Poets with disabilities perform pieces with heart

 A night of poetry readings presents a holistic view of the community

Vince reads an original poem with support of program staff at H’art Studios.
Image by: Kendra Pierroz
Vince reads an original poem with support of program staff at H’art Studios.

A poetry reading was held on Tuesday night with performances by poets looking beyond their disabilities and finding inspiration in the world around them.

The event, titled Off the Record, presented a group of emerging poets who shared their thoughts through poems of various styles and themes. It was held at The Box at H’art Centre, an art school for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Ranging in topic from outer space to personal identity, the men and women presented poems they’ve written over the past year in a poetry and memoir class.

The Box provided an intimate setting, and the red and white tablecloths and dim lighting gave the space a coffeehouse aesthetic. Audience members and poets exchanged hugs and highfives throughout the evening, creating a welcoming, communal atmosphere.

The hour-long event featured poetry readings, an intermission with music and dancing and an original song performed by one of the students to close the evening.

“It’s important to get the community involved just to see what wonderful work is actually created,” poetry and memoir instructor Barbara Laing said. By opening their doors to everyone, H’art Centre provides a safe environment for students to interact and share poetry with the rest of the community, she said.

“It’s a more accurate and holistic vision of our community.”

Laing, who is manager of The Box, said her poetry and memoir class is funded by a grant she received from Queen’s, the Fund for a Scholarly Research and Creative Work and Professional Development (Adjuncts).

The stipend, which can provide up to $5,000, launched the poetry class and paid for a visit from local author Iain Reid, she added.

The night wasn’t about poets with disabilities. It was instead a vibrant evening of poetry read and created by people who find inspiration in small, but significant places.

Many of the poets took inspiration from their lives, and described their instructors at H’art Centre, their personal experiences of watching geese or enjoying a summer day. Another popular topic was Sir John A. Macdonald’s daughter Mary, who faced disability in her own life.

Mary was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. She was unable to walk and instead used a wheelchair.

“I’m deeply proud,” Laing said. “It’s just great to hear such good work.”

A manuscript of the H’art Centre poets’ work will be completed by December.


disability, H’art Centre, Performance, Poetry, poetry reading

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