One of the best things about poetry slams is the scope of poets – for instance, at The Poetry Slam at the Drake Hotel, in just a single evening you get to hear an assortment of spoken word dramatic performances including bitter and/or sweet love poetry, poignant social commentary, or deeply personal confessional pieces. Poets are free to express themselves in any style on any subject, whether it be a big topic or a trifling theme. The poet may fiercely summarize what is wrong with the universe in 3 minutes or take you inside the ‘mind’ of a maple leaf as it falls from its tree. What they all have in common is passion for their art.
When you go to the theatre, you are expected to keep silent but, at a poetry slam, you are encouraged to express yourself with cheers and snapping of the fingers as a testament that the words resonate with you. The audience could also boo at the poet or stomp their feet, but Toronto is generally too polite to do that.
The Slam is hosted by Dave Silverberg who proclaims, “Poems are judged on content, delivery, and originality, but that said, the points are not the point, the poetry is!”
Who judges the poetry? Judges are selected from the audience. The total score given by the judges is used to determine who advances. There are five teams of judges which could include you! When we checked out the Poetry Slam at the Drake Underground on January 24, 2015, I was delightfully surprised that my friends and I were selected to judge. I know from experience that judges can get booed at if the audience isn’t happy with the score; it is all part of the fun. Each judging group names themselves. We called ourselves the Slam Dunk Team.
The slam starts with twelve poets, each taking the stage and charming us with a poem in 3 minutes and 10 seconds.
One of my favourites of the evening is Spin, a poet, arts educator and revolutionary. Listen to him deliver “The woman is the backbone of the family tree“.
I really got into Sabrina’s dynamics – her voice and message are sublime. Hear Sabrina perform spoken word on October 27, 2013 via YouTube:
On another set, Sabrina expresses the challenges of being a woman and encourages strength and empowerment.
“You are not an hour glass for men who break things on purpose to feel powerful”.
When Sabrina returns to the stage, her poem was “Explaining My Depression to My Mother,” in which she painfully expresses, “It is the moment I come to know that everyone I will ever come to know and love, will die”.
The feature poet this night was Johnny MacRae, who came in second in “Canada’s Smartest Person”. Johnny is one of the top spoken word poets in the country. He had a lot of poignant things to say, such as, “If eyes were lips, then ours had a furious make out session when they first met”. Follow him on Twitter @johnnymacrae
The first half of the slam is intense; we’ve had a lot of words slung at us, but we are the Slam Dunk team…we can take the thrust of the strong words. Dave announced Sabrina, Susanna, Tanya, Spin, Toby, and Trick are moving on to the second round. We get a 10 minute break. After the break, the poets with the highest scores return to the stage with new poems. They are all so talented, but there must only be the top three winners.
With much anticipation, the winners are announced. Kudos to SPIN on his second slam win of the season! We all had a blast! My friends can’t wait to go again. They are asking if I think so-and-so would be interested in coming. I think they want me to plan another poetry slam outing. All right…who’s in?
Looking to know when’s the next Toronto Poetry Slam, the city’s most popular twice-monthly spoken word show? Join their Toronto Poetry Slam Facebook group. Doors open at 7 p.m. I recommend you get there by 7 if you want a seat. Line up before 7 p.m. if you want to score the treasured couches. Poetry slams are popular – the space really fills quickly. Sign up by 7:30 p.m. if you want to perform. The show starts at 8 p.m. and runs to 11 p.m.
Cover is only $5. Drake Hotel Underground
1150 Queen St. W.