Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

So the tour is pretty much over! I did my last show last night and I'm currently in my mother's apartment in Okotoks, AB. 

I can't say enough about this experience. It's been filled with many friends whose faces and spirits have filled me with gratitude. Having a community is so important, and I'm blessed to have a community that spans hundreds of miles across the country. Without their support and encouragement I would not be where I am or have accomplished anything. I've learned alot in the last month, and I've realized that as much as I love touring and travelling, I also love my home. Montreal has become my place, the city that fits me and I'm longing to go back there right now. 

First, I want to take this opportunity to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about my art. Because many people I know are not a part of the spoken word community I answer the same 5 questions alot. Even in interviews with people who do know this world there is always a theme in the questions. So I'm going to answer some of them here.

1. Q: What is "Slam Poetry"?
    A: There is no such thing as "Slam Poetry". Slam is a competition, it is a game that we play with poetry. As much as there may seem to be a style or a framework for these types of poems, they are framed that way most of the time because there is a 3 minute time limit. But the artform is not called slam poetry, it is spoken word or performance poetry, or just plain poetry. Slam has made spoken word more popular because it is exciting, there are scores and competition, and there is a winner. This has made poetry into a game. But it is not an artform in itself. Example; There are story slams where storytellers compete in the same fashion. But noone calls that "slam stories", they are simply stories that are being used in a competition. The same goes for spoken word. 

2. Q: What's the difference between spoken word and "regular" poetry? 
     A: The only difference is that spoken word focuses more on the oral tradition of relaying stories and poetry. It is written less for the page and more to be heard. This does not mean that spoken word is always memorized by the performer and many do read off the page. It is however more focused on how you use your voice and body on the stage in order to convey your poem. This means it is more theatrical than a poet sitting in a chair reading from their book. We attempt to engage audiences imaginations through stage presence and the presentation of our work. 

3. Q: (Generally from members of the community in interviews) Why are there less women in Slam? 
    A: I get this question alot and I can only assume it is because I am a woman who has competed in Slam. The truth is that I don't know, and I cannot/ will not speak for all women. I do know that slam spaces are not always the safest spaces and that this is something that needs to change. Each slam community across the country is different, and each has to have their own discussion of what 'safe space' means for them. There are a ton of amazing women in spoken word and slam and if you are not seeing them then you are not looking hard enough.

4. Q: What do spoken word poets write about? 
    A: This question is always a little baffling. I mean, what do playwrights write about? What do songwriter's write about? There is such a huge variety of voices, subject matter, styles and stories that it is impossible to tell you. We write about everything, from personal stories to fantasy to comedy to political rants. We write about historical figures, video games, love, the environment and everything in between. There is no answer to this question except for me to tell you to go to a show or YouTube some spoken word. For any subject matter you are interested in, there is a poem about it. 

5. Q: Can you make a living doing spoken word? Is there an audience? 
    A: This is tricky. Firstly, yes there is an audience. Spoken word has gained in popularity even though it is still considered by many as a fringe art. There are poets who make their entire living by performing and teaching spoken word. It`s alot like music in that touring is where the money is. Not many people head to the poetry section of their local bookstore anymore, but people will pay to see a show and they will buy your merchandise. Teaching workshops can also bring you income. It`s certainly not an easy path to take, but you can do it if you are motivated enough. It`s like making a living doing any artform, it takes drive and sometimes struggle, but it can be possible.

These are just some of the questions I get on a regular basis. If any of you have any more that you would like answered or other poets have other questions you get all the time please let me know and I will post answers! These are just my opinions, my answers. Just like the massive range of humanity and creativity we see in poetry so do we see in opinions to these types of questions. If you are interested in spoken word but have never been to a show, do a Google search for poetry slam in your community or spoken word events. There is sure to be something.

As for me, I`m headed home on Saturday and am very excited to see my cat and my friends. To spend some time in my apartment and to see a special person who shall not be named. My life is so very very good. 

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