October 05, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Youth Poetry Slam

by Jeannette Bodnar
The crowd at the Free Press Cafe
The Youth Poetry Slam is in its second year and it remains my favorite event. This year it was, once again, hosted by Winnipeg Slam Master Steve Locke and held at the Free Press Café.
Although the number of poet-performers was down from last year (it’s impossible to compete with thirty degree weather in September in Winnipeg), the audience packed the tables leaving standing room only by 3:00.
No one is born a writer. I don’t care what anyone tells you, this is the truth. Writing takes as much dedication and practice as learning an instrument. The difference being that there are seven basic notes in music and the average instrument covers a range of about 4 octaves (I’d guess). Compare that to the English language which, by conservative estimates, has anywhere from three quarters of a million to a million words and is constantly evolving, and you can understand how writing can be like learning a new instrument every day.
Slam Master Steve Locke
Now imagine performing for the first time. Not a song that has been written, published, and played a thousand times over, but your own song on an instrument that no one else in the world has ever played. This is what it is like to perform your work in front of an audience.
This is Slam Poetry.
On Saturday that energy was palpable and the poets that shared their work proved once again that contemporary youth have so much to contribute in the way of talent, awareness, and understanding.
Callahan Corner
Even though the afternoon was launched with a brilliant and quirky performance by established poet Callahan Conner, the young poets that followed were not outshone.

I think that is why I’m so drawn to open mics. The energy that accompanies performers, whether it’s their first walk on stage or their hundredth, permeates the air and compels everyone in the room to share in the intensity of the experience. For younger poet-performers it seems that the experience is heightened. Perhaps it is the deep, concentrated feelings only accessible in youth.
There was an even split of repeat performers and brand new poets on the stage. Although all the poets were young women there was still diversity in the style and substance of the performances. Beautiful imagery like, “walking down these saffron scented streets,” just speaks to the age of these poet’s souls and to the work and dedication they are already putting into their craft.
One of the performers
Another of the performers
Winnipeg has an outstanding poetry community and when I have the opportunity to hear magnificent up-and-coming poets like the ones who performed Saturday it makes me excited for what is still to come. If you are a young poet, if you know a young poet, or if you are interested in supporting gifted artists within an exceptionally talented and supportive community, please visit www.voicesink.org and help promote youth slam poetry in Winnipeg.

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