A little over a decade ago while I was hosting a weekly open mic at Zona’s Bistro in Canmore, Alberta I met Drek Daa, who was in town visiting some mutual friends. Recognizing my fresh excitement for spoken word and slam poetry, he told me about the Canadian Spoken Wordlympics happening that autumn in Ottawa and recommended I come check it out if I could. I was due to head down to California in mid-September, and thought about making my way to Ottawa from there, but wound up living in my tent on a beach in San Pedrito instead.
In 2005 the festival, renamed the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW), came to Vancouver. I was a few weeks into calling Victoria home and hoping to eventually start a slam in town when RC Weslowski asked me if I might help put a Victoria team together to come take part in the festival. Having no regular spoken word events in town at the time, RC agreed to come over and help us run a slam-off to form ourselves a team. The show also happened to mark The Fugitives‘ second trip over to play solstice café, and brought a goodly number of people out for the proceedings, but before that night half the members of what became the first Victoria Poetry Slam Team had never even been to a slam — we were as green as could be, and eager for the experience of it all! We came, predictably, sixth out of six teams, and learned a lot in the process.
Since Halifax in 2007 I have been to every CFSW with the exception of the 2010 festival in Ottawa (a fiscal reality choice between attending the festival or embarking on the first 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac tour with Johnny MacRae) as a coach, host and bout manager for the slams at the festival. CFSW is one of a couple key events I look forward to every year – a glorious family reunion filled with words and new faces in cities seen in a different context. The dance around the country of the changing host cities is part of what makes the festival so exciting from year to year – each city puts its own personality into the mix to create a festival that is national in scale, while bringing as much local flavour to the mix as can be. I do my best now to schedule the rest of my year around it, wherever it’s scheduled to be.
This year, as I begin preparing for the fact I’ll be in Montreal this time next week, I find myself on a team for the first time since 2005, and in away it feels like the first time ever (in addition to having no illusions about winning, the ’05 team had no inkling of strategy – most of us only had our two poems for prelims, a couple of us had three). I’m simultaneously excited and terrified for this! Working with Jeremy Loveday, Morgan Purvis-Bellamano, Pamela Stewart and Johnny –often from the road– has been somewhere between a thrilling challenge and a challenging thrill. The friendships at the foundation of this team have made some of our risks far easier to take, while also making some of our barriers more difficult to hurdle. But we’re doing it! Together. I have a very strong love for the 2013 Vic Slam Team and each person on it (special shout out here to our coach, Scott Thompson a/k/a Scott Awesome).No matter what the scores say in this silly game we play, I’m honoured and blessed by this experience and immensely stoked for what’s to come!
Next transmission will be live from CFSW 2013 in Montréal.