Thursday, December 14, 2023

report from the art bar reading series: myself, Jim Nason + Armand Garnet Ruffo,

[Armand Garnet Ruffo, Michael Bryson, a stuffed owl + Jim Johnstone]

It was good to read in Toronto the other night, my first reading at the Art Bar Reading Series in some time, a year to the day I launched my Mansfield Press non-fiction title in Toronto with Stephen Brockwell and Amy Dennis, etcetera [see my report on such here]. Did you know the Art Bar is the longest running poetry-only series in Canada? That is pretty cool: some thirty-some years so far. Currently run by Kate Rogers and Michelle Hillyard, it was a fine evening of readings by myself, Toronto poet Jim Nason and Kingston-based writer Armand Garnet Ruffo, followed by a brief open set of about a dozen poets.

I've read at the Art Bar a few times over the years, at least half a dozen, I'd say, going back to the 1990s. I read with Marcus McCann and Sandra Ridley back in 2010, and with Pearl Pirie and Shannon Maguire a year later, but no other notes from anything earlier, although I've notes from attending a reading back in 2006. I know I read more than a couple of times when it was still held at the old Victory, a Toronto cafe landmark now long, long gone (a venue that also hosted the early days of John Degen's Ink magazine).

Naturally, I hung out a bit first with my pal Andy Weaver (left; at Dundas and University), and we met up with Stephen Cain for pre-reading dinner, which was good. Did you know Andy Weaver has a fourth poetry title forthcoming with University of Calgary Press (in 2025, I think)? And Stephen Cain has a new one out next fall with Book*hug? You should pay attention to those things.

It was good to see Khashayar Mohammadi, although very briefly. A new title by Mohammadi appears very soon with Pamenar Press, by the way. Jim Johnstone was there also, but you already know about him, right? I've been reviewing his books all over the place lately [two books this year! see here and here]. And Michael Bryson! I haven't seen him in a while (although I'd literally mailed him a package the day prior, so there you go), so I appreciated the opportunity to catch up. His substack, where he posts fiction reviews, is worth following (so you should go do that now).

Jim Nason (above) read from his latest, a poetry title with Frontenac House that even includes some of his artwork on the cover, as well as some newer work. It was especially nice to read with Armand Garnet Ruffo (left), as he'd moved from Ottawa to Kingston a decade or so back (I recall him gifting us multiple bags of baby necessities around the time Rose was born), which means I hadn't really heard him read as often as I had prior. It was good to get a sense of what he's been up to, and he offered a bit of an overview of a handful of his recent titles (including his Governor General's Award-nominated 2019 Wolsak and Wynn title, which I reviewed here), which I appreciated.

Ted Landrum (newly landed in Toronto from Winnipeg) read in the open set! I hadn't met him prior, and learned he had a full-length debut back in 2017 with signature editions. Did I know about this? I did interview him in my '12 or 20 questions,' so I clearly must have, although I hadn't seen the book before now. I spent part of the following day going through it, and there were some interesting structural things within, playing with lyric form from the perspective of architecture (something he teaches, by the by). After the reading, a couple of us (joined by Toronto poet, translator, critic, editor and publisher Mark Goldstein, which was lovely--everyone needs to read his Part Thief, Part Carpenter collection of essays that I reviewed here), we wandered over to a small tavern (cash only? god sakes) for conversation. We considered Grossman's Tavern (where Milton Acorn was presented his People's Poetry Prize back in 1970, you know), but we theorized they might have a very loud band happening.

Oh, and a couple of folk captured some photos of me reading. Here's one by Jim. I focused on reading from the latest poetry title, World's End, (ARP Books), the prior poetry title, the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press) and the opening half or so of the prose sequence "snow day," a chapbook reprinted as part of groundwork: the best of the third decade of above/ground press, 2013-2023 (Invisible Publishing).

As well, I did get bored a few nights prior, and created some ridiculous memes as publicity for the reading. I think the Batman one and the first Star Trek are the most effective. Either way, I'll leave you with those.

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