Archive for the ‘Slam’ Category

Ian Kamau at Capital Slam

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

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. 🙂
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. 🙂

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…)


Posted: October 4, 2010 in CFSW, Slam

Saturday was the latest edition of Capital Slam, and the last one before the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word kicks off on Oct. 12th.

We had a decent audience turnout, not a second consecutive sellout, but still quite solid. We got enough performers that we had to bump a couple who performed last time plus a couple who just didn’t get in (like Sean O’G who declined the opportunity to slam when he found out it would bump Sarah Musa…)

The feature was a singer/songwriter named Andre Bluteau. He was mellow, but really good.

He probably only seemed mellow because the slam was FIRE!

We had time penalties a-plenty, but nobody cared because the night was so hot!

In the first round I performed Tricks, and WOW! My worries that it wasn’t a ‘slam’ poem were way off. I scored a 29.6 for first place after the first round. A couple of notable performances from the first round included Danielle K.L. Gregoire and newcomer J-Rome, both of whom would have made the second round if it wasn’t for time penalties. We also had some more newcomers: Greg Boyd (who is only 15), Helena B. (who came VERY close, coming in 6th) and Mark Good.

In the second round we had two CapSlam ‘vets’ (me and Brad Morden), two memebers of the Urban Legends team (Hodan Ibrahim and Synonymous), and one fairly new slammer who is quickly making a name for herself (Sarah Musa).

In the second round I did a new poem called ‘Sometimes I Can’t Remember’. It went over very well, netting me a 29.5… but Hodan rocked the second round, nailing five TENS, to jump past me into first place. I was second, followed by Synonymous, Sarah and Brad.

Next… CFSW!


Posted: September 13, 2010 in Poetry, Slam
Tags: ,

Wow… I didn’t write a single poem in July. The festival (and not being on a team) is distracting me more than I would have thought.

CONTEXT: August, 2010

I wrote this piece for the Bill Brown 1-2-3 2nd Anniversary Show.

This show is a little different from a regular slam. First off, it is in a 1-2-3 format so the first round is 1 minute poems, 2nd round 2 minute, etc.

Secondly, it is a head-to-head show, so instead of getting scores, the judges just choose which of two poets/poems they prefer and that poet moves onto the second round.

Last year I did quite well in this show. I managed to get all the way to the semi-finals before running into the brick wall that is World Slam Champion, Ian Keteku.

This year I was not so lucky. I drew Truth Is… in the first round. Sigh.

The good news is the confirmation that Truth and Beth-Ann are just about finished their move to Ottawa. They will be great additions to our community!

Anyway, here is my one-minute poem that lost to Truth Is…


This poem goes out
To all the judges
In the audience.
Not just the ones who
Jot down scores,
Hold up placards
Or otherwise have their voices
Heard in an official capacity.
No, I am talking about those
Other judges who pass
Judgment with their stares
As our wares display for
The querrelous inflection
That opens up for dissection
Each hinted at indiscretion
That led to a poetic conception.
For each performance is a birth
Where we then put our
Baby on a platform
To see if it conforms
To your exacting standards.
Switch on the flood-lights
For tonight’s prize fights
To see who puts out whose lights
In the knockout of the night!
A right hook that only
Connects after ricocheting
Off the ears of those judging
To land only where they aim it.
So whether I have been
Pre-judged or post-judged
I don’t begrudge any of you.
Here I stand,
Chin exposed,
Offering up more than
My body or mind, as I can shield those.
You’ve got a rock in one hand
And love light in the other
And my soul sits encased in glass.
Now it is your time,
Pick your weapon and target
And let it fly.


The next one is written but not performed. It would have been the two minute piece at Bill Brown.

The New CapSlam Season is Underway!

Posted: September 7, 2010 in CPC, Poetry, Slam
Tags: ,

And what I bizarre show!

Okay… the first round was underway… we had OpenSecret setting the bar as the sac poet… Chris Tse set the bar in the event itself… Sean O’Gorman scored really well… I ‘slam debuted’ Moving to Arizona, with a less than perfect delivery but it went off okay.

Then up came Tommy Fitz. This cat was clearly a stand-up comic rather than a poet, but hey… it’s all spoken word, right?

He started strong with a bit about a movie adaptation of the game Battleship. It was funny. People laughed. It was good.

Then he did THE joke. I am going to reproduce it (slightly edited, so you understand what went down).

