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Poets pick up paddles again

A group of poets will be giving up their pens for paddles as they embark on another tour down the Grand River starting Aug. 5.

Known as the Fish Quill Poetry Boat, the eight poets from Montreal and Toronto will spend nine days on the river, making their way from Elora to Chiefswood National Historic Site near Middleport, Ont. and stopping for public poetry readings along the way.

This is the second year the troupe has made its way down the river bringing poetry to smaller venues, which are often over looked by artists in favour of major cities, by performing readings in cafes, museums and ice cream parlours as they go along.

The West Montrose covered bridge will once again play host to the travelling poets.

“It was an idea that a few friends and I had,” said co-organizer Linda Besner, of how the annual trips began.

“People don’t typically think of poetry as part of their everyday lives, but we are hoping to change by bringing it right into their neighbourhoods.”

The group has doubled in size since their first voyage, she noted.

Besner, who just released her first book of poetry, The Id Kid, had to drop out of the last year’s trip after she fell ill.

SCENIC The covered bridge will serve as a backdrop Aug. 7

“It was really disappointing for me but hopefully this year I will be in good health and will be joining everyone on the trip,” she said.

Besner is looking forward to the stop at the Kissing Bridge as it will make a picturesque backdrop for the readings.

“We had great turnouts and we are hoping, because of the connections we made last year in the communities.

And the fact some people will remember us from last year, we will see more people come out.”

Tony Dowling, co-chair of the West Montrose residents’ group the BridgeKeepers, expects the event to attract a good-size audience this year.

“This is a very unique event and appeals to a specific kind of audience, but we are hoping for a good turnout,” said Dowling. “We have had carol singers at the bridge and public presentations and I think it is pretty cool to have something as unusual as a poetry recital held there too.”

This year the poets will not be in the bridge but will be holding their readings on the lawn northeast of the bridge, a decision that was made to keep the event fresh and different from last year.

“In terms of the venue the setting we have this year for the evening will be in the shadows of the bridge by the trees near the end of the bridge. It should be really neat for a background,” he said.

The readings will begin next to the bridge on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. There is no charge for admission and no seating.

Refreshments and snacks will be provided, courtesy of the BridgeKeepers.

The trip will also feature a special Paddle with the Poets Day family activity on Aug. 8, where the public can rent a canoe or bring their own and join the poets at 10 a.m. at Bingemans campground in Kitchener for lunch and a reading before the group heads to Cambridge.

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