I’m author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott and I’m excited to be part of NRM, a magazine I love. Bill Arnott’s Beat is a series of insights and a laugh or two experienced during my travels—book tour readings and performances at mixed-media and literary events everywhere. I’m usually on Canada’s west coast but with the reach of our creative community, I feel we all live just around the corner.
For an introduction, a bit of background. There’s a stylized map on our living room wall. A simple piece of art with an eco feel—reclaimed wood, splashed with paint, a quasi-Rorschach test by a local artist.
We found it at an open-air craft fair one evening on North Vancouver’s gentrifying waterfront. Across the inlet lies the CBD, working port and cruise ship berths alongside a convention centre. We live nearby. I handed over three twenties and carried away the awkward piece of lumber, a Three Stooges sketch waiting to unfold. Since then it’s been a touchstone—at times in storage, now displayed on the solitary bit of wall in our highrise studio apartment in Vancouver’s Yaletown.
If you don’t know the area, let me offer up comparables relative to NRM’s publication hubs (New York, London, Hong Kong, Philippines). If you’re in the US, think Portland Oregon’s Pearl District—a hundred-and-fifty-year-old rail terminus developed twenty-five years ago into resto-pub, craft-beer, hipster-beard landscape adjacent to polluted and beautiful waterfront. If you’re in the UK, think London’s Canary Wharf, thirty years ago, before over-leveraged Canadians spruced it up. In China? I’d liken it to a small scale, architecturally challenged Shanghai Bund. And if you’re in the Philippines, imagine fewer islands, four seasons, and less interesting cuisine. That’s my neighbourhood—my home, most of the time.
A few years ago I distanced myself from a job and a life and a cache of folk I no longer considered my people. And leapt, double-footed, into the arts. With a few keystrokes and a new social media handle, I was Bill Arnott—author, poet, songwriter. Fact is I’d been doing these things for nearly half a century. But once Mark Zuckerberg broadcast it to the world, it somehow felt official.
I spent the ensuing years hanging out with as many creatives as possible—fellow authors, poets, songwriters, and multimedia artists, as well as performing at countless venues around Canada and overseas, attending every lit fest, open mic reading, book launch, slam poetry, and music event I could, making friends and building a network in this welcoming, supportive, healthily competitive community. Building bridges and breaking barriers has been, I like to believe, something I do well—finding commonality and fostering inclusivity. My experience isn’t unique. A lot of us accomplish the very same thing. Sharing these experiences through a column like this, I feel, makes sense.
Whether we’re meeting for the first time or reconnecting through shared channels —finding our sixth degree of Kevin Bacon connectivity, I look forward to more time together, here, in the pages of NRM. We might bump into each other at your next event—I’m the bald guy with a big smile, looking to swap ideas, share stories, and have a laugh as we continue to build our artistic community.
Oh, the map? Well, that’s my sightline most often, as I write, compose, face-time, chat, or daydream, often all those things at once. A view of the world, an inviting welcome mat—open-armed—tickling a nomadic desire to travel, tour, experience, and create. The art itself reminds me of gems we find when we’re not even looking. This simple slab of wood, destined for a landfill site, became something treasured—the alchemy of artistry, something transmogrified to something new by way of inspiration and interpretation, the result exceeding component parts—in this case, a bit of paint and tree becoming motivation and desire.
I see the same when I read NRM—artistic vision in a borderless world. To be a small part of this is a privilege. I encourage you to get in touch if you’ve something you’d like to share or bring to my attention. You can find me @billarnott_aps. I’ll see you soon, if not at a venue nearby then here, in our creative shared space.