Tag Archives: Toronto

Toronto’s Art Bar Poetry Series – A Must See and Do

We’re on our way to the famous Art Bar Poetry Series. Did I pack my camera?

Toronto skyline - October 19, 2014

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Large cities make me nervous. Prairie wheat and southwestern Ontario corn runs through my blood so its takes courage and an experienced driver like my husband to maneuver the heavy pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic surrounding this downtown Toronto poetry reading. Even with a GPS strapped to the car’s dashboard, we miss the discounted hotel we had booked on-line.

So many distractions like in a Where’s Waldo? book! When we finally spot the main entrance tucked behind some taller buildings, we can’t find a place to park. I fumble for my cell phone and call the hotel desk to request assistance.

Then there’s the problem with our dog. Not a sliver of grass to.. (you know)… relieve himself and so he leaves a nice puddle in the underground parking lot. We hope the incident isn’t captured on closed circuit cameras but that’s another story…

As a poet, I feel it’s important to push outside one’s comfort zone. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and allow the words to tractor across a white field and leave word-seeds typed and planted in a straight furrow for everyone to pick and read at a later date. However, poetry is more than written words. It’s organic (like soybeans) sprouting from a writer’s pen then growing and extending further into and beyond a consumer’s mind.

It’s also rhythm and sound so studying oral presentations is vital for improving one’s poetic voice. At least that’s the advice I received from award-winning Canadian sound poet Penn Kemp during a writer-in-residence session at Western University many poetic seasons ago.

Between the wailing sirens and the honking of impatient drivers, I can still recall what other poets have said about the Art Bar Poetry Series. “It’s a permanent fixture of Toronto”. “It has a huge following.” “It’s a great place to read.” Even in rural Ontario, I’ve felt its impact. Its reputation as Canada’s longest-running poetry-only weekly reading series is strong and many emerging poets dream about being asked and featured at least once in their writing careers.


The Art Bar Poetry Series (based in Toronto) is Canada’s longest-running poetry-only weekly reading series.

I never expected an invitation but was pleased when it arrived in my inbox last year.

And today, here we are…here I am…

…suitcase (and poetry books) in hand. We settle in the hotel room and I can’t wait to meet my close childhood friend. She noticed the Art Bar event advertised on Facebook and suggested a reunion. We hadn’t seen each other (in person) for close to 20 years and although Donna (one of my bridesmaids) has a strong creative side to her, this would be her first experience attending a poetry reading. I’m touched to have her join me since hubby and dog are not poetry fans and prefer to watch TV in the hotel room. She even brings along a neighbour-friend and tells me it is part of their goal to do something ‘new’ each week. I smile and feel my cheeks blush like a red pepper. She travelled 30 to 40 minutes for a quick visit. I hope she enjoys the show.

If you live in Toronto, the Art Bar reading venue is easy to reach via bicycle or public transportation, or so I’m told. The Mid East snack (2 skewers of marinated chicken breast served with 2 falafel, hummus, grilled veggies, salsa, chickpea-kale salad, pita) is excellent and was highly recommended by one of the co-hosts. The private room at the Free Times Café is ideal for showcasing the poets. There’s a stage, a microphone and I add a chair to hold my props which I forget to use. At first the spotlights challenge my eyes but then I find the right angle to connect with my printed words. Next time I’ll bring LARGER print or better yet, have my poems memorized.

Debbie Okun Hill at Art Bar Reading Series April 4, 2017 Photo 2 by Donna Henrikson

I smile and feel my cheeks blush like a red pepper. Photo by Donna.

During my Art Bar debut, over 60 people fill the room despite the competition of other poetry readings in the area including an earlier performance (by the well-known author Molly Peacock) held several blocks away. As a newcomer, I’m impressed by the variety of people in the audience. Not only are they culturally diverse but they represent a wide range of ages and include both emerging writers reading for the first time to the more experienced poets/editors/publishers. I’m comforted by seeing a few familiar faces, but many of the attendees are either strangers to me or writers I had heard about but had never met before. Call it a great place to feel the pulse of Toronto’s poetic scene!

