General admission for children 17 years and under is always free

Canon, Canyon, Cannon: All Black Everything

Nikky Finney, Letta Neely, UGBA, Zenaida Peterson, and Porsha Olayiwola

Thursday, February 22, 2024 7 - 8:30 pm
Calderwood Hall

Join us for Canon, Canyon, Cannon, an evening of poetry and performance curated by Porsha Olayiwola, Boston Poet Laureate, Gardner Museum Artist-In-Residence, and Neighborhood Salon Luminary, and featuring leading local and national artists UGBA, Zenaida Peterson, Letta Neely, and Nikky Finney. These poets invite us to consider questions of influence and find new meaning through language and performance.


The Canon, like its name suggests, encapsulates a literary and performance canon within the realm of poetry. All invited poets erase and recreate literary and performance canons in a way that propels literature to its present and its future.

This series seeks to engage ‘canon’ and all of its portal words and their meanings: the word the canon, in the sense of defining a literary tradition. The word canyon, as in a gorge in which we explore the depth of language and ourselves. The word the cannon, as in defense, as in a sounding of the alarms and as in dismantling barriers for entry. In addition to poets exploring their own canon and its influences, invited performers have been asked to design their readings in mood with canyon or cannon.

Taking inspiration from Isabella Stewart Gardner’s boundary-defying decision to omit labels and text for artists on the walls of her Museum, this new series seeks, with each reading, to eradicate the rules defining “publishable” and “performance” poetry. These collected works and performances invite poets and audience members together to carve out new meaning for themselves.


The Artist-in-Residence program is directed by Pieranna Cavalchini, Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art, and is supported by the Barbara Lee Program Fund.

The Neighborhood Salon is supported in part by the Anne Hawley Fund for Programs, the Barr Foundation ArtsAmplified Initiative, and the Polly Thayer Starr Charitable Trust.

The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is supported by the state of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.