North Bay has a vibrant arts community.
Unfortunately, when it comes to literary arts, few are aware that many talented poets right here in our own backyard, have gone on to garner global acclaim.
“At one point a few years ago, we had six members of the League of Canadian Poets in North Bay. And there are three or four other poets including the late Ian McCulloch who just died, who in my opinion was one of the best poets in the country,” said Denis Stokes coordinator of the Conspiracy of 3 reading series.
“We’ve lost in the last couple of years two giants, Ian and Ken Stang who were writers of national status. We have many, many writers here who have published in major literary magazines across the world and have put together amazing collections of poetry and novels, and we also have playwrights here as well. Unfortunately, North Bay is a funny place in terms of really appreciating its artists.”
The Conspiracy of 3 reading series has been active for over 30 years, making it one of the longest running literary reading series in the country.
On Saturday a group of local poets and poetry lovers gathered at the downtown parkette across from the CIBC to enjoy an afternoon of poetry reading.
“It is the first part of a three-event sequence called 100 Thousand Poets for Change. It is an international event. I was in Europe in the summer and talking to different people who were organizing things all over from Hungary to Northern Ireland to England, all over the world,” said Stokes.
“It is a merging of poetry with other arts. Our focus this year is singer songwriters. It just happened that 100 Thousand Poets for Change and Culture Days happened the same weekend. So, it made sense to weave those two together to make this part of Culture Days,” explained Stokes.
“And when we look seriously at the impact of culture over the last 3 million centuries, we see that culture is always a process of attending to the gift of life as well as raising consciousness. And that involves obviously issues of social justice, environmental awareness, justice in the home, opportunities for the marginalized and so on.”
Local poet Martha Gould who had two books published some years ago shared some of her favourite poems from well-known poets including E.E. Cummings.
“I have learned poetry since I was a child, and kind of depended on it as part of my mental equipment,” said Gould.
“Many of my poems address our environment and climate and the need for people to act more responsibly as they live in the world. That I would say is one of my main topics,” said Gould.
Gould also wrote a children’s book of poetry called The Silver Tree.
She would like to see more of an effort made to introduce poetry to young people.
“I think we do a pretty terrible job overall of that. Poetry has been diminished in school. I had in high school a lot of attention given to poetry. We went around and actually declaimed poetry. We had to learn it and then go speak it,” said Gould.
“It used to be more important that people would memorize and store these important cultural artefacts than it is now. And I think we should go back to that. I think young children could learn poetry. High school students certainly and people would then have it with them the rest of their whole lives”
Steve Kozinski was one of the nearly two dozen people to attend the outdoor readings.
“I think it is a great way to have a coffee and listen to some poetry. It is good to have because it gives local poets a place for them to share their work. I have taken one poetry class so far and I am really liking it. So, I am interested to learn more. I enjoy the realness of poetry, being able to say things that you wouldn’t say in everyday life,” said Kozinski.
“We have a lot of young writers in the community come to the Conspiracy of 3,” said Stokes.
“We meet every second Tuesday of the month, usually at the White Water Gallery.”