Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Art of Poetry

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The Art of Poetry

When poetry and art hang out together, they rub off on each other. A few years ago, my poetry workshop -- The Long Dash, which includes Rosemary Blake, Clara Blackwood, Merle Nudelman, Mary Lou Soutar-Hynes, Sheila Stewart, and Elana Wolff -- began to collaborate with a group of nine visual artists who have studio space in the Women's Art Association of Canada (WAAC). A conversation between poet Mary Lou Soutar-Hynes and painter Marjorie Moeser raised the idea of poets and painters working closely together. The painters create their work in a historic Victorian duplex on Prince Arthur Avenue, near Bloor and Avenue Road. Emily Carr sometimes stayed in a room there when visiting Toronto -- an inspiration to us because she is one of the few acclaimed painters who also won a Governor-General's award for writing.
At first, our interaction was mostly one-way. The poets would show up on a Sunday, view the artist's completed paintings/collages and works in progress, and then either write new poems or find and adapt existing ones that seemed to have some quality in common. The fruits of this first collaboration appear in Resonance, a full-colour 72 page anthology, that won praise both for the quality of its visual contents and the unusually close nature of our ekphrastic work (ekphrasis = poetry or creative prose written in response to visual art). It was launched two years ago at an exhibition/reading to a standing-room-only audience of over 100 people.
But then some cross-species infection seemed to result; the painters got more interested in poetry, collaborating on some renga, and all of the painters eagerly finding works that seemed to go with poems "looking for paintings" that we read to them.
Our second (and equally popular) National Poetry Month exhibition and reading thus also featured paintings in response to poems, and poems co-written by artists and poets.
Our third National Poetry Month event, "Climate of Collaboration", takes this interaction further and is slated for Sunday, April 25, from 2-5 p.m. at the WAAC, 23 Prince Arthur Ave., Toronto. Lately, the poets, under the generous tutelage of the artists, have been working on collages that incorporate bits of poetry with visual elements. Some of these will appear as well as the more professional-looking creations of the studio artists. And, of course, related poems which we will read to your shell-shaped ears.
Come and see what we're up to. It's free, but you're welcome to buy a painting.


Yes, I should be saving my pennies too. There are many paintings I'd like to have ... all I need is a winning lottery ticket.
John Oughton

I'm aiming to buy a piece by each of the studio artists-- so far I have three in my collection and I'm saving to purchase a fourth on the day of the reading/exhibit. It's such a thrill to have 'living' works by these gifted women in one's daily midst.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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John Oughton

John Oughton is the author of several books, including Time Slip: New and Selected Poems, published by Guernica Editions.

Go to John Oughton’s Author Page