Archive for the ‘Capital Slam’ Category


Capital Slam was last night and it was CRAZY.

The judges were… very happy. They started by giving a 10 to the sac poet and by the end of the night the number 10 had been shown 39 times.


There were two perfect 30s (though one was knocked down by a time penalty).

Let’s start with the start. Our host, Brandon Wint, was running late so I kicked things off by introducing our first two Open Micers, who both gave us musical covers – first Charlie and then Crystal. Then Brandon took over to introduce CapSlam friends Kheim Possible and Beth-Anne Fischer (who, uh, heated things up a little bit in the Mercury Lounge. Yowza.)

We started with Urban Legend Sean O’Gorman as Sac poet and he did the letter to his nieces. I LOVE this piece. It should be played for every young girl as they get to the age where they (unfortunately) have to watch out for the predators of this world. The link on his name takes you to THAT poem so go watch it. Trust me.

Because of the… overly-excited judges πŸ™‚ score creep meant that if you were too early in the slam you had no real chance, which is too bad for Rastabula, who drew first. This young dude is new to our scene and he also spits at the Youth Poetry Slam, so check out that as well. Next was Mack Cannon. Let me just say that I look forward to seeing this cat at the CapSlam semi-finals.

Next up was a new poet, a young guy named Inshar Khan.


He laid down 6 minutes of mind-expanding words about bullying in school. Saying that doesn’t do it justice. Amazing. (And a killer time penalty, but nobody cared.)

Friend of CapSlam, Matt Peake was in the house to for an all-too-rare slam appearance.

At this point we had seen ONLY 6 TENS (only, ha!) but then Truth Is… ripped it wide open nailing a 29.9, and there was no looking back.
Another new (to us anyway) poet named Keisar Farah was next. I hadn’t seen him before but he clearly knows his way around a mic. He was followed by a couple of friends who were both on our stage for the second time: Bruce Narbaitz and Matt Warnholtz.
Another poet who has been away from out stage too long, Leichik, was back to give us her deep thoughts on the border between Israel and Palestine. Powerful words.

Then it happened.

Sense-Say took the mic.

In a word… BOOM.

Perfect 30.

The last two poets were both newcomers (to me, anyway), but they both had chops. Carlo A and AK-47 rocked the house to lead us into our feature.

Greg ‘Ritallin’ Frankson co-founded Capital Slam back in ’04 so we owe all of this to him. He wasn’t on stage because we owed him, though. He was there because he rocks the orthodox. Great set – one of the best I have seen from Greg… and he has done some killer sets.

As always, we need to acknowledge the support of the City of Ottawa in bringing us our feature.

We had a little shuffle for the second round as AK-47 had earned a second poem but refused it ‘due to her beliefs’. I’m not even sure what that means, but it meant we got another poem from Keisar Farah instead, so that is all good.

Carlo A went up first and apologized for being imperfectly prepared because he “didn’t think I’d get this far”. He should have more faith. He is a strong spitter.
Sense-Say was second up, hit a 29.5 which, combined with his 30, made him tough to beat.
Next was Bruce Narbaitz. We are going to have to keep watching this guy. He needs to get another slam in, but I sense semi-finals in his near future.
Fourth up was Keisar Farah. I look forward to seeing him again on our stage.
Last up was Truth Is…
She was the only one who could catch Sense-Say and she needed at least a 29.6 to do it.

She got a 30.

AND she went 3:21 for a 1 point time penalty.

So Sense-Say took the first CapSlam in March with Truth Is…, Bruce Narbaitz, Carlo A, and Keisar Farah rounding out the Top 5.

The show on March 19th features CFSW2010 Poet of Honour, Shauntay Grant, so you KNOW you won’t want to miss THAT!

The priority list for that show continues to be for people who have slammed once, so if you are on this list and want to slam, make sure you are at the Merc before 7pm (I am looking at YOU, V!) and we will get you on the stage.

Ali Alikhani
Amal el-Mohtar
Brandon Wint
Carlo A
Crystal Powers
David Howell
DJ Aunt Heather
Eric McIntyre
Helena B.
Hodan Ibrahim
Inshar Khan
Jai Aquarian
James Whitehead
Jenna Tenn-Yuk
Johnny D
Keisar Farah
Kim Nguyen
Mark Good
Rachel Small
Richard Parson
Robin Magder
Tommy Fitz
Vanessa Furlong

First off, thanks to Sterling Lynch and the Ottawa Arts Newsletter for calling a recent post of mine “the best Ottawa arts blog post of the last two weeks”. It is nice to see people are reading! (Well, I actually get stats the show how many people are reading, but still…).

