Crafting Poetry with the Slam Greats

Friday, March 4, 2016

  • Illustration by Iya Irriberi, courtesy of heights-ateneo.org

    Illustration by Iya Irriberi, courtesy of heights-ateneo.org

Written by Clarissa Shepherd

If you haven’t gotten into the slam poetry scene in Guelph, you, my friend, are MISSING. OUT. The talent in the room at any poetry slam event in Guelph is palpable. That same talent permeated the poetry workshop entitled “Sharpened Tongues: The Image, the Audience and the Connection Between” that took place on Sunday, February 28th, 2016. Hosted by Guelph’s fabulous improv and comedy facilitator, The Making Box, and lead by the phenomenal spoken word artist and musician Dan Murray, the workshop was a fast-paced, two-hour crash course in the art of crafting spoken word poetry, and it did not disappoint.

Ever felt inclined to write down some words that make you feel things and then slam them out in front of a snapping, stomping audience of peers? Well it’s happening here in Guelph, and often. Guelph Spoken Word holds at least three events a month, including a poetry open mic at Red Brick, a Saturday competitive poetry slam at the ebar, and a Pints and Poetry event on certain Thursdays. The regular spoken word artists who perform at these events are not opposed to learning new tricks, however, as several of them were in attendance at the seminar on Sunday.

The poetry workshop was held in the muffled and dusty space The Making Box occupies above a Resource Center on Baker Street. After a brief and warm introduction by Patrick Kelly, Dan Murray walked the fifteen of us eager poets and poet-wannabes through a quick itinerary before getting the ball rolling with an engaging and interactive writing exercise. After we had all shared and savored each others’ creative juices (#sorrynotsorry for the gross imagery), Dan got down to details and walked us through an informative and organized guide to writing poetry. Starting with writing prompts and working through to discussing the delicate balance between achieving honesty, creativity and accessibility in a poem, Dan provided a stimulating session on his approach to writing spoken word poetry for one satisfying hour.

Once the hour was up, we had a free space to converse with one another, ask Dan questions, and run bits of our writing by him for feedback. This latter component was especially rewarding, particularly because of the seasoned poetry performers in the room. This was a chance to see a glimpse into their creative process, and to hear bits of their poetry unfettered and unpolished, which was an incredible and unexpected treat. At the end of the short two hours, I personally had three pages of notes, a bunch of extremely depressing three-word images from our writing exercise, and the start of another sad existential poem. Personal eccentricities aside, it was a fruitful day, and well worth the $25 it cost.

In future, should you have the desire to slip out of your comfort zone and perhaps explore your own creative writing talents, there is another “Sharpened Tongues” seminar coming in May this year, specific date and facilitator to be determined. Subsidized prices are available, the venue is accessible, and oddness, goofiness and creativity are all encouraged. That, and it’s a damn good use of your Sunday afternoon, which I’m sure you would have just spent on Netflix otherwise. 

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