On Jan. 8, the St. Catharines Slam Poetry team picked up (and then dropped the mic) downtown at Mahtay Cafe and Lounge. These slams take place monthly at Mahtay Cafe. The slam opened up with an open mic round and then a competitive round.
In between round one and two of the slam, the team presents a monthly “feature” poet. This month’s feature poet was incredibly unique — poet Dominic Berry from the UK.
Berry is a theatrical poet and performer who involved the audience as well as incorporated Jaimie Godard, a Canadian slam poet who acted as a sacrifice poet earlier in the night. Berry later thanked the incredible audience of listeners and judges, and said he was amazed at the community, “sharing their words and their hearts” with each other. As suffering agoraphobia in earlier periods of his life. Having suffered from agoraphobia, these opportunities to share poetry represent an amazing opportunity for him.
Chris Lowes, from Mahtay Cafe and Lounge, acknowledges this wonderful potential of poetry.
“Initially I found it exhilarating,” Lowes explained on first hearing slam poetry, “These poets are true artists. They perform within the parameters of the rules… each artist is completely different… I’ve heard poems about superheroes, the triumph of human spirit, activism… Basically anything in the human experience.”
Lowes is not the only one who has seen the potential of this type of art, as the audience snapped and clapped all night long, shouting “higher” at every low judge.
“There are lots of reasons St Catharines Poetry Slam is important,” Lowes said. “If you come to the slam… you are going to be entertained. You are going to hear voices you most likely wouldn’t have heard from. Some will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. Either way, you will walk away amazed by the talent.”
In 2011 when the cafe opened, Mahtay always hoped to be a ‘community space’. The cafe is “a hub within the community” that harbors a judge free zone.
“We value the creative community,” Lowes said.
People from all walks of earth appear at Mahtay, and Lowes explains that it is rare to not see an artist or entrepreneur downtown in the cafe. Mahtay acts as a vehicle for St Catharines SLAM Team to be able to discuss interesting topics about veganism, as well as challenge homophobia, oppression, ableism, different forms of abuse, and many more types of activism. Along with this, the slam saves lives, as Berry admitted during his performance.
“It’s no exaggeration to say poetry saved my life.”