International Ontario Poetry Slam spreads the word

Monday, November 12, 2012

  • Alvin Lau, first place winner. Photo curtesy of Vanessa Tignanelli.

    Alvin Lau, first place winner. Photo curtesy of Vanessa Tignanelli.

Written by Abigel Lemak

Sunday, November 10, 60 poets gathered at the River Run Centre for the very first Ontario International Poetry Slam competition, displaying their talents for a chance to win $10,000 in cash prizes.

Spoken word is a type of poetry performed in either prose or verse, offering a commentary on social issues close to the poets heart. 

Guelph Spoken Word was founded by Beth Anne Fischer in 2008, and has since become a leading community movement, bringing local poets together and developing the arts culture in Guelph. The community itself still has a role to play in stepping up and supporting the arts in return.

“I would have really loved to have seen a lot more love and support from the Guelph community, they don’t know what they’re missing,” said Truth Is..., Assistant Director. “It was still an awesome reception, with a bunch of people who had never even been to a slam or heard of a slam.” 

The first Ontario International Poetry Slam (OIPS) proved a success, both in supporting poets with large cash prizes to encourage their career, but also in creating a space where poets and audience members alike can feel inspired and appreciated in their love for poetry. 

Alvin Lau, Chicago IL, took first place winning $6,000. Second place winner receiving $2,000; third place receiving $1,000; fourth $500; fifth $300 and sixth place walking away with $200.

The slammers brought their all from the very first poet, competition rising as the finalists gathered for their last rounds. Each contestant had three minutes on the stage, followed by a score out of ten revealed by the judges, edged on by the crowd to raise them higher. 

The energy of the slam audience was supportive and passionate, providing an open environment for poets to let their words loose, some wonderfully hilarious and others powerful and haunting. 

Slammers approached a range of topics, drawing from issues of gender, media, immigration, prejudice and love.

“Tiger, you could have been a messenger, a Boondock Saint,” said Lau. Offering a commentary on the potential media figures have in inspiring their own communities, wasted when caught in the comforts of success.

Other poems revamped classic soliloquies on a father’s oath to his daughter.

“To the boys who may one day date my daughter,” opened Chris August, tenth place winner, finishing with a conscientious and witty: “To the girls who may one day date my daughter...”

Women's issues were a reoccurring and powerful theme of the night, as poets addressed problems faced by women in surprising and laugh-out-loud ways.

“I wonder sometimes, how it would be just to pass a group of men on the street and see them salivating and hear when they say, ‘Look at her with that big ol’ brain,’” said Erika Gault.

OIPS not only proved to be a success, demonstrating not only the incredible talent of slammers from Ontario and beyond, but situates Guelph as a community that works to support artists and celebrate the arts. Events like these serve to bring around people new to spoken word poetry and expose them to the great talent of local poets.

“When you’re doing community building that’s the kind of thing [you want to do] is reach out and try to connect with a new audiences,” said Truth Is....

For more information about OIPS and to see a list of scores and contestants click here.

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