Edited by Maria Crawford with event photos by Raymond Helkio.
This past Thanksgiving long weekend, Peterborough had something special to be thankful for. On Saturday, October 7, 2023, a reading was held in downtown Peterborough on a front porch which was graciously donated by Margie Sumadh. Presented by “This Stage Of The Trail” and hosted by Esther Vincent and featuring Barbara Ryder, P.J. Thomas, who is the author of two publications, Wave and Gert’s Book of Knowledge which you can read David Bateman‘s review of here. This free event attracted about thirty eager onlookers for what was an intimate and engaging roster of poets, including Barbara Ryder and the award-winning blues singer and songwriter Rick Fines. The works presented were moving, thoughtful, and, in some cases, very timely, especially given the international focus on the current conflicts happening around the globe.
L-R: Esther Vincent (host), Trent Radio rep, P.J. Thomas (poet), Rick Fines (Blues singer/songwriter), and Barbara Ryder
P.J. Thomas read a series of eleven short works that were largely produced within the last year and were selected because they “represent my experiences of Peterborough, and because they recognize the topics of love and death I’m currently writing about.”
Barbara Ryder read seven short works she created over the summer ranging in subject matter from love, life, nature, and death. She concluded with I read Your Poems, a wonderful tribute to Bateman’s body of work.
The reading culminated in a guest appearance by Toronto’s beloved David Bateman, who, as expected, was as provocative as he was quick-witted. With unrivalled stage presence, Bateman grabbed the audience’s attention and held them close until his very last words. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see David perform, then you might be familiar with some of the works he selected to read, including Why Did You Have To Go To The Car Wash On The Way To Our Mother’s Funeral from his collection of poetry and prose in tis pity with cover photo of Toronto performance artist David Roche. This work is among my favourites because it explores the grief and angst of being a young child having to hold a dialectic of love and uncertainty with his older sibling. As the title suggests, Bateman’s brother pulls into a carwash on the way to their mother’s funeral, and this action causes a cascade of confusing and unsettling emotions for Bateman.
Family relations are confusing enough, and when you add death into the mix, the dynamics can quickly erupt into an emotional rollercoaster, leaving a young Bateman upset and “drenched with remorse.” While the circumstances surrounding David’s feelings toward his brother, and the death of his mother, are not unique to him, the experience itself provides an entry point for the audience to connect with his experience. While this work reflects the angst of a child, it is also punctuated with a humorous outlook, which, I can only guess, takes David’s memories and fashions them into an empowering storyline serving to inform and rewrite his relationship with both his family.
David also read the short work Drag Lament from Impersonating Flowers, which sports a campy and inventive cover photo of David Roche. Drag Lament is a call to those who are on the outside of drag culture. It unapologetically asks the listener to consider the risks and challenges drag queens face at the hands of the general populace, which can, and more often does, create an unsafe space for those with a penchant for this theatrical performance style. Listening to Bateman read this work in front of a largely heterosexual audience brought a smile to my face because all too often our queer stories are shared only with one another in an attempt to avoid the harsh judgments from those who are on the outside looking in.
Bateman’s performance style commanded full attention from the get-go and simultaneously created a safer space for people to reflect on the role that poetry and prose serves. Language can be a profound vehicle for change. There’s a thoughtful edginess in the works he chose to share, and this created an opportunity for the audience to move out from their comfort zone.
While Peterborough is Bateman’s hometown, he now resides in Toronto, where he paints, acts, writes, and regularly performs throughout the city. David is currently the host of the highly successful “Dirty, Queer Poetry” at the Black Eagle, an open mic event founded by Toronto’s beloved Patricia Wilson. David is the author of several publications, including Dr. Sad, his first full-length novel.
The poetry reading was recorded and partially funded by Trent Radio 92.7 FM for a future broadcast. Additional funding came from the Canada Council for the Arts funding was through The Writers’ Union of Canada.