\ TORONTO EAST Sunday, September 21, 2021 \
by Gary 17 \
Friends of the late Nik Beat, who passed away at his apartment suddenly sometime Wednesday, apparently from a stroke or heart attack, are being asked to help prepare a memorial video for a visitation Monday and funeral Tuesday by sharing their photos of the late multi-talented artist.
Friends are asked to send photos to [email protected] so that longtime pal Michael Oesch and recent companion Kimberly Mallett can put together the memorial video.
Tonight at The Magical Evening with Canadian Authors (MECATO) poetry reading being hosted by Sang Kim 7-10 at his restaurant, Windup Bird Café at 382 College St. —at which Beat was supposed to be one of the performers— despite having a full house already. Kim said in an email that he intends to “keep some spaces open for Nik’s friends and family should they wish to come out” and that he and the other writers will be reading passages from his work “as a tribute to our dear friend.”
The memorial video being assembled today by Oesch and Mallett will be shown at the visitation Mon. Sept. 22 from 2-4 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. at Sherrin Funeral Home, 873 Kingston Rd. and at the funeral service the next day at 1 p.m. at St. John’s Norway Church, 470 Woodbine Avenue at Kingston Rd.
It was just over three years ago that Nik was at that same church for the funeral of his longtime lady love and musical partner in his Tyranny Of Love band, Linda Mercer. He told me a year later that he was “still a long way from over it” and that he had a daily battle against depression in its wake. But eventually he did adapt and the past year had been one of increasing activity and accomplishments for him.
As reported on Thursday night, Beat, who was born Mike Barry in 1956, was 58 years old and at a new pinnacle of his career when he passed away sometime the previous day after attending a Tuesday night event at Cold Tea in Kensington Market as a “media personality” guest.
He had finished work on a spoken word album just this past Monday, longtime friend and poet Brandon Pitts noted and said having heard some of the sessions he “was blown away, feeling that he had taken his work to a whole new level.” The Seattle resident said he is also “in possession of an unpublished complete manuscript of Nik’s poetry [that] I am going to see to it is published in a volume that he would be proud of.”
Less than a month ago he was the subject of an online article by a newz4u writer (http://newz4u.net/nik-beat-bringing-art-to-toronto-like-a-storm/) that outlined the many facets of his talents and hinted at the incomparable role he has played in developing the poetry scene in this city.
As host of “HOWL”, his long-running weekly poetry, music and art radio show on CIUT, for 17 years, Beat interviewed and promoted legions of fellow artists and was also known for being hugely supportive of fledgling talents in the early stages of their career, boosting their self-confidence in various ways.
His niece, Syndey Longley, recalled in an email:
“He came to my school when I was a child and did a poetry reading and presentation for my glass to teach us about poetry, ever since then I knew how truly talented he was. Also, when I was growing up I decided I wanted to start playing music, and me being left handed has trouble finding a guitar, so my uncle found me a guitar and re stung it to be left handed so I could learn to play. He also taught me some chords and always encouraged me to do what I loved and go after what I believed in. I’m saddened that he is gone but I’m happy for the moments I shared with him.”
Other artists recollected similar experiences.
Halli Villegas wrote on Facebook:
“Nik Beat was always an ardent supporter of my writing, Tightrope Books and me even when others were doing there best to make sure Tightrope didn’t exist any longer and that I would have no place in the Canlit “community.” He was a true cultural icon, even if he never won a “major poetry award.” He had none of the arrogance and cliquishness so prevalent in Canadian poetry, none of the misogyny or jealousy. Just a nice guy. Nothing but good ever came my way from him.”
In a similar vein, Lizzy Worth wrote:
“When I was a teenager with a handful of angsty poems and no confidence, I remember seeing Nik’s name around town whenever I looked for readings in the listings or on flyers in Pages. I found his radio show and started listening to it. I felt so inspired by Nik because he was out there doing his thing, carving out a space for himself with poetry, and it made me see that I could do the same. Years later, I got to cross paths with him so often… Things won’t be the same in this city without him.”
Kathy Figueroa shared her feelings as a poem dedicated to Nik:
“Nik Beat (1956 - 2014)”
Nik Beat, Nik Beat
Hip guy around town
Our man on the street
Master of the airwaves at CIUT
High priest in the temple
Now he’s with a new crowd
Undoubtedly in a cool place
Where no mortals are allowed
Charming angels with a new radio show
No longer broadcasting
From downtown Toronto
His passion can be found in his legacy
Archived recordings to hear
Scores of pictures to see
Master of the airwaves at CIUT
High priest in the temple
His sister, Teresa Barry Longley, summed up many facets of his life in the official obituary notice that will be published in Sunday’s Toronto Star:
Michael Barry was born in Toronto, eldest son of the late Alice and Joe Barry, brother of Teresa Barry Longley and Marty Barry, brother-in-law of Doug Longley and Madeline Barry, much loved uncle of Sydney Longley and Jonathan and Shannon Barry, loving co-dependent of Hank the cat, much loved nephew of the late Teresa B. Kelly, soul-mate of the late Linda Mercer, and cousin to a large contingent of Kelly’s, Jones’s and Barry’s. Raised in a traditional Irish Catholic family, he always heard the beat of a different drummer. Listening to his muse, he became deeply interested in the arts, and reinvented and found himself as Nik Beat, poet and musician, a latter day Celtic bard of life, loss and love. He was passionate, charismatic, romantic, humble, gentle, funny, compassionate and a deeply spiritual person. A friend said so well: “He was a most unique and passionate fellow who lived his life unabashedly and to the fullest… And always a pretty girl or two on his arm.” Nik had a gift for fully engaging with people, that was reflected in his role as co-host of the CIUT program, HOWL, on Tuesday nights, and in the tributes to him on Facebook from the many people whose lives he deeply touched. He was a successful author, including “Famous for Falling” and “The Tyranny of Love”. He was an accomplished collage artist. He had just finished a new recording of Famous for Falling, and a new manuscript, now in the stage of editing. He was a leader and mentor of the indie arts and poetry scene in Toronto. Nik/Michael was a complex man who had earlier wrestled with depression, which he learned to redeem through his art. It is a comfort that in recent years, and at the time of his sudden heart attack, he was in the most positive, creative and successful phase of his life. He will be deeply missed by his family, many dear friends, and the Toronto arts and poetry communities. Special thanks to special friend Penel J. Smith who was always there for Nik. Visitation will be held at Sherrin Funeral Home, 873 Kingston Rd. at Beech Ave, on Monday Sept. 22 from 2-4 and 6-9 pm. A Celebration of his life will be held at St. John’s Norway Church, Woodbine Avenue at Kingston Rd. on Tuesday September 23 at 1 pm, with reception to follow. At a later time, a fitting artistic event will be held to celebrate his passionate Celtic soul, and send him off on the next phase of his journey in a way fitting to his passions, joys, achievements and friendships. A donation to an animal charity of your choice, an act of kindness for someone who needs it, and a commitment to your own heart health, would be fitting ways to remember Nik/Mike.
“In the end, all we have are the words we share” – Nik Beat