The West Montrose covered bridge has played host to a wide variety of events and goings-on over the years. Next month it will add to its repertoire in a fresh, new way. A group of modern-day poets from Montreal will be paddling down the Grand River from Elora to Brantford between Aug. 10 and 17, performing readings in cafés, arts centers and libraries along the way, with an additional stop at the historic kissing bridge.

The group, the Fish Quill Poetry Boat, includes six accomplished Canadian poets whose mission is to bring the art form to small and mid-sized towns, which are often overlooked by up-and-coming artists in favor of major urban centres.

“It was an idea that a few friends and I had together,” said Linda Besner, who along with poet Leigh Kotsilidis is coordinating the event for the Fish Quill Poetry Boat. “People don’t typically think of contemporary poetry as part of their everyday lives, but we are hoping to change that if we can bring it right into their neighbourhoods.”

Tony Dowling of the West Montrose group the BridgeKeepers expects the event to attract a substantial audience from local colleges, universities, poetry and book clubs, along with curious local residents.

“This is a wonderful chance for people to enjoy a unique evening of poetry and a warm summer evening in the covered bridge,” said Dowling. “Anyone who has ever attended the Kiwanis Christmas carol sing in the bridge knows what a kind of magical setting it is. It will be an interesting contrast to go from 200 carolers singing on a cold winter’s night to a handful of poets reciting on a warm summer evening.”

The canoes for the tour have been lent free of charge by the Brantford-based outdoor adventure company Treks into the Wild. Reading will begin in the bridge on Aug. 11 at 7 p.m., ending at approximately 8:30 p.m. There is no charge for admission and no seating. Refreshments will be served, courtesy of the BridgeKeepers.

“None of us are what you would call nature poets. It will be a challenge being outdoors for a long period of time,” said Besner. “This will be a first for many of us so we are really excited to see how the trip goes and to bring our poetry to new audiences.”

BridgeKeepers, incorporated as the West Montrose Residents’ Association Inc., is an organization formed to preserve the “covered bridge experience.” For more information, or to support their efforts, contact Tony Dowling at info@bridgekeepers.ca, or visit www.bridgekeepers.ca.