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By Ren Tomovcik
Are you ready for a spoken word performance that pushes the boundaries of the traditional art form and turns your experience of poetry upside down? Celebrate the strength and power of the human voice with the A B Series, unique among Ottawa arts projects in its presentation of sound, performance and experimental poetry.
First nurtured by the devotion of a small group of Ottawa lit-lovers, the A B Series has grown into a much-loved regular reading series that is attracting local, Canadian and international talent to the capital city. The project began a couple of years ago with a few one-off readings, but artistic director Max Middle soon grew inspired to put together a regular reading series, assembling an impressive lineup of performers and performances in experimental genres.
In November of 2007, the A B Series inaugural reading took place at the City Hall Art Gallery, where performances now take place about once a month. It was the first time the Art Gallery had ever played host to a literary event, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Ottawa’s most innovative poetry events are now capturing the imagination of audiences in their second season, and eagerly planning the third.
Performances in the A B Series certainly aren’t limited to spoken word. Some shows include singing, rhythm, and instrumental music, and all include a dash of theatrical panache. At a recent A B event, the audience was invited to shuffle the pages of text before the reading began – not even the readers themselves knew where this journey was about to take them!
The A B Series features a mix of local performers and poets from across Canada, and is even attracting international attention. Last summer, in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the series proudly welcomed legendary Dutch sound poet Jaap Blonk. The event had the highest recorded attendance of any sound poetry event in Ottawa history.
Carmel Purkis (left) and jwcurry perform at Messagio Galore Take VI. Photos by Jesse Hildebrand.
Attending a performance in the A B Series is an otherworldly experience – this is not your average poetry reading. Taking the stage, each poet pushes back the walls of the traditional spoken word presentation and steps firmly into the realm of dramatic performance. You’ll see a multitude of characters come to life throughout the reading, their spoken sounds unfolding and mingling with facial expressions, body language and pure artistic energy to captivate the audience.
Sound poems explore the range of the human voice, often without using any words! Some performers express themselves entirely through hums, shouts, clicks, rhythms and tones. If you’ve never experienced a sound poetry performance, it will be an event to remember!
WHERE CAN I SEE IT?
The A B Series' home venue is the City Hall Art Gallery. However, past readings have taken place all over the capital, including the Mercury Lounge, the Urban Well, the University of Ottawa, the Library and Archives of Canada, the Avant Garde Bar and the Royal Oak Pub. The group strives to keep performances affordable and accessible for all, with many performances given free of charge or donations-only. A B events usually feature a book table with printed works by the artists available for purchase, along with audio recordings.
HEY, CAN I PERFORM?
The A B Series welcomes all submissions by interested artists. Poets, writers, artists and publishers are invited to submit their material.
For more information, you can visit the website at www.abseries.org, contact the A B Series directly at (613)859-8423, or join the Facebook group. For more photos, visit the Messagio Galore Gallery!
Look for more upcoming events from the A B Series and other Ottawa lit events in the Bywords Literary News, each Friday right here on Ottawafocus.com.
February 6th @ the NAC - Hear From Melbourne: The A B Series presents four of Australia's hottest performance poets, with introductory performances by The Young Griot Collective and Max Middle.
February 20th @ Mercury Lounge - Gary Barwin and Gregory Betts: Barwin and Betts read from The Obvious Flap, a performance text in progress that includes dialogue, mixed-media, and sound poetry
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