On this evening, I share the spotlight with Phlip Arima and Ian Burgham, two well-known and experienced poets. Arima, a former artistic director of the ArtBar, dazzles the audience with his use of sound and his ability to perform his work by memory. The only time he reads from paper is when he is introducing new work. He is high energy combined with theatrics. I like how he changes his voice for each poem.

Phlip Arima (left) is a former artistic director of the series.  Ian Burgham (right) has read his work throughout Canada and the United Kingdom. Both were featured readers at the Art Bar on April 4, 2017.

Burgham is quieter (and sometimes apologetic when reading his new work) but like Arima he brings an entourage of friends and fellow poets with him. Although he has read his work throughout Canada and the United Kingdom, in an October 20, 2010 on-line interview with The Toronto Quarterly, he expressed his preference for writing versus the performing. (Many poets feel the same way.) He is the author of six poetry collections published in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

I’m in awe. Because this is my first time listening to these poets, I make note of Arima’s website here and Burgham’s feature on the Quattro Books website here. I look forward to reading more of their work in the future.

Over the years, the Art Bar has perfected their format. Each week, the series usually features three guest readers. Some are local. Others, like me, are from out-of-town or even out-of-province like Carmelo Militano, a Winnipeg poet who featured a week earlier than my reading. The evening closes with an open stage with approximately ten emerging and experienced poets.

A half hour later, the lights dim and another Art Bar evening ends as patrons slip outdoors to head home. Overall, I’m impressed but please, if you are reading this, stop by on a Tuesday evening and judge for yourself. A list of future readers appears on the Art Bar website.

I’m told, in Toronto, it is common to have two or three readings scheduled each day of the week. If I resided in this urban centre, I could slip into the audience and study them all. Can you imagine what a wonderful ‘live’ classroom this would be?

Rosa Arlotto, host at Art Bar Reading Series, April 4, 2017 in Toronto

Rosa Arlotto emcees the April 4, 2017 event. She is one of several hard-working members of the current Art Bar organizing team.

As a former co-host of a monthly open mic event in the Sarnia area for approximately 8 years, I am aware of how difficult it is to not only organize a regular reading series but to also properly promote it so that it attracts a regular following. In my opinion, the Art Bar team does an excellent job in both areas.

Team members Rosa Arlotto and Margaret Code are pleasant and professional in dealing with featured readers, open stage presenters and audience members. They praise Rob Welch for his enthusiasm and drive in organizing the featured readers from a distance. (Unfortunately, Welch is out-of-the country during my reading but I look forward to meeting him in person one day.)

The following week, I return to Toronto to support Sarnia poet Sharon Berg who reads from her new chapbook ODYSSEY and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017). (Follow my blog for a future post about Berg and her new chapbook.) At the Art Bar, she features with Hamilton poet John Terpstra and Peterborough poet Betsy Struthers.

Sharon Berg photo 4 Art Bar Reading April 11, 2017 in Toronto

Sarnia poet Sharon Berg introduces her new chapbook ODYSSEY and other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) during the April 11, 2017 reading at the Art Bar Poetry Series in Toronto.

During their readings, I lean back, sip my drink and relax. Being a member of the audience is fun. Later, I share some new work during the Open Stage and then it’s over.

The drive back home towards the United States border is long but the time goes by quickly despite the late hour. It helps to travel with another poet; Berg and I chat the whole way. By the time I walk in the door and turn on my computer, the Art Bar Poetry Series has already posted and shared photos on Facebook. The next morning, promotions begin for the next week’s performers. I’m impressed again. Not only does this assist in widening the poets’ regional recognition but it allows out-of-towners, who cannot travel, to learn more about Canadian poets.

I smile like a stuffed potato sack filled with new experiences. The Art Bar Poetry Series is more than a vital thread in our national poetic fabric. I’ve learned it’s a home where poets can come together on a weekly basis and experience the rhythmic sounds and varied voices of poetry performed on a stage.

For me, that’s exciting news! So much support for creative folk!

Happy National Poetry Month everyone!


The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015 – A Retrospective by David Brydges

The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour (Ottawa to Vancouver – April 15 to 26, 2015) was a great success.

In spite of having to change our travel itinerary in being unable to travel by train to Winnipeg due to derailments and a backlog of freight trains, plus the late train arrivals in Winnipeg and Edmonton, the PoeTrainers adapted showing much patience and flexibility.

