Culture  Politics, needles, and bad neighbours

A night at the Atwater Poetry Project

If you prefer to spend your evenings in the solitude of poetic thought rather than out on St. Laurent, check out the Atwater Poetry Project’s 2015-16 season at Atwater Library. Last Thursday, poets Robin Richardson, R. Kolewe, and Stevie Howell joined poetry aficionados in a basement room of the library, chatting about a range of both light and heavier topics, as the literary-minded are wont to do. For those to whom cheerful conversation is a fearsome burden, light refreshments were provided to pass the time, including, thankfully, beer.

Beer in hand, you’d make your way to the center of the audience to spot a group of men hard to not gawk at. A diverse mélange of hip, rainbow-haired Concordians, literature buffs, and rad retirees sat beside each other in bizarre juxtaposition. At the back of the room, volunteers manned a table covered in poetry collections and chapbooks by the reading’s three poets, as well as other emerging authors.

After a brief introduction, Richardson, the first poet of the night, sidled her way to the podium. Richardson delivered a mesmerizing performance with themes veering toward a charming, self-aware pessimism, even if her nerves sometimes made her stomp on the oral accelerator. “I’m just realizing now that, like, four of these poems are about plane crashes,” Richardson joked during her reading.

For those to whom cheerful conversation is a fearsome burden, light refreshments were provided to pass the time, including, thankfully, beer.

The second poet of the night, Kolewe, had recently released his debut collection of poetry, Afterletters. Kolewe showcased his broad thematic scope, from riffing on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the age-old question of love or lust, though the majority of the poems were predominantly critical of politics and government. One of Kolewe’s poems attacked the oil pipelines out west in bullet point form, and if the room had been more boisterous, the audience might have laughed a bit louder. But as it was, the solemn setting predisposed more contemplation than major emotional outbursts.

Then Howell stepped up to the microphone. The poet mentioned the release of Sharps, the first collection of poems published in autumn of last year. The title alludes to disposal boxes typically found in hospitals for used needles, the referrence coming from Howell’s hospital work. Before launching into the reading, the poet talked about “men, and other places,” After the first poem, the artist apologized, aware of the rapidity with which the reading was finished. The candor was captivating, and the poems touched on everything from hospital work to the criminal neighbour to San Francisco. Howell connected deeply with the students in the audience, and they gathered around the poet as the reading ended. “I came for Stevie Howell,” confided one attendee. “I just love [Howell’s] imagery.” While the event was mostly a space for emerging poets to recite their work, it also encouraged dialogue between artist and audience. Following the performance, the reading’s stragglers trekked to a nearby bar to talk poetry, a trend that will hopefully keep up during the length of the Atwater Poetry Project.

If you’re on the prowl for up-and-coming Canadian authors, or just looking for a way to expand your poetic horizons, the Atwater Poetry Project readings are for you. A final word of advice: as with most things, if you won’t go for the poetry itself, at least go for the beer.

The Atwater Poetry Project readings take place roughly once a month at Atwater Library. The next reading will be on October 1 at 7 p.m..