The other night I had the pleasure of attending the monthly Poetry at the Artel, a long-running open mic here in Kingston, Ontario. I’ve been a few times before (though not as many as I wish I had) and, as always, it was an absolute blast. The Artel is one of the few truly welcoming environments that I’ve encountered. Any writer can come to the open mic and share their work without fear of being judged or mocked, instead finding encouraging and enthusiastic peers who share a common love of the written and spoken word. You don’t even have to read poetry; I always read prose fiction.
Part of the open mic’s positive environment comes from its organizer, Bruce Kauffman. I’ve gotten to know Bruce over the past two years or so, since meeting him at the launch of 529: An Anthology, and in that time my admiration and respect for him has continued to grow. Always enthusiastic and supportive of any of my writing endeavors (and I’m sure everyone else’s) and a significant presence in the Kingston writing community, Bruce serves as the core of Poetry at the Artel, generating that safe space for every kind of writer, from novice to master.
The most recent edition of Poetry at the Artel showcased a variety of excellent writers. One of the new faces at the Artel (at least for me) was a man named Austin, whose political satire had me simultaneously grinning and nodding in agreement as he compared Parliament to a “little whorehouse on the hill.” I really hope that this poem appears in print in the near future, and that someone shows it to our esteemed Prime Minister – we all know he won’t discover a poem on his own. On the more serious side, veteran poet Bob Mackenzie read a gripping collection of poems that explores a father’s love for his child (or children) and the tragic grief at having them torn away; while the words alone convey a wealth of emotion, hearing the feeling in Bob’s voice as he read made the poetry even more riveting. Finally, one of my increasingly-favorite poets, Michael Casteels, was enjoyable as always. Of the poems he read, the one I enjoyed the most was “Litterbox Junkies” – concerning backyard cats and catnip – because it had me thinking the entire time of my fiancee’s cat and her own love of getting high. Part of the appeal of Michael’s work is that he is able to present the world around us so vividly while pointing out its amusing and sometimes ridiculous nature.
While the above are just a few highlights, the entire evening was enjoyable as always, and I look forward to returning to the Artel next month!