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by Camilla Shelby – Port Moody Secondary, Port Moody BC Feb 7, 2012
Defined as a, “form of poetry that often uses alliterated prose or verse,” spoken word is a powerful form of expression.
Spoken word artists and teams compete against one another in slam poetry competitions and just last year, history was made as the first ever B.C. High School Slam Poetry Championship was held in Vancouver. The event was called Hullabaloo, and it was the team from Reynolds Secondary in Victoria that captured the inaugural championship title.
Youthink was lucky enough to catch up with the five artists to discuss their experience at Hullabaloo 2011, what it takes to be a slam poet and their personal creative processes.
(pictured L-R) Savannah-Rain McDermott, Coach Brad Cunningham, Kanika Jackson, Jenn Bellas, Holly Lam and Zoe Duhaime
Fast FactsFavourite slam poets: Alysia Harris, Shane Koyczan, Buddy Wakefield, Jasmine Mans, anyone from the Strivers Row, generally.
Pre-performance rituals: We curl down our middle three fingers, link our pinkies and bite our thumbs. Also, we never wear shoes on stage.
Emotions before hitting the stage: So much huddling and squealing and just general freaking out… nervously rehearsing poems and for the rest, just trying not to think about it.
Funniest or most embarrassing moment: Performing in front of the Greater Victoria School Board. The piece was recently memorized (barely), and one poet (who will remain nameless) was reading it off her phone.
Nicknames:? Niels, Sven, Vladmir, Svetlonnah, Borslav. We got into the habit of speaking with Russian accents the entire Hullabaloo trip.
YT: Tell us a little bit more about Hullabaloo.
?HL: This past year it included four semifinal bouts, where four teams competed against each other with the winner of each semifinal gaining a spot in the finals. However, this year, the format has changed to a four-day event, where each team is assured two preliminary bouts with workshops occurring during the days.
YT: What is your team’s poetic style??
S-RD: Our teacher tells us to punch the audience in the nose, metaphorically, meaning that we should put things into our pieces that the audience isn’t expecting. We all have very different styles as poets in performance, but in our writing, we lean towards narrative more than confessional or lyrical.
YT: What theme inspired your team’s final performance at Hullabaloo??
ZD: We all did an individual piece. We opened with a piece about sexuality and religion, followed by a narrative about a woman’s reaction to a suicide in the neighbourhood, then we had a piece about spousal abuse and we closed with a poem about abortion in high school.
YT: What do you feel makes someone a good slam poet??
S-RD: If they can make you cry, or laugh, or feel anything at all. Everyone has a slam poet inside of them. You don’t just walk onto the stage and take everyone’s breath away the first time around. It takes time, it takes practice and it takes risk.
YT: What’s the hardest ?part of learning to be ?a slam poet??
JB: Finding your own style, not emulating exactly what other people are doing. Being comfortable enough with yourself that you aren’t afraid of what the audience thinks of you and what you’re saying. Realizing that anything can be a poem.
YT: What’s the creative process for your team?
?KJ: We held a lot of team meetings, but not as much got done there. We wrote a lot by ourselves and the meetings were mostly just for running our pieces and getting advice on them. [When] deciding what pieces were interesting, we had to realize the difference between a poem meant for the page and a poem meant for the stage, and we had to understand that some pieces are just not meant for competition.
YT: What do you think ?is the key to defending your title at this year’s ?Hullabaloo??
HL: Being humble. We can’t go into this expecting to win, because it’s so easy for slam to go from being about the poetry to being about the scores. This is art and we are artists. If we turn it into anything else, then we can’t win. We’re champions as long as we stay true to that, whether we get first place, or last… or anything in between.
See the Reynolds team in action at: ?Youtube.com/ReynoldsSlamPoetry.