The Art Bar is the longest continuously running poetry series in Canada and counts as a national treasure. Its fame is based on even more than the way it has provided the Canadian and the Toronto literary communities, for decades, with one of their best, and best-known, venues. There is also the great and regular frequency of its programs: every Tuesday evening, almost every week of the year, three and sometimes more readers are united with a responsive audience. There is the great interest of its programs: it has consistently looked for and presented the new and as-yet unknown alongside mid-career poets and veteran, famous ones. Many are the little-known writers, often as yet without books or even chapbooks, that audiences first encountered at the Art Bar and later in notable books and literary prize lists. In fact, the Art Bar's practice of inviting back unknown poets who gave vivid readings to be "invited feature readers" has been a prime stepping-stone to prominence for many. Along with this, the Art Bar has been an engine for total inclusiveness, from long before the pressure for inclusion was nearly as prominent as it is today. Poets of every place and race, every belief and sexuality, and every imaginable literary style, have found a warm welcome at the Art Bar. And the audience the Art Bar attracts is just as inclusive: it is a venue where audiences and writers from all the different parts of the literary spectrum come together. There are few cultural institutions in Canada that combine historic significance and energetic newness as well as the Art Bar does; there are none that do it better or more importantly.
Al Moritz, Poet Laureate, City of Toronto, 2019-2022
The Art Bar is a series we need. It has been bringing the best in live poetry to audiences since 1991, featuring a dazzling array of poets, from some of the most established practitioners of the art to names less well known though no less skilled. The variety of the poetry on offer is bracing and keeps the viewer/spectator on their toes. The transition to online necessitated by COVID has allowed the Art Bar to enrich its programming further, extending its audience and the pool of available poets beyond Toronto. The current format of two pre-recorded headliners presenting 25-minute segments is a solid one, giving the artists the flexibility of presenting polished sets and the viewers the opportunity to go deep into the oeuvre. What audiences have lost in the live experience is compensated for in their ability to enjoy poetry in the comfort of their own homes. That said, there’s no substitute for in-person performances, and many of us are looking forward to the days when the Art Bar can go live again.
Richard-Yves Sitoski (he/him)
Owen Sound Poet Laureate 2019-2022
Relevance in Art? The raw voice, the edgy speech,
the clamour of amour that is raucous, the roar of a
caucus of politicos, all bacchanalia and arias. That's
The Art Bar, where poets must come arrogant as
preachers, brawling out words atop each scrawl.
--George Elliott Clarke
Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15)
Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter in support of The Art Bar Poetry series. Any repeated performance series should be judged on their consistency rather than on individual shows. It’s easy to put on one with great fanfare. It’s more difficult to repeatedly keep going with one when things get tough. The Art Bar Poetry series, as the long-running poetry series in Canada, serves as an exemplary demonstration of this principle. They’ve even consistently put out digital content during the pandemic. Not all poetry series have adapted so well. They have a fantastically energetic and engaged group of people who organize and facilitate their shows. The Art Bar has also been reliable in regularly giving a wide-variety of poets a platform. The way that the pandemic has decimated spoken word-poetry opportunities in Canada shows how delicate this scene is. Places like The Art Bar and their open mic in particular are essential for cultivating the next generation of Canadian literary artists. The poetry scene also really relies on live events to give poets a place to sell their books so there is a benefit to what the Art Bar does beyond just spoken word. Print also benefits from their continued success.
Paul Edward Costa
2019-2021 Poet Laureate for the City of Mississauga