by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts & Culture Writer
The mood lighting in Green Bean Café on the night of Oct.3 had begun to settle in at a time where it would typically flip its open sign to closed. Coffee was still being served, the kitchen had remained open, and chairs were pulled up and turned to the direction of the stage near the café’s entrance. It was there, where multiple mic stands were set up, ready for words to be spoken by six poets. The seats were filled, and the crowd was roused by the passion, discipline and variety on display.
It was just over two years ago when the Windsor Poetry Slam, a team made to represent the rose city on a national stage, was conceived through a series of competitions hosted at Phog Lounge. Fast forward to present day and its identity has become defined. It has formally become incorporated and sponsored by the City of Windsor, and the events held at Phog at the end of each month manage to place the venue at near capacity. There are clear signs the scene is growing, playing a significant role in shaping Windsor’s sprawling poetry scene. The evening at Green Bean Café was a way for the current WPS team to showcase their talents, as well as fundraise to help take them to Peterborough, ON where the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word will occur from Oct. 22 to 28.
But also, according to WPS founder and event host Matt Loeb, it was also a way to try and invite students to a youthful scene with growing potential.
“You’re seeing more slam clubs pop up in universities, and you’re seeing more high schools have slam clubs and those slam teams which compete across other high schools,” Loeb said. “We’re really seeing a new generation grab the torch right now, and I think within the next five years we’re really going to see some interesting stuff.”
A two-time Canadian Individual Poetry Slam finalist, Loeb is currently ranked sixth in Canada and is currently working on a third poetry album. For him it was important to have the event close to campus for he finds slam poetry to be a youth-oriented activity, mainly appealing towards those aged under 25. He notes how some institutions, for example the University of British Columbia, have begun forming their own poetry slam teams. While UBC is in Vancouver, where the poetry scene there is said to be prominent, he would like Windsor to have similar momentum.
“I would love to see university students getting involved, and I would love to see the Windsor Poetry Slam linked into it,” Loeb said. “Windsor’s too small of a city to have two different competing poetry slams, but I would love to see them co-exist.”
A few of the current WPS poets consist of students, among them being the team’s slam master Samantha Badaoa. A fifth year English Literature and Creative Writing major, Badaoa is the only poet on the team to have been there since the slam’s inception. She recalls how the first couple of months had only two or three poets competing. But the numbers have only grown since then, from record-braking attendance to a solid number of participants.
“Now you have people who come from nowhere and they find the slam in some of the most unique ways, and that’s just very cool,” Badaoa said.
In being a student herself, Badaoa knows first-hand of the appeal of the WPS towards up and coming student writers. But in being a member, she also came to realize how talent comes in many forms, and hopes to keep the momentum going by making further attempts to reach out to that talent.
“The good thing about the Windsor scene is that its got such a bustling poetry scene, but almost, other than us, no slam scene,” Badaoa said. “So this is a way to literally cultivate new ground and expand.”
The Windsor Poetry Slam has two more events on the horizon prior to their trip to Peterborough. The first being a trivia fundraiser on the night of Oct. 10 at Phog Lounge, and the other being their official competitive event at the same location on Oct. 19.
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