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Nik Beat, Dead at 58

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Nik Beat

Nik Beat, a well-known figure in Toronto's music and literary scenes, died yesterday at 58. His given name was Michael Barry, but his chosen name reflected his hipster stance and determination to avoid conformity.

A resident of Toronto's Beaches community, he made many friends through his performances of original music and his poetry readings, as well as his 17-year stint cohosting with Nancy Bullis the literary radio show Howl on CIUT 89.5. Beat was the author of three poetry collections: Cartoon Rome, Tyranny of Love, and Famous for Falling, and recorded music for the Gallery Catalyst and under the name Hellywood Dolz. He also was a talented collagist. On Sunday, Sept, 21, he was due to launch his new novella at The Wind-up Bird on College Street, Toronto. The event, which follows on the heels of Word On The Street, will go on with cafe owner Sang Kim reading from Beat's novella.

His family has announced a visitation Mon. Sept. 22 from 2-6 p.m. at Sherrin Funeral Home, 873 Kingston Rd. and funeral service the next day at 1 p.m. at St. John’s Norway Church, 470 Woodbine Avenue at Kingston Rd. Details are being shared on Beat's Facebook page. Also, the family asks concerning "Any great photos of NIK, to please email them to" as soon as possible.

On a personal note, I became an acquaintance of Nik's over the last year. I last talked to him in August, at a poetry/music event on the Danforth. Poets and musicians vied for audience votes, with the winner of each category taking home half the audience's donations. Nik, who was talked into performing at the last minute and played a borrowed guitar, won the most votes in the music competition. With typical humility, he said "Wow, I've never won anything before."

A video of him performing his poetry may be viewed on YouTube. His poetry combined passion and humour, as in the last stanza of "Ally on the line'":
Her mind alights on mine
she’s a Sorry Teller
Ally on the line
with a sensual tenor.

He will be missed by many, both by those who knew him personally and those whose sole contact was through his Howl shows, which helped give exposure to new and established figures in the Toronto arts scene.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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