For about three years now, a group of poets from London, ON, pack up their words and wine and head for Bayfield during July where they book holiday cabins for a week and enjoy a self-directed writing retreat. I had been asked previously by my friend, Frank Beltrano, to join them, but this was the first time I was actually “in the neighbourhood,” so to speak, and while I didn’t choose to participate in the retreat itself, I did drive to Bayfield for the afternoon of their public reading that had been organized on the main street of town by Patina Studios.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and a poetry reading and the main street was filled with tourists strolling the boulevard. Parking was tight, too, because of all the visitors, but this is not unusual for a town like Bayfield, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. It’s a pretty little town with several public beaches and parks and a large number of boutique shops and services catering to the influx of visitors every summer. I did not notice a single chain or national store along that main street, either.
Patina Studios is one of these businesses, owned and operated by local artists. Joan Bailey was very welcoming and had set up a canopied “stage” in the garden area in front of the gallery, complete with sound system and mobiles dangling from the canvas cover, lines from poems printed on pieces of cardboard that twirled in the breeze.
Each of the poets had written the titles of their poems on slips of paper and the audience and passers-by were asked to draw titles from a basket. Reading that afternoon were Ron Stewart (a previous Coffee Shop Author contest winner, by the way), Kevin Heslop, Jan Stewart, Joan Clayton, Jennifer Chestnut, and Frank Beltrano.
We all had a most enjoyable afternoon, and many of those walking by, both young and old, stopped to listen for a while. When the reading was finished, we gathered around a picnic table back at the rented cabins and enjoyed the cheese I had brought from The Pine River Cheese & Butter Co-op near Kincardine. (The caramelized onion cheddar was a big hit!) I knew poets would require sustenance after their performances and that they already had brought a quantity of wine with them.
They decompressed and we all discussed the reading, the generosity of Patina Studios in providing the venue, and the perfect weather we enjoyed. Even the roofers working on a building across the street had stopped at one point to listen to poetry being read on the street on a sunny, summer day.