D.C. Reid was the PoeTrain Laureate for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015.

D.C. Reid was the PoeTrain Laureate for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015.

Our mission/mandate was to travel across Canada to support and stimulate the celebration and promotion of poetry for National Poetry Month.

A grand coalition of 22 poets, musicians, and train lovers co-created cultural festivities to engage the general public on and off the train. Key events were organized in Ottawa (Pressed Café), Toronto (Hot House Restaurant & Bar), Winnipeg (Fort Garry Hotel Salon A), Edmonton (Edmonton City Hall), and Vancouver (Café Deux Soleils).  These readings enthused local poetry communities along the route to revitalize Spring’s poetic pulse.

Joanna Lilley and Kelsey Knight during Marsha Barber's launch of her new book. DC Reid passes the talking feather.

Joanna Lilley and Kelsey Knight during Marsha Barber’s launch of her new book. (Four poets received Canada Poetry Tour grants thanks to the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts.) DC Reid passes the talking feather.

Four past and present Poet Laureates participated in our city stop events. George Elliott Clarke Toronto Poet Laureate, Alice Major Edmonton’s first Poet Laureate, Rachel Rose Vancouver Poet Laureate, and our Parliamentary Poet Laureate Michel Pleau attended our final show in Vancouver.

Alice Major, Edmonton's first poet laureate welcomes the PoeTrainers to the Edmonton Poetry Festival event at City Hall.

Alice Major, Edmonton’s first poet laureate welcomes the PoeTrainers to the Edmonton Poetry Festival event at City Hall.

We met a poet from Nova Scotia Quincy who joined us along with a Via Rail employee who has written every day for the past 10 years. Via’s David shared a couple of poems he wrote specifically for us.

Laura Byrne Paquet , an international travel writer who travelled with the group, also reawakened her poetic pulse. In a recent e-mail, she said, “Hi David, It’s taken me a few days to come back to earth after the amazing PoeTrain trip! Thank you SO much for inviting me along. It was one of the memorable trips of my life.” Laura also wrote a haiku saying she had not written poetry since she was sixteen.

A special thank you to the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts for providing seven grants including four Canada Reading Tour grants for Blaine Marchand, Marsha Barber, DC Reid, and Debbie Okun Hill to perform/workshop on the train. Also thanks for three food and poetry grants for Blaine Marchand Ottawa, Kathy Figueroa Toronto, and Rachel Rose Vancouver. The food and poetry theme was well integrated into six food inspired event dinners in a private home, cafes, and a final picnic in Stanley Park to honour Pauline Johnson.

Kent Bowman, one of the key organizers behind the tour, is seen with the talking feather.

Kent Bowman, one of the key organizers behind the tour, is seen with the talking feather.

DC Reid was our first Poetrain Laureate and carried the talking feather (a symbol of respect for the one who speaks their truth) to events on and off the train. We had Algonquin elder/poet Albert Dumont in Ottawa bless the talking feather before it embarked on its journey. The feather was gifted to hosts in Ottawa Lesley Strutt, Toronto Kate Marshall Flaherty, and Winnipeg Bruce Symaka for Speaking Crow reading series coordinator Chimwemwe Undi, and in Edmonton Alice Major. In Vancouver Bonnie Nish and Kathy Figueroa received the talking feather to take back to their poetry communities.

Via Rail Canada provided us with a skyline dome car for our performances, workshops, and music concerts. Much gratitude to League members Paul Sanderson and Ian Ferrier for performing for the Artist On Board program. Your great chemistry and musical magic was well enjoyed by all.

Kelsey Knight reflects in VIA's Skyline Dome Car.

Kelsey Knight reflects in VIA’s Skyline Dome Car.

Two publishers participated in providing  two League members for readings/book launches on the PoeTrain. Brick Books from Eastern Canada sponsored Joanna Lilley and Western Canada University of Alberta sponsored Ella Zeltserman.

Poets, passengers, and the public met the world’s first robot poet my kulturBOT 3.0 co-designed by Ryerson University professor Dr. Frauke Zeller and McMaster University professor Dr.  David Harris Smith. This digitally-savvy guest rode the rails in an inaugural trip. The world’s first robot poet my kulturBOT 3.0 couldn’t talk but would only print out poems connected to the content of the famous explorer David Thompson’s diaries.

