An Empty Q Space.
Puritan Publicity Agent Tracy Kyncl bids farewell in part one of a two-part series.
August represents a lot of “lasts” for people. It signals the last month of warm weather in Toronto, the last days of freedom before school, and for the literary community, the last weeks of Q Space. While I was lucky enough to familiarize myself with Q Space a little bit before its closing, my introduction quickly turned bittersweet once I found out my time there was limited. Q Space, a downtown hub for Quattro Books, is a modest and innovative little café/bookstore/gallery/event space at College and Borden run by Luciano Iacobelli. Luciano is both a poet and a publisher, and his printing company Lyrical Myrical boasts a variety of illustrated poetry chapbooks by very talented local writers and artists. Having attended a number of past events, Luciano has become as familiar to me as the regular poets and readers who flocked to Q Space during its final days, in a heady rush of enthusiasm, creativity, and fellowship.
On Tuesday, August 20th, I attended the final Art Bar at Q Space, and the organizers could not have done a better job at creating a set list that started off relaxed and ended with explosive energy, as any proper going away party should. Karen Shenfeld began the readings with a very thoughtful array of poetry selected thematically to reflect both café culture and her identity as a poet. The first few poems, “A Tree Grows in College Street,” “Ode to Coffee,” and “Wine,” were urban vignettes about the rituals of city life, which then gave way to more personal pieces, such as “The Things I Carry” and “The Ring,” about her memories and travels across the globe. Karen’s poems are rich in detail and demonstrate an analytic and emotional understanding of the ways in which objects reflect our experiences and personalities and are capable of permanently tying us to distant places, or people, as the case may be in “If I Ran From You.”
Up next, Julie Roorda began her reading with the acidic burlesque, “Gods Anonymous: a Twelve-Step Program for Recovering Deities” and “Falling to Pieces.” While I anticipated a third poem about the interstices between religion and modern life, Roorda certainly shocked me with her seamless word play-poems, “Gratitude” and “The Haunting of 1963.” The latter is part of an anthology of movie poems to be released next year by Tightrope Books. In this poem, Roorda revealed a particular penchant for the gothic and eerie as she revisited the 1963 film The Haunting, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. “Caesura” was my favourite of Roorda’s poems, which traced a narrative about a hand’s near-death experience from the point of view of a doctor, victim, and the hand itself. Spooky, potent, and effortless, the piece bore a cinematic quality that elevated the oft-scoffed-at horror content to sophisticated new heights. Finally, when I thought Roorda couldn’t get more creepy or delightful, she whipped out “Afterlife.com” and “Little Brother,” poems that pry apart the most dehumanizing aspects of technological “life” to underscore our reliance and subservience to modern modes of interacting with the world. It should be noted that Roorda’s reading voice could have been cast in 2001: A Space Odyssey (if HAL were meant to be female) and this peculiar, slightly robotic tone amplified her very unique poems and underscored the sinister relationship between bodies and machines.
Joe Dewar was the last feature writer and perhaps the best person you could ask to round off the last Art Bar at Q Space. To put it plainly, I am obsessed. Joe exemplifies everything a poet ought to be: talented, precise, expressive, beyond unique, and full of surprises. Oh, and did I mention that his reading had the audience in stitches when it wasn’t being bowled over by beautiful imagery? But beneath the surface of this powerful performer lurks a profoundly creative mind interested in dissecting the relationship between life and art (“This is Just a Flashback”), of laying bare the violent inner turmoil of a person in love (“Dusk”), and his dramatic monologue prodded at all the commonly-held assumptions about heroism, bravery, and absolution inherited from the Middle Ages that we still cling to today.
Joe’s poem “Retailarrhea” was a masterful comic poem that showed the senselessness in commodifying language and is within arm’s reach of popularizing hilarious terms such as “greedicidal,” “omnipurchase,” and “pathogentrification.” He ended his set with the beautiful “Bucket Full of River,” which aptly demonstrates his ability to balance philosophical content, humour, and a unique and powerful authorial voice within a tight and well-conceived formal structure.
Hopefully Joe will perform at ArtBar again soon or at Hot-Sauced Words, hosted by his brother, James Dewar. Art Bar will be located at the Black Swan Tavern from now on, and you can catch Carmelita McGrath, Kent Bowman, and Tomy Bewick on Tuesday, August 27th.