Thanks Sterling!

CONTEXT: February 2011

February is always a turning point month with Capital Slam as it is the first month where we create priority lists to ensure that everyone who needs to slam to qualify for the CapSlam semi-finals is able to do so. That also generally means a temporary hiatus from slamming for me. I have already slammed enough to qualify and I am pretty much guaranteed a slot in the semis, so my attention turns to writing new poems and running the show.

This year there is asomething a little different for me though… self-imposed pressure.

In 2007, I had only one goal: qualify for the semis so I could get a track on the CD. So, when I finished the semis in 4th (and duplicated it during the finals and made the team), I was floating on air. I never expected it.

In 2008, I now knew what it was like to be on a team and I really wanted to do it again. There was a bunch of new poets (do names like OpenSecret, Poetic Speed and Marcus Jameel ring a bell?), so I tried not to hold out too much hope.

I made the team again (as team alternate).

In 2009, I was in about the same position. The semi-finals didn’t go well, but the finals went VERY well so I was lucky enough to be part of the team (as alternate) when Capital Slam won the CFSW Slam Championships (then that team became the Recipe).

In 2010, the festival was coming to Ottawa and I was Slam Master. That meant I pulled myself out of the semi-finals since I couldn’t be on a team anyway. I question whether I WOULD have made the team, since I would have to have scored better than Brandon Wint to do so.

That brings us to this year. I have yet to not be part of the CapSlam team, other than the year I stepped aside. So, is there pressure for me to make the team? You can’t be on it every year, right?

Of course not… but man, I really want to make it. Do I tie an unhealthy level of self-worth to my slam scores? Yeah, I’ll wear that. I don’t need to win every time (in fact, I rarely win), but I feel the need to be in the ‘conversation’. Yet I think when people try to guess who will be on the team, they never think of me. This goes for every year.

They think of me as the Slam Master.

I am okay with that because I LIKE being the Slam Master and I think I do a damned good job of it.

But I am still a poet first and once again, I want to prove that to everyone. (And by everyone, I really mean me.)

So, I am writing like mad, trying to make sure I have good poems to choose from for the semis and (hopefully) the finals. I prefer doing it this way so I am not just writing for the competition, which leads to ‘dishonest’ writing. I write a lot and then (again, hopefully) some pieces will rise out to be the obvious choices to compete with.

Well, they don’t all ‘make the cut’.

This piece came from an odd place. Ruthanne and I were watching an episode of Mad Men that ended with the song ’16 Tons’ by Tennessee Ernie Ford, and I started singing along.

Now, I can’t sing. At all. I did some musical theatre back int he day, but I was strictly background, doing parts that sat in my ‘meagre’ range. When I sang ’16 Tons’ though, it was RIGHT in my range.

So I started thinking about writing a poem where I could include the chorus. This is that poem.

I don’t think it is a bad poem, but it doesn’t have that little extra something…

    The Company Store

The alarm goes off
And a nation rubs its eyes
And stumbles out of bed
Leaving the arms of spouse/
Lover/sanctum of peace and
Harmony, stripping off
Secret identity to reveal
Our true selves, as defined by
No? You don’t define yourself
As Waiter, Plumber, Gas Jockey,
Code Monkey, Butcher, Baker,
Candlestick maker?
If not, why do we let
Our work rule our lives?
Our schedule from morning
Alarm off to morning alarm on
Revolves around the time
That is NOT our own
Where you willingly, or
Semi-willingly, or barely
Willingly slice off sections
Of your self
And sautee them in a
Liberal helping of Want and Need
And all of the grey area in between.
Then those pieces are sold off
To benefit someone else’s
Bottom line.

If you think assigning
Scores to poetry is crazy
Realize that we assign scores
To your very existence
Every payday.
Punchclock to punchclock
Takes the bulk of the day.
Punchclock to punchclock
Where we are commidified
And prostituted as completely
As any Mustang Ranch
Lady in waiting.
The saddle is cinched in
And they ride you until
You are good for nothing
But glue.

“But I LIKE my job”
You say – some of you,
And good for you,
Though ask yourself if you
Would be doing the same thing
If you weren’t trading it for
Hearth and home?
What would you do if you
Weren’t valued in terms of
Dollars and cents,
Groceries and rents,
Graded and valued by your
Economic impact
Instead of humanity extract.

And why is it that the more
You are paid, the better you
Are treated?
It is like the price of
Self-respect has been reversed.
As you move up the pay scale you
Hand in the short-handled
Shovels and coloured
Paper hats.
Trade a life of stressing
About money for a life of
Stressing about money
And the illusion of
Freedom as the golden
Handcuffs can hold as tightly
As the iron shackles of
And any bird can tell you
That a cage lined with
Gold and silk still won’t
Let you fly free.