David Brydges, artistic director for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour as well as Pat Connors, one of the key organizers interacts with My kulturbot 3.0, the world's first robot poet to ride a train.

David Brydges, artistic director for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour as well as Pat Connors, one of the key organizers interacts with my kulturBOT 3.0, the world’s first robot poet to ride a train.

Several poets and some of the general public read short 100 word poems on and off the train. A social media campaign was organized by Alexandra Pavliuc a Ryerson student who posted photos /videos on www.hitchbot.me . We human poets had fun breathing real life into these whimsical style poems throughout the trip. A poet in Edmonton reading one of the David Thompson diary inspired poems said she liked a phrase and would use it in her next poem.

Canadian Poet Blaine Marchand finds inspiration in VIA's Skyline Dome Car.

Canadian Poet Blaine Marchand finds inspiration in VIA’s Skyline Dome Car.

Kids at the Edmonton train station loved it and had all kinds of suggestions for hats. One guy at the Jasper train station thought the lemon squeezer on top of robot’s head was a tip tray and threw a loonie in as one of the poet/musicians played in front of the BOT. In Vancouver robopoet was seated on a table along with the poets. Amusing, entertaining the curious…for when do you have a robot poet attend a poetry event or for that matter travel across Canada on the train? A perfect complement to a most innovative week of poetry celebrations.

If a group bonds in community, happiness naturally magnifies. When we begin to serve/dedicate ourselves to the better happiness of others we all prosper. Our collective spirits indeed did shine.

Poetry at heart is a pure journey.

Travelling a literary landscape

of discoveries and re-discoveries.

In the end the poetry pioneer

arrives at the same place

as where they began.

Collecting gold dust memories

along the brightened trail.

Special appreciation and thanks to the volunteer organizing team of Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, Kate Marshall Flaherty, and Patrick Connors. Your go getter and go giver attitude made this a reality of legacy memories. Patrick Connors read a Nik Beat poem throughout the trip as he originally was part of the organizing team but died suddenly in September 2014.

Participants in the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015 Supplied Photo

Participants in the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour made an unexpected and extended stop in Winnipeg. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet

Congratulations to the PoeTrainers for keeping the spirit of adventure alive and bonding into a beautiful and epic memory journey. Much poetry was read by the PoeTrainers in each city visited and several open mics on the train. Your diverse and varied voices were an oral mosaic of the Canadian poetic identity. New poetry flowed on the train for a selection of train poems by Canadian poets for an anthology that is to be published shortly.

Ian Ferrier performed both off the on the train.

Ian Ferrier performed both off and on the train.

A huge thank you to all our 40 sponsors and supporters who generously provided grants, gifted their services, and financial donations. In particular my Vancouver coordinator contact Josephine Wasch  Sr Manager, International & Domestic Sales  who was highly professional, efficient, and  immaculate in helping organize the many moving parts of this PoeTrain project.

Via Rail provided the complementary Skyline Car between Winnipeg and Edmonton on Tuesday April 21 and again on the final journey between Edmonton and Vancouver on Friday April 24.

Paul Sanderson shared music and poetry.

Paul Sanderson shared music and poetry.

VIA Rail sponsored two poet/musicians (Ian Ferrier and Paul Sanderson) to travel on the Canadian, between Toronto and Edmonton, and then Edmonton and Vancouver as part of our Canadian Talent (musician/ poet) Artist On Board program. They entertained passengers in the Park car and in our skyline Car. On the last night they did a special concert for the economy class passengers that was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed. Paul Sanderson also did an impromptu music set at the Jasper station during our short stop.

Laura Byrne Paquet was given a complimentary cabin and she blogged, took photos, and is submitting her story of our journey to various travel magazines.

Ontario poet Fran Figge was one of several poets who had never seen the Rockies before.

Fran Figge, current President of The Ontario Poetry Society AND Tower Poetry Society, was one of several poets who had never seen the Rockies before but first, a stop in Edmonton.

So many memories...

