July 17, 2013

Winnipeg Poetry Slam Finals: The Icing on the Decade

By Steve Locke

2013 champ Aaron Simm throws it down on stage at the WPS finals.

On Wednesday, June 26th, a lucky King’s Head audience bore witness to a very special culmination of the 2013 Winnipeg Poetry Slam season. Not only did it result in the formation of a championship team, it also marked the tenth year in which Winnipeg has sent their poets to a national slam stage.

This season, the WPS made their home at the King’s Head Pub and Eatery. There, poets and slam fans alike got to know the venue’s beloved bartender, Francis, very well. He and the slam community saw the rise of some new, yet significant voices, not to mention the return of many of its veterans and beloved heroes who have been missed in recent years.

With the show set for 8pm, by quarter past seven, the second floor of the pub was absolutely packed with buzzing poets and patrons. The latter were eager to cheer on their favourites or to discover the art form in the best possible setting. Despite sharing a high level of performance anxiety, the former group exhibited much joviality and support towards each other in a truly communal experience.

The evening was hosted by slam team alum Leif Norman, who would also act as the feature in the absence of the indelible Andre Prefontaine. The Calgary slam champ was a victim to the city’s flooding, and could not make the trip. In a heartfelt message read aloud by local slam supporter, Bruce Symaka, Prefontaine sent his love to Winnipeg as well as his regrets for his absence. Delving into the crisis, he admitted to being overwhelmed by the tragedy he had witnessed, but also by the humanity and support from all across the country.

With the audience now primed by the inspirational message as well as a sacrificial offering by longtime slam poet Paul Friesen, host Norman set the competition to ignite. That it did, with performers representing a wide range of voices and backgrounds such as school teacher, jazz vocalist, restaurant cook, and more. Poems ranged in style and topic from political rants to choose your own adventure with themes of hope, rapture, and redemption. No two poets were the same, yet all of them left the stage with uproarious applause.

In the end, this ongoing social experiment/art form resulted in the assembly of a super team consisting of the B-boy narrator T’ai Pu, the enchanting Mira Black, the mastermind Steve Currie, the clever bonhomme Mike Johnston, and your slam champion and captain of the anti-mousketeers, Aaron Simm.

In its tenth year, the Winnipeg Poetry Slam continues to draw inspirational voices to its stage, transforming audience members into poets, performers, and heroes. According to many slam followers and veterans, this tenth anniversary team might be among the best the city has ever offered. This fall, they will represent Winnipeg in Montréal to compete in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Québec and rest of Canada had better beware.

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