Laurier students make it to poetry slam nationals

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word is set to run from October 23-30 in Winnipeg this year. Promising teams from around the country will compete in this week-long tournament featuring workshops, parties and some serious talent showcases.

The event will host 22 teams who will each voice their thoughts through a raw technique called slam poetry.

This concept involves not only poetic words, but also a gripping performance that never fails to captivate an audience.

This year, Kitchener-Waterloo will be represented in Winnipeg as its poetry slam team has qualified for nationals.

Ossian MacEachern is one of two Wilfrid Laurier students and members of the Kitchener-Waterloo Poetry Slam (KWPS) team who will be making their way to Winnipeg in less than a week to show off their talents.

“I personally started doing spoken word poetry about two and a half to three years ago,” said MacEachern.

“I had been writing poetry forever, but didn’t start performing until then. I met someone who introduced me to the monthly slam in Kitchener. The very first time I competed I came third and was sold on it.”

Anyone around the city is able to compete in tournaments within Kitchener-Waterloo, where they can then make the KWPS team by doing well in their performance. Teams that are built are then able to attend events like the CFSW next week.

“Cities will have regularly scheduled slam events and those events can register with Spoken Word Canada, which then will send teams to the event,” said MacEachern.

Another member of the KWPS team is Kitchener native, Taylor Heywood.

Taylor attended the event with K-W’s team last year and gave some insight on what the competition entails.

“The competition has teams of four or five people. There are multiple competitions that make up the festival, so at the beginning every team is paired up and there is a round of four different teams,” Heywood said.

Teams will send their best poets to compete in two rounds where they are scored by judges —the top and lowest score being voided.

Each person’s score on each team is added together and compared to the other teams to decide who will move on to the semi-finals.

Further rounds are completed after this to decide who will move on to the finals and eventually win the competition.

Slam poetry is a type of performance that is empowering to witness and even more so for the performer.

When asked about what is intriguing about the concept, MacEachern and Heywood had many positive explanations.

“The reason I go every month is because it’s a chance for me to express my story and my truths in a public context and supportive atmosphere, as opposed to a therapist where I’m being questioned,” said MacEachern.

“Sometimes you hear the one line of poetry that clicks seven things together in your brain and that moment is something I wouldn’t pass up for anything.”

As any form of art, writing is a very intimate process. “People are so honest; I’ve seen the most honesty out of poets more than anyone I’ve met in my life,” said Taylor.

“People are willing to say things on stage that maybe they’re too afraid to say in person, but because its been translated to art, it’s a lot easier to bear their soul and I really respect that of people,” said Heywood.

Heywood added that anyone in the K-W area is able to try out for the team next year, as it is a very open concept.

It is required to compete in two poetry slams throughout the year to make the finals, in which the top four participants will qualify to represent K-W as a team.

Next year’s Canadian Festival of Spoken Word will take place in Peterborough, Ontario.

“This festival has really helped the K-W art community in the past few years, because the connections that people make there are important,” said Heywood.

“I’ve met some of the most fantastic artists I’ve ever seen in my life at this festival.”

The K-W team has slams every first Saturday of the month at 7 p.m., hosted at Cafe Pyrus for those interested in experiencing slam poetry.

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