So many memories…

The on board staff at Winnipeg and Edmonton departures were excellent in providing lunch/dinner vouchers for first call which helped us with our on board program. They were continuously supportive throughout the two legs of the trip from Winnipeg to Edmonton and then Edmonton to Vancouver.

A big thanks to Michael Wheelen who was commissioned to take photos of the “Canadian” passing the Rockies. We used his photos for our poster, website home page, t-shirt design, official program, and our train poem anthology book cover.

David Brydges is the artistic director of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015. A special thank you for his guest blog post.

Clickity-clack...we'll be back...

Clickity-clack…we’ll be back…

For additional information about the Tour as well as a list of 2015 participants, check the official website here. Previous PoeTrain blog posts appear here , here, and here.

Additional photos and comments about the tour will be posted in the near future.


Next Week in Toronto: PoeTrain, Open Mic, and So Much More

 “curled beneath a sports bench/coiled, thick wad, stale/like his gum – stuck/with no place to go.” -Debbie Okun Hill from her poem “Train Station”

Each week an e-mail from Norman Cristofoli arrives in my inbox. Not only does it list literary events (readings, launches, open mics, etc.) scheduled for the next seven days in Toronto but it reminds me of the dedicated individuals and organizations who continue to promote the literary arts in that particular Canadian city.

Today’s notice listed 14 events. Oh, those Toronto and area residents are fortunate to tap into such creative talent on a daily basis. When you live (like I do) in a rural area removed from large cities and public transportation, winter travel to literary events can be difficult. Sometimes I do feel like the teen character in my poem “Train Station” – “like gum – stuck with no place to go.” However, when the snow blankets the earth, this solitude provides a quiet comfort to squirrel away and hibernate with the muse, make plans for future trips and work on new material or revise old manuscripts. If my schedule allows and the weather cooperates I’m on my way. I have learned so much from my travels, even if it’s only a short trip down a country road.

Working behind the scenes: the PoeTrain team: Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, David Brydges, Pat Connors, and Kate Marshall Flaherty. Photo Courtesy: PoeTrain Files

Working behind the scenes: the PoeTrain team: Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, David Brydges, Patrick Connors, and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

Two Toronto events (which I’m particularly familiar with) are: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Fundraiser and The Ontario Poetry Society’s For the Love of Poetry Festival. See additional information below. I highly recommend both readings and hope that some time down this literary road additional events, not only in Toronto but in other Canadian centers, will also be featured. Thanks for your patience.


Clickety-clack!  “The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is going to become a historic reality soon,” stated David Brydges, artistic director for the tour in a recent e-mail. “The official program for train activities is coming out by the end of the month.”

So far approximately 22 poets and train lovers have signed up for this National Poetry Month cross county adventure which will start in Ottawa in mid-April with stops in Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

In the interim, work continues with a special fundraising event planned for Thursday, February 12.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser this February 12, 2015 in Toronto.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser this February 12, 2015 in Toronto.

Meet several PoeTrainers for supper (6 to 8 p.m.) and stay for the entertainment at 8 p.m. featuring Max Layton, Robert Priest, and Cathy Petch. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page for additional information.

Bravo to David Brydges and his committee members Kent Bowman, Patrick Connors, Marsha Barber and Kate Marshall Flaherty for organizing this event. See an earlier posting about the tour here. Follow this blog for additional updates as well as highlights of the PoeTrain journey in April.


The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

If you have never read your poetry in front of an audience or if you would like additional practice reading, this a great place to start. Every year, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travels across the province to various cities to offer its members as well as non-members a safe and friendly place to share work. Everyone who wants to read can read during this open mic event and if you’re a member with a new book, you may also have a spotlight feature. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Both experienced and non-experienced poets are welcome.  More info can be found here. Additional information about last year’s Toronto’s event is linked here. Similar events have also taken place in Cobourg, Cobalt, Stratford, Ottawa and Oakville. Members’ readings and open mics for 2015 will be posted on the TOPS website.


Below is next week’s list of Toronto events as supplied by Norman Cristofoli! Before heading out, please double check with the venue or the organizers to ensure the event hasn’t been cancelled or rescheduled.

