In conjunction with the Free Times Cafe, this past Tuesday, the Art Bar held its weekly poetry series. This time, the event was hosted by Rosa Arlotto, and performers included the Tysdals group, Pino Coluccio, and Gary Johnson.
The event took place in the backroom of the café. There was a stage with a painting of a Mexican guitar on the back wall. Small booths filled to the brim as people trickled in off the frozen streets into the café.
The Art Bar series showcases the voices of Canadian writers, emerging poets, and newcomers to the world of verse and poetry. Three featured artists perform each week. Then, the floor opens up to anyone in the audience who wishes to participate in an open mic opportunity afterwards. The Art Bar offers a relaxed environment for people to be vulnerable and share their work, as well as a platform for learning writers to chat with established poets about their experience.
Coluccio took the stage first and he commanded the stage. Wearing a leather jacket, Coluccio drew laughter from the audience with his poems. Some poems were “Thirsty and Miserable”, “Where has all the Mayo gone?” and “The Finger.” The audience burst into fits of laughter as Coluccio recounted personal anecdotes, like fun poems based on life experiences and the movies he likes to watch. Many of these poems can be found in his new book Class Clown.
The evening turned a serious route when the next featured artists, The UTSC Poets, took the stage. Three women, in particular, stood out from this group: Noha Kandeel, Deborah Ocholi, and Téa Mutonji.
Kandeel delivered a beautiful poem speaking to her relationship with her mother, describing the quiet strength of mother. One line she uttered, “[Their] tongues are back bones,” describes how her mother was confident in her speech.
Ocholi graced the audience with an intense poem about relationships affected by religion. She wrote gorgeous lines such as, “The holy arching of her spine.”
Mutonji presented a poem about the unpredictability of heartbreak saying that it “Starts at 7 p.m. and never ends.”
Then, the eclectic Gary Johnson strode onto the stage. Johnson is a poet, as well as a photographer and a farmer. He performed a poem that resonated with everyone in the room called “The Word” about the desperate pursuit of the perfect word that will complete a project, line, or verse. Johnson effectively uses alliteration in his work and presents rhythmic poetry that satisfies the melodic itch of the ear.
For the open mic slot, six people presented poems on the spot and were met with applause. Only two people entered online to win the $80 prize for the open mic. The first contestant whipped out a surprise falsetto voice to sing his poem to the audience. The poem detailed the chill of winter wind. In conversation, he spoke about wanting his voice to invoke the same chills that he was referencing in the poem. The laughs from the audience were an extra benefit. The emcee for the open mic event measured the applause exactly by employing a decibel reader.
The Art Bar holds weekly events. The atmosphere and people at these events create a welcoming environment for novice writers to seasoned professionals to engage in the art of poetry.