When love and art
And friendship and
Parenting and joy and
ANYTHING motivated by
Who you are instead of
What you are worth
Is relegated to your
We know that we have
Created a life that
Is prioritized for you
And that we might as well
Hang a sign around our necks
With a price per pound
Because true intrinsic value
Has become a myth
But like any good myth it is
Worth holding on tightly
To remind us that maybe,
MAYBE, we can be something
But in the meantime:
“You load 16 tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
St.Peter don’t you call me cuz I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the company store.”

Still writing… more to come…

Ian Kamau at Capital Slam

Posted: February 6, 2011 in Capital Slam, Slam
Tags: ,

Last night was Capital Slam and what an excellent show!

First off, I can’t say enough about the feature. If you EVER get the chance to see Ian Kamau perform run, don’t walk, to get there at the front of the line. The man is words and rhythm and talent and performance and smoothness in one body.

I was mesmerized and so were the rest of the packed (sold-out!) Mercury Lounge house.

As for the Slam, February is when we prioritize people who haven’t slammed yet this season to get them on the stage and make sure everyone gets a chance to get their three slams in to try and qualify for the CapSlam semi-finals in May.

So, did we get new slammers?

Did we?

How is this:

Johnny D back from his travels in the north… Crystal fresh from a Recipe writing workshop… Dini always an amazing human with experience… Kim Nguyen with her first time on stage… and Bruce Narbaitz who made his slam debut by WINNING out in Perth and is now trying the CapSlam stage.

Who else?

How about Urban Legend and CapSlam favourite Sean O’Gorman? How about former CPC Director and poetry midwife Danielle K.L. Gregoire? How about Urban Legend and the living-up-to-her-name D-Lightfull? My brother in beardiness Brad Morden? The man who holds down the CapSlam beat, PrufRock? Ezra Pound’s heir Loh El?

Danielle took the early lead but we all know that it is tough to hold when you go up early (not impossible, but tough), plus there were some heavyweights in the second half. Brad, Pruf and Loh El snuck ahead of her later, with Dini falling behind by only .1. But then newcomer Bruce Narbaitz came up in the anchor spot – a total newcomer to CapSlam- and slayed it, scoring the top numbers in the first round!

In the second round Bruce went up first and while the crowd didn’t embrace his second piece as much as his first, it was still all love and an amazing debut. Loh El was next and he brought the magic of a passion for the world and hope and despair and… well, Loh El. PrufRock went up third. He had done his classic ‘Patent Numbers’ in honour of Black History Month in the first round and brought out a sequel, ‘Patent Numbers Part 2’ in the second! Still, he had a bit of trouble with it (probably because it was so new) and got the only time penalty (other than Chris Tse as Sacrificial poet) of the night. Fourth was Brad Morden who was solid as always. Danielle went up last and spoke from her heart… also as always. The crowd ate it all up.

In the end it came down like this:

1. Loh El – 56.6 (28.4/28.2)
2. Brad Morden – 56.3 (27.9/28.4)
3. Bruce Narbaitz – 56.1 (28.7/27.4)
4. Danielle K.L. Gregoire – 55.8 (27.6/28.2)
5. PrufRock – 55.0 (28.6/26.4)

For the CapSlam season rankings, Chris Tse still holds the top spot but Loh El moved into second (passing me!). PrufRock (having now done his third slam of the season) moves in at #4 with Brad Morden at #5.

If the CapSlam semi-finals were today it would be:

Chris Tse, Loh El, Rusty Priske, PrufRock, Brad Morden, Mack Cannon, Sean O’Gorman, Elle P., Sarah Musa, Sepideh, ArRay-of-Words and Danielle K.L. Gregoire who would be invited (with Marco Lobo invited to be a sac.), but it isn’t done yet! There are still four more regular season slams and missing out of that list are people like Jessica Ruano and Talia (who have to slam once more to be in the running), and Sense-Say, Brandon Wint and Bruce Narbaitz who could make that list if they slam two more times!

The next CapSlam is on Feb. 19th and will still have priority sign-up for those who haven’t slammed yet this season for us.

The feature is the three-time CapSlam team member (tying a record with yours truly), two-time national slam champion (tying a record with Brandon Wint) and a member of the renowned Recipe – – OpenSecret!!

Capital Slam on Saturday was a really nice show. Caytee Lush provided music and poetry and really capitivated the audience.