If you wish to have your name added to Norman’s weekly mailing list or if you wish to promote your Greater Toronto area event, please contact Norman: norman.cristofoli (at) gmail.com . All submissions should include pertinent information about the event and be e-mailed before the Friday of the previous week. Norman distributes his event listing on the Friday or Saturday for the following week.  

Birds of a Feather Storytelling Series
Monday, February 9,
6:30 pm
at Windup Bird Café
382 College Street


Toronto Poetry Slam
Monday, February 9
at 8:00 pm
sign-up at 7:30 pm
at the Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West (east of Dufferin)

Featuring: Sabrina has found herself on many stages, including the Canadian Indies Finals, The Victoria Festival of Spoken Word and most recently, was part of the 2014 Toronto Poetry Slam team which was crowned national champions this past October. Sabrina’s poems float along the spectrum of love, pain, identity and Beyoncé. Hosted by: Valentino Assenza


Art Bar
Tuesday, February 10
at 8:00 pm at the Black Swan
154 Danforth Avenue (just west of Broadview)

Featuring: Clara Blackwood, Dave Silverberg, Nicole Brewer, Rahul Gupta

More info at www.artbar.org


Tightrope Books Launch Emily Pohl-Weary’s – Ghost Sick
Tuesday, February 10 at 7:00 pm
at The Tenant of Parkdale
1267 Queen St. West

Readings by: Emily Pohl-Weary, Lillian Allen, Irfan Ali, Chris Chambers, Dante King, Carolyn Smart & dianah smith.

Emerging Writers Reading Series
Tuesday, February 10 at 8:00 pm
at Duffy’s Tavern
1238 Bloor Street West,

Featuring: Faith Arkorful, Michelle Brown , F. A. Meier (Rick Meier), Noor Naga


Tuesdays @ 10
Spoken word and music Radio Show
Tuesday, February 10 at 10:00 pm
at CIUT 89.5 FM and on the Internet at www.ciut.fm, Rogers Cable channel 946 and Star satellite channel 826
Hosted by Valentino Assenza

Guests: James Dewar, Sue Reynolds, Arlene Paculan, Lizzie Violet.


Pivot Reading Series
Wednesday, February 11 at 8:00 pm
at the Press Club
850 Dundas Street West

Featuring: Ken Babstock, David Goldstein, Sheniz Jahmohamed
Hosted by Jacob McArthur Mooney


BAM! The Youth Slam
Wednesday, February 11 at 6:00 pm
at The Central
603 Markham Street (just west of Bathurst & Bloor)
Hosted by Patrick de Belen

Featuring: Sean Warren
*** IMPORTANT: This is the Finals Night! There will be an open mic, but only qualified slammers will be able to compete!
Rules of a BAM! Poetry Slam are quite simple. There we will have 12 slots open for youth poets ages 12-19 – 2 rounds, 3 minutes with a 10 second grace period for every poet to drop their fire, with a 0.5 penalty for every 10 seconds afterwards. There is an OPEN MIC available for all ages for anyone that wants to share his or her works on stage!


Love is Stronger than – – – – – – –
Wednesday, February 11 at 6:30 pm
at Windup Bird Cafe
382 College Street

Featuring Poets: Valentino Assenza, Jennifer Hosein, Alexandra Innes
Featuring Musicians: Suitcase Sam, Brian Blain, Michael Marian, Armando Espana
Hosted by Alexandra Innes


Fundraiser for PoeTrain
Thursday, February 12 at 8:00 pm
at Hot House Restaurant
35 Church Street
Featuring: Robert Priest, Cathy Petch, Max Layton


Best Canadian Poetry Valentine’s Day Reading
Saturday, February 14 at 2:00 pm
at Ben McNally Books 366 Bay Street (at Temperance)

Featuring: Michael Fraser, Laura Lush, Jim Johnstone, Ruth Roach Pierson, Maureen Hynes, Aaron Kreuter, Kateri Lanthier, & Moez Surani


Sunday Poetry @ Ellington’s
Poetry Reading Series and Open Stage
Sunday, February 15 at 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Ellington’s Music & Cafe
805 St Clair Ave West


Plasticine Poetry Series
Spoken Word and Open Stage
Sunday, February 15 at 6:00 pm
at Pauper’s Pub
539 Bloor Street West