“I use bad words when I play scrabble. Words like ‘spook’, ‘jigaboo’, negro, and sometimes ‘n****r’. I use those words when I play against racists, because they are the only words they can spell.”

Okay, so there is the ‘joke’. The fact that it isn’t funny… well, that happens. Comedy is hard. HOWEVER… this guy is white. By the time he hit the N-bombs, the room was nearly silent. One guy laughed. The rest of the room sat in dead silence.
He kind of apologized for the joke when he realized how it went over and when on to the next one. If you wanted to give him ANY benefit of the doubt, he lost in on the next joke which involved saying a certain accent made them sound ‘retarded’.

One person walked out of the room in anger after the N-bomb. (He came back, I am glad to say.)

When he left the stage he did so to minor, light, polite applause. When he got to the back he said something to Danielle about having just written that joke and it was a mistake. Then he was out the door. (Now, I happen to know that he had another gig. He wasn’t JUST fleeing the scene.)

Then came the scores: I was a little disappointed at first with how high they were… but the rest of the judges came through. 8.4 7.9 4.0 0.5 0.4
AND he had a 4 point time penalty. giving him an 8.4, the lowest score I have ever seen at a slam.

I was happy how the crowd dealt with him. They didn’t turn ugly… they just made it very clear they weren’t going to support him in any way. Very mature yet… properly judgemental.

After that, the room was sucked clean of any good energy. I felt really bad for arRay-of-Words who had to go up next. He definitely scored worse then he normally would have there.

By the end of the first round I was telling Danielle that I thought this was the worst show we had ever had. (though some great performances by the likes of Elle P and Sarah Musa were a nice surprise to many in the room.)

I am happy to say that our feature, Fraser, won the room back. A great set mixing poetry and hip-hop, including some VERY timely stuff about race turned the show back into a positive atmosphere. He ended with a cool freestyle that namedropped Poetic Speed.

The second round was REALLY good, though. Sarah Musa went up first and while it wasn’t as strong as her first round piece, we still know that she is a name to watch.
Second up was Elle P. I personally discovered her at Voices of Venus and asked her to come Slam. This was her debut with us and she ROCKED it. Two steller pieces.
Third up in the 2nrd round was me. I did Angst and it went over well. I mean REALLY well. I think some o fmy own emotions came through as I have been having a tough time lately. Nothing I’m going to get into here, but that’s just the way it is. Afterwards I had a number of people thank me for the poem in the way that tell sme they have suffered from the depression that I talk about. Sometimes poetry is really rewarding.
It was pretty ‘rewarding’ on the scoreboards as well as I got 3 tens and ended with a 29.8
O’G went up and continued to show why is such a rising star.
Chris Tse went up last and said 29.8, eh? Let’s see what I can do about that… and also got 3 tens but ended with a 29.9

Final (remember that the rounds are cumulative)
1. Chris Tse (starting the new season like he ended the last one)
2. Elle P
3. Rusty Priske
4. Sean O’Gorman
5. Sarah Musa

Oh, as a side note, Danielle Gregoire only missed the second round by .1 and when she was knocked out because Sarah Musa slayed the room in the 1st round? Well, I’ve never seen someone happier for getting knocked out. 🙂

Next up, Bill Brown 1-2-3 Anniversary show. I really don’t know what I am goign to do for the short pieces.

Back to Poetry

Posted: September 3, 2010 in CFSW, CPC, Slam, The Copper Conundrum
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Wow, it has been a while. Summer is relative poetry doldrums around here.

I mean, I have actually been busy, what with the upcoming Canadian Festival of Spoken Word plus GenCon, plus, plus, plus… but now it is back to the usual ‘grind’. 🙂

This Saturday is the start of the new Capital Slam season! I had to step aside this year because of the festival, but now it is time to start trying to get on the 2011 team! 🙂

Then, next Thursday is the Bill Brown 1-2-3 Anniversary show. Last year was a lot of fun. I expect this year will be as well, but I don’t expect to get to the top 4 like last time. My short poems are just not… up to snuff.

The Copper Conundrum has been asked to perform at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival, that should be fun…

And, of course, the festival!

We had the draw for the Last Chance Slam on Wednesday. 31 people signed up for 12 spots. The names drawn were:

Kevin Matthews, Ottawa (woot! Go Copper Conundrum!)
Malek Yalaoui, Montