dylan–posterI first met Bear back in Peterborough, I think it was 1980 but it could have been earlier.  Bear was a mystical saki swilling Buddhist and unlike anyone I’d ever met.  He was an open book with the pages billowing like prayer flags in the wind.  He operated out of the top floor of one of the biggest buildings in downtown Peterborough, only five or six stories tall.  It had a Chinese restaurant on the first floor and to get into the service elevator you had to walk through the kitchen.  Bear’s Ordinary Studio was anything you wanted it to be, a bookstore, a poster printing shop, a venue for live performance.

I met Bear through the poetry community.  There were open readings almost every weekend at a small student pub called The Hangman and Bear was almost always there.  He was generally much quieter than the rest of us and his poems were certainly gentler, more loving.  Of all the poets who tried to hang their hats at The Hangman Bear was by far the most supportive.  It seemed to be his nature.  I’ve never met a sweeter man.

Later on I learned that he had grown up on the outskirts of Toronto, Etobicoke I think (which was the outskirts back then), which astonished me.  I thought he’d materialized fully formed on some distant planet.

Bear’s studio turned out high quality silk-screen prints for artists like David Bierk, Dennis Tourbin, Mark Prent and so on.  He also produced excellent posters for the local theatre community.  You could drop by his studio anytime for tea or saki or conversation.  At one point he turned part of his massive studio into a bookstore.  At that time, in Peterborough, it had the best selection, by far, of poetry by the likes of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski and the rest.  But you had to walk up five flights of stairs to get to it.

Ken Bear introduced me to a bigger world.

Michael Dennis

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