Featuring: Rudy Fearon, Olive Senior, Cathy Petch, and Marcia Johnson
Hosted by Rod Weatherbie


Roots Lounge Poetry Slam and Open Mic
Sunday, February 15 at 8:00 pm
at the Harlem Restaurant
67 Richmond Street East

Featuring: Dwayne Morgan, Paulina O’Kieffe, Hoodo Mohamed, Bambu, Gavin Russell, Scribe, Bassam, Patrick de Belen, Spin, Dionne Bird of Paradise, Chris Tse


New works from every branch of literature on “The Loop” in this month’s Radio Wildfire Live! @ www.radiowildfire.com

Radio Wildfire is an independent online radio station which blends spoken word, poetry, performance literature, comedy, storytelling, short stories and more with a novel selection of word/music fusion and an eclectic mix of musical styles.

Radio Wildfire is looking for spoken word audio tracks.  Check out their site and then send them your stuff.  Lots of European exposure.



In Toronto “Roses Are More Than Valentine RED”

Writing poetry squeezes the Valentine red from your heart. It’s a calling (there I’ve said it) and Toronto, Ontario is one of those urban hubs that lives and breathes with a strong poetic rhythm. According to one source, this Canadian city’s literary calendar overflows with launches and readings scheduled for most days or evenings of the year.

In February, the public’s perception of poetry often bleeds with clichéd images of rose scented candles, cardboard cupids, silver-foiled kisses and gummy heart-shaped candies. Mix the words “poetry” and “romance” and what do you get? More sticky sentiments and tacky silk flowered thoughts? Think again!


Spotlight reader Honey Novick performed work from her CD.


Incoming President Fran Figge as emcee!


Poet/musician Kent Bowman shares his talent during intermission.

For emerging and professional poets, a powerful and memorable poem represents more than a few cute sugar-cubed phrases on an annual Valentine card. It is literary art in a tuxedo or a poetic slam in a pair of worn-out work boots: a rhythmic or musical expression of oral and written thoughts and images. Think outside the heart-shaped chocolate box with poetic lines depicting topics as dark, deep and thick as blood or as light as a whiff of fragrance! Verse can be serious or humourous: entertaining as somersaulting sentences or thought-provoking as airborne word wads of crumpled paper smacked on the side of your head.


Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar showcased their new books.


Ontario Poetry Society members Pat Connors and Howard W. Isbenberg launched new work during the For the Love of Poetry Festival in Toronto, Sunday, February 2, 2014.

Last Sunday afternoon in the quaint darkened setting of Central (near Bloor and Bathurst), The Ontario Poetry Society extrapolated the “roses are red” theme and organized the For the Love of Poetry Festival. Guests were treated to a chocolate rose stem and yes, the curtains on stage were striking: a bright red sateen or brocade.

Several writers greeted each other with hugs as if they were family. Almost all of them were Toronto members of this provincial poetry-friendly grassroots organization but several out-of-town poets also managed to brave the snow and ice to attend. Most stopped by to share their work, to test a new poem, to practice their presentation skills, to network, to listen and to be inspired by others.

            As a long-time member, I immediately felt at ease. I had been here before, so I was familiar with the format, the casual meet and greet, the sign-up sheet, a chance to have lunch or a drink with friends followed by the actual readings. For most poets there is nothing more nerve-wracking or exhilarating than reading in front of a live audience.

On this particular afternoon, four poets Pat Connors, Howard W. Isenberg, Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar launched new books while poet/musician Honey Novick shared some songs from her CD.

Fran Figge, the new President of The Ontario Poetry Society kept the afternoon moving smoothly with her emcee skills. There were four sets of readers and poet/musician Kent Bowman entertained during the breaks. Anyone who wanted to read could and did read with longer readings reserved for members launching new work. The afternoon ended with an open mic where non-members could also share their work.

            Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I give it a thumbs up especially for new poets who are seeking a safe haven to break into Toronto’s poetry scene.

For upcoming members’ readings and/or open mics organized by The Ontario Poetry Society, check their website for updates. Two additional readings have already been scheduled: one in Cobourg in May, the other in Ottawa in October. Sign-up for readers is at the door.  Admission is free.