Paul Dutton Is No Ordinary Poet

He really isn't. Anyone who has seen him perform live can tell you that. There's a lot of growling, grunting, hissing and buzzing and shrieking. Language breaks down into its most visceral, libidinal parts, all vowels and consonants and the kind of energy most people would never associate with that supposedly delicate and obsolete artform, poetry. But the best modern Canadian poetry is a much different beast than the poetry we associate with those days before the Industrial Revolution, when guys wearing frilly shirts wandered the through the Lake District trying to get laid through rhyme.

And a lot of that is thanks to Dutton. In the '70s and '80s, he was a member of The Four Horsemen, a crazy-weird and crazy-influential quartet of Toronto poets including bp nichol, Steve McCaffery and Rafael Barreto-Rivera. They performed the kind of  bizarre sound poetry that had first been developed by the Dadaists and Futurists in the bars and coffee houses of Paris and Zurich during the '20s. Strange sounds produced by the likes of Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters, and Tristian Tzara. But the members of the Four Horsemen weren't limited to just sound poetry, either — they broke down boundaries between a wide variety of genres and disciplines, interested in exploring the full spectrum of poetic modes. They experimented in ways that are still being felt by a new generation of 21st century Canadian poets, directly influencing the work of people like Christian Bök and Darren Wershler-Henry.

Tonight, because we are so lucky we can't even really believe it, he'll be performing works from that full spectrum of poetic modes at the latest edition of The Little Red Umbrella Variety Spectacular. It's at The Ossington, near Queen & Ossington. It's totally free, with 10% of bar sales going to the AIDS Committee of Toronto.Drinking starts at 8pm, performances at 8:30. The Facebook invite is here.

And to get you as excited as we are, here's a clip of Dutton performing with the Four Horsemen from a documentary filmed in the early '80s called Poetry In Motion:

Photo: via The American Scene


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