On Wednesday Oct. 29, the SJC hosted its third Poetry Slam at the Skybar Lounge located on the top floor of Issac’s Bar & Grill to a rapt crowd of over 20 attendees. Many people wandered into the already full venue, their curiosity piqued by the passionate delivery of the poets on stage.
“It’s one of our most popular events,” said Chelsea Kellner, the Events Coordinator for the Student Justice Centre (SJC). For those who do not know, a poetry slam is a competition where poets read or recite an original piece of work, which is then rated on a numerical scale by preselected members of the audience.
The host of this year’s Poetry Slam, who goes by the moniker Jay Zen Kalryzian, chose five members of the audience to act as judges before the event began. The judges were instructed to rate each performance on a scale from 0-10. Half of the points were allotted based on the quality of the poem itself, while the other half of the points were given for the quality of the poet’s delivery. At the beginning of the poetry slam, Jay Zen acted as the “sacrificial” poet, meaning he performed one of his own pieces, which the judges rated and used to calibrate their judging for the rest of the competition.
Each of the four poets that competed read or recited an original poem in the first round of the poetry slam. Afterwards, two featured poets, KT Job and Jaimie G, took to the stage to recite some of their own work. Both KT and Jaimie are members of the St. Catharines “Slam Poetry” team. Along with other team members Robin (aka Blue Jay) and Ken B (aka 1Love), they frequently participate in the St. Catharines Poetry Slam, an event hosted at Mahtay Café on the first Friday of every month.
We Sisters Three also performed between the first and second round of the poetry slam. They performed under the name of their current, collaborative project “West of Indie”, and after a short set of upbeat covers and original acoustic music, a delighted crowd called them back to the stage for an encore performance.
After West of Indie’s performance, the poets took to the stage for the second round of the competition. Stephanie Forcier won with 52.1 points and received a $25 dollar gift card. While poetry slams are inherently competitive, there seemed to be a desire to downplay the competitive aspect. After reading each of the scores, Jay Zen reminded the audience to, “applaud the poet not the points.” The audience was respectful and encouraging, giving each poet their full attention and often yelling, “higher” when they felt a judge’s score was undeservedly low.
The SJC hopes to host another poetry slam at Brock University during the winter semester in order to provide more poets with the opportunity to showcase their unique talents and passion.
Poetry slams are not merely a competitive event for spoken word. They are also a platform for social justice and an intriguing way to capture attention and raise awareness for issues such as mental health, gender inequality, and the environment.
If you would like to attend the St. Catharines Poetry Slam, check out the event details at mahtay.ca/events or visit Mahtay Cafe at 241 St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharines.