The Art Bar’s Poetry Series gathers poets from different walks of life

When Marsha Barber took the stage, the room went silent — and then burst into applause

Marsha Barber, 60, expresses herself through poetry during the Art Bar's poetry session at The Black Swan on Dec. 8. Denice Raagas/Toronto Observer

Marsha Barber is a poet who, in bright red, stood in the spotlight with microphone in a small dark room. It was so dark, she couldn’t see anybody.

She read poems about life, death and love. As she delivered her prose with a range of emotion, she captivated her audience. The room went silent, then burst into applause.

“It’s very important for me to communicate,” Barber said. “Poetry is a wonderful way to search for th truth, the emotional core, the heart of whatever subject I’m writing about.”

Barber, 60, is an author, poet and professor who attended The Art Bar Poetry Series one night last month. The series is held at The Black Swan Pub on the Danforth. The Art Bar Poetry Series is recognized as Canada’s longest running poetry-only weekly reading series. Creative people from different walks of life are given the spotlight. On this occasion, like others, young and old, various ethnicities, students and professionals, employed and unemployed were all present at the session.

Some poems were lyrical, musical, angry and philosophical. Other poems were free verse, bristling with ideas.

Another poet who read alongside Barber was Norman Allan. Allan, 56, is not only a poet but also an artist. He was the very first featured to read when The Art Bar first started 25 years ago. Right by the stage, he carried a sketchpad and a box of chalk filled with red, blue and yellow pastels. As Barber recited poems, Allan started to sketch Barber’s face on a blank piece of paper.

“It’s one of the ways I get inspired.” Allan said.

Allen Briesmaster, editor and publisher of Quattro Books, took over from the founder of The Art Bar Series just two years after it was started. According to Briesmaster, it’s a place where a sense of communities overlap. The gathering is significant because individuals in the community are exposed to learning about poetry. Eclectic and open to all, it’s a place for poets and beginners to stretch their imagination, he said.

“It’s very accessible to anybody who is not a specialist,” Brisker said. “The Art Bar has always been a cornucopia of all the different possibilities of poetry.”

Jonathan Mungal, 26, is a poet who was reciting a poem in front of an audience for the first time. Mungal didn’t read his poem; he free styled. A lover of poetry, he had recited poems at school but never in front of a public audience. He said that he was nervous because he was afraid that people might not be able to understand him because of his accent. He is half French-Canadian and half-Trinidadian. Mungal recited a poem about imperfection and being human.

“I was very honest on-stage,” Mugal said. “It is important because I am able to express myself and how I feel at that moment.”

Poetry sessions happen every week on the second floor at the Black Swan. According to Barber, she attended because her family was present — and because the The Art Bar hosts one of the best series in the country.

“It’s important because most poets have a great need to communicate,” Barber said. “It’s a place that brings people together and there’s a great energy here.”

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Posted: Jan 20 2016 12:35 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Features