I want to borrow a conceit from an old Rodney Dangerfield joke. He used to proclaim that he "went to the fights and a hockey game broke out." Well, I'm a man of words and letters, so I was surprised the other evening when I went to an opening at an art gallery and a poetry reading broke out.
Now there's nothing new about holding poetry readings in art galleries. It's a good use of dormant space, a means of drawing in customers who might usually not enter the place. Advertise a poetry reading and you attract people not usually drawn in by the visual.
The venue is new. The name perhaps explains its purpose. The Artword Artbar is trying for all it says: a bar/hangout for artists with gallery space and performance space for musicians and writers to showcase; a video component is in development, theatrical pieces are more than welcome.
That's why my visit the other evening was such a joy. The main draw was the opening of a show at the gallery in conjunction with a number of other gallery openings. (The famous 'James North Art Crawl.') Some galleries provide music; here a blues band was playing. When the band took a break, the other activities began. First came an interpretive dancer with violin accompaniment and a video backing. Then the artist whose work was on display and who is also a poet, read from his work. An attempt was made to show an eleven minute "video poem" by the artist/poet but that ran into technical difficulties. And then the band was ready to return.
So, in one evening a conglomerate of the arts. Paintings/sculpture in the gallery. On stage, music and dance, together and separate. An attempt to project videography. And in the midst of it all, poetry - poetry where it belongs, in there with and equal to all the other arts.
(P.S. I'm reading there on Sun. October 18 as part of the launch of an anthology in memory of Al Purdy, And Left A Place To Stand On. Come down and inspect the venue, talk to the owners and the writers, buy a book or two.)