General admission for children 17 years and under is always free

Canon, Canyon, Cannon: Well Dressed

Danez Smith, Imani Davis, Chrysanthemum, Jarvis Subia, and Porsha Olayiwola

Thursday, December 14, 2023 7 - 8:30 pm
Calderwood Hall

Join us for 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 artists Danez Smith, Chrysanthemum, Jarvis Subia, and Imani Davis.

These poets invite us to consider questions of influence and find new meaning through language and performance. This canon’s theme, "Well Dressed: Public Self/Private Self," is inspired by the Museum’s fall exhibitions Fabiola Jean Louis: Rewriting History, Inventing Isabella and Carla Fernández’s newly commissioned work for the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade.

Poets will read poems exploring the public persona and the poetic confessional tradition. Come dressed to express your inner self, creativity, and wildest dreams.


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.

Porsha Olayiwola, Photo by Ally Schmaling.


Inventing Isabella is supported in part by Fredericka and Howard Stevenson and by an endowment grant from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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.


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 Barr Foundation ArtsAmplified Initiative and the Polly Thayer Starr Charitable Trust.