilight movies. Her poems weaves multiple fandoms together by years of hitting the books. She is like the Subway Medusa of her poetry collection – urban and many-tentacled. Chop off one creative tentacle and two more take its place (okay, that last bit was the Hydra, not the Medusa, but work with me here…).


(Photos and text by Stephen Humphrey)