April is National Poetry Month in Canada. A group of five poets is hosting an event intended to inspire and connect with people through transparent conversations and poetry readings.
The second floor of the Bannerman Brewing Co. is all but empty, with only barstools and hanging plants basking in the spring sunlight. It won’t look like this for long.
On Sunday night, Jason Normore, a poet, plans to fill the wide event space with burning candles and warmth. He’s inviting friends and lovers of the written and spoken word to join him and four other writers for An Evening of Poetry.
Normore will be joined by four other poets at the brewery at 7:30 p.m. for a panel discussion on the craft of poetry, followed by readings from each of them.
Downstairs, in the busy main floor of the brewery, Normore reveals his inspiration for the event was to focus more on his creative peers.
“I have some music stuff happening in the spring that I’m working on, but I wanted to do something in between that wasn’t just about me – I wanted to do a community thing,” Normore said. “It began as a selfish pursuit so I could get some of my favourite poets and friends in one room.”
He takes a moment to laugh to Lincoln Ripley on his left, who is a guest.
Ripley moved to St. John’s from Texas just four months ago. He says the creative landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador is much different than what he’s used to.
“Poetry is a lot more alive here than anywhere else I’ve lived,” he said. “People here are just really willing to listen to each other, so there’s a big community aspect in that we’re all interested in how everyone else is experiencing things. They’re very open to different forms of thinking and processing here.”
“There’s a beautiful kind of vulnerability that comes from an artistic event, especially something as vulnerable as poetry.”– Lincoln Ripley
Normore agrees that the natural aspects of the province lend themselves to poetry.
“Storytelling and music (are) some part of what it means to exist here. Even historically, that’s how things were passed along. We just live in this vast expanse of nature and beauty.”
Newfoundland and Labrador is widely known to be a province bursting with creative talent, but it’s constantly evolving, says Normore. In the digital renaissance, everyone is a poet, but he says some people in the province still keep things fresh.
Normore grew up playing music and making art, which eventually led him to writing poetry. He also credits his experience studying theology for his love of metaphor. Poetry has also helped him through a personal healing journey, which Ripley says he can relate to.
Ripley has both autism and hyperlexia, which is an advanced ability to read and write. He says he’s been reading since the age of two.
He says he finds it difficult to explain to some people.
“Growing up, poetry was my way to kind of combine those two parts of my brain,” he said. “I was fascinated with words and the way you put them together – it was a good way to finally figure out my experiences and how to tell other people about it. So, it’s definitely an emotional processing sort of coping mechanism.”
Frequently performing either poetry or music, Normore says sometimes the act can feel like a job, but the process itself makes it worth the effort.
“Well, there’s no money,” he said as he and Ripley shared a laugh.
“I find that most poets are driven to write because you just have so many feelings, so many words inside of you, you need to find a way to express it. And it’s fun to do it in that way,” added Ripley.
Poets Travis House, Nicole Haldoupis and Heather Goosney will join the bill with Normore and Ripley this summer. Goosney said in an email – which she sent from an airport – she’s excited for the artistic connections an event like this could result in.
“I’m most looking forward to sitting alongside a beautiful group of people and exercising my gratitude for such an experience,” she wrote.
Ripley hopes the words shared during the upcoming event can connect with the other people in the room. Poetry by candlelight might inspire some passion.
“There’s a beautiful kind of vulnerability that comes from an artistic event, especially something as vulnerable as poetry.”