There were a number of new slammers competing… I LOVE when that happens! We also had the season debut of two-time National Championship Capital Slam team-member Brandon Wint!

The first round was a nice mix of new and hot. I did a new piece called ‘Trapeze’ that debuted out in Carleton Place. I scored well and right up until the end of the round I was in second behind Brandon… but then Jessica Ruano and Sean O’Gorman went up and rocked the house! When the dust settled, O’G was going into the second round in first place!

A note about O’G… the dude was suffering. He has some dental issues… a cracked tooth, I think. We should do a fundraiser show to get his tooth fixed. Brother was in PAIN.

Also making the second round (in addition to the four mentioned above) was James Whitehead, who was visiting from Victoria (PosterLoop guru), who brought the funny and had the crowd in stitches.

In the second round I started second-guessing myself. I had planned to bring FN back after not doing it for a long time, but I noticed that that wasn’t the real ‘mood’ of the room. It was a very ‘poetic’ night (which fit the theme of my first poem) while FN is all message with a forceful delivery.

Ruthanne urged me not to change because my piece would stand out as unique.

She was right.

The piece went over big and I got lots of compliments on the power of the piece. Kate Hunt told me it ‘scared her’. (Her tone made that sound like a compliment) πŸ™‚

I got the highest score of the second round, but I couldn’t make up the whole gap. In the end Brandon and O’G tied for first! I was third with Jessica and James rounding out the final round.

Great show.

Now… on to February.

Scheduled for the slam on Feb. 5th is Ian Kamau. That is a BIG feature, but a few things have to be worked out still… so keep your ears open and eyes peeled.

In addition, for both shows in February, we will be giving priority on the sign-up list for anyone who hasn’t slammed yet this season. If you haven’t slammed this year (or EVER!) make sure you sign-up by 7pm and I will get you on the stage. Here is your chance to rock the CapSlam mic!

Things are heating up for those 12 semi-final spots. The top 4 right now are Chris Tse, myself, Loh El, and Brad Morden but PrufRock is one slam away from being right in there and Sean O’Gorman is climbing fast, not to mention people like Mack Cannon, Elle P, and Jessica Ruano. Brandon could be back in the mix if he keeps slamming and we still haven’t heard from Truth Is…

Who will it be?

This past Saturday was the last Capital Slam of 2010 and it was a great show! PrufRock won with Loh El, Amal el-Mohtar, Brad Morden and Sepideh rounding out the final round.

What I want to talk about here is Amal… well, kind of.

Anyone who reads this blog should already know that I think she is an amazing poet.

When I found out she was coming to the show I immediately started trying to talk her into slamming. She has never slammed before. In face, she had never BEEN to a slam before.

Why did I want her to slam so badly? Not for her gratification, to be honest. She is already a very well-regarded writer and poet. She isn’t going to become a slammer (she doesn’t live in Ottawa currently, or damn straight I would be trying to turn her into a slammer…) No.

I wanted to prove a point.

I have always heard that to be a successful slammer you need to perform a certain style of poetry. I have heard that well-thought out and well-written pieces do not do well. If you are primarily a page poet, there is no point in even trying.

I call bullshit.

Amal is a page poet. Unlike many (not all by any means) page poets, she is able to present her poetry well orally.

That is it.

Write good poetry and present it well. That is all slam audiences ask for.

There is a place for railing against the establishment. There is also a place for a ‘song’ for a beautiful old city.

Write good poetry and present it well. The audiences will eat it up.

(It just so happens that my new poem, not yet performed, deals with similar topic…)

CONTEXT: October, 2010

Sometimes poems just come to you.

This one came from an odd source. I was reading an on-line forum where somebody starting talking about the difference between the mind and the brain. They were using love as an example. Another person came in and started explaining how love was a chemical reaction in the brain. They made a statement that isn’t EXACTLY the opening for the poem, but it is pretty close.

The poem starting falling into place almost immediately.

Amusing side note. I was featuring with Kevin Matthews out in Carleton Place at a LiPS Slam. As is my habit when I perform out there, I gave this poem a trial run. (I have probably debuted more poems out there than anywhere… short of Capital Slam.)

As I got to those early lines in the piece, Emily Kwissa and her friends started laughing. Apparently they had just had an exam in school on that exact thing. πŸ™‚

    Chemical Love

I recently heard that
There is a scientific basis
For love.
As people fall in love
The brain releases a certain set of chemicals
Including pheremones, dopamine,
Norepenephrine and seretonin,
Which act in a manner similar to
Amphetemines, stimulating the
Brain’s pleasure center and
Leading to side effects such as
Increased heart rate,
Loss of appetite and sleep,
And an intense feeling of excitement.
So now I can honestly say,
Baby, you are my drug.
You started as just a taste –
First smile is free
But after that it’s gonna cost ya.
Sliding into my veins
On an hallucinagenic
Power slide.
Footing is treacherous
When you can’t even find
Your feet because
You’ve been knocked heels
Over head.
Lay it out in little lines
As we pretend love is orderly
Then blast my brain with
A near fatal dose
Directly to the cerebral
Hollowing out my Common Sense
Until I find myself humming
For no reason.
The effect multiplies with
Repeated doses leaving a
Product of less environment
And more desironment
As the language can’t contain my
Like any dealer of
Deadly substances
You ask for payment once
The hook sinks its oh-so-soft
Barbs into my fleshy parts –
The price is my heart
And I turn it over
Without hesitation
Because, let’s face it,
I’m addicted to you.

You inject into me
And I inject into you
As I triple up this entendre
And we disprove the
Impenetrability Principle
As two bodies
Occupy the same space
At the same time.

You have me tripping
The light fandango
As my heart turns
Cartwheels across the floor
Yelling out ‘Look at me!
Look at me!’
Like a five year old
Desperate for attention.

When we are apart
I go through withdrawl.
I get the shakes and
The bakes while
The fakes say
‘What’s up with him?’
But I know I’m jonesing
So bad that only
Another hit of that what
Makes me feel good will do.

I freebase you because
With you as my base
I feel free.
We love hard until
I realize we have made
Out of every day.
You don’t stimulate only my
Brain’s pleasure center
But all of my brain
As you layer a knowledge-high
Over the sizzle from
Eyes to thighs
And… oh my.
I think I need a glass of water
Before I overheat
Or overdose.
I throw precautions to
The wind
Mixing you with gin
Because you are all the tonic
I need.
I’m hooked on phonics
Because all the words start
With U.
The mathematics of fanatics
As all equations have
You adding to me and
Solving for X
Where X equals infinity
Because our love knows
No limits.
You blow my mind, baby
Because you are my drug
And I can’t wait
For another dose
Of you.


Next… is likely a poem I just wrote today. πŸ™‚

Oh, if you see this in time, don’t forget that Once Upon A Slam is tonight! Mercury Lounge! 7pm!

Friday night the Copper Conundrum performed as part the Vernacular Spectacular show at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. It went very well and we received a lot of very positive feedback. Danielle, Kevin and I had a great time and we really appreciate Caitlyn Paxson for inviting us to perform.

Speaking of the Storytelling Festival, if given the opportunity you NEED to go out and see Tim Tingle perform. The man is brilliant. It was as emotionally moving as any performance I have ever seen.

Saturday night was Capital Slam. The features were an amalgam of Urban Legends and Wild Card team members from CFSW. It was fun. There was a surprising dearth of performers… maybe because six of them were featuring. πŸ™‚
I wasn’t planning to sign up, but since we only had seven slammers I added my name to make it eight.

Because I hadn’t really prepared, I did a couple of poems I had been working on with the Copper Conundrum. It is fun to do older stuff sometimes. I did Library and The Stranger. They went over well and I ended up third (improving my season score a little and keeping me in first overall… until Chris Tse performs again. πŸ™‚

We had a first time winner… Sepideh! She wowed ’em at CFSW and now has a Capital Slam victory under her belt! Well done!

The final rankings were:

1. Sepideh
2. PrufRock (making his season debut)
3. Rusty Priske
4. Talia
5. Loh El
6. Ronsense (Ron Langton now has a stage name!)
7. Marco Lobo
8. Kheim Possible

On Sunday, Ruthanne Edward held a Story Slam at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. It was a lot of fun. It was a more ‘pure’ storytelling lineup (as opposed to the Once Upon a Slam crowd which has a mix of storytellers and narrative poetry). There were a lot of time penalties (including two people who racked up 6 point penalties each), but in the end the top scorer wasn’t decided by the stop watch.

1. David Hickey (Montreal)
2. Kim Kilpatrick (Ottawa) – (two slams, two 2nds for Kim)
3. Phil Nagy (Ottawa)

One item of note was Kate Hunt of the Kymeras, who is a great poet, but had never slammed. She took Ruthanne’s workshop and made her slam AND storytelling debut! She ended up with a very good score, but picked up one of those 6 point time penalties. Nobody cared. It was awesome.

This Friday is the return of Once Upon A Slam at the Mercury Underground. Story Slam is rising fast and looks to be the Next Big Thing! Get in on the ground floor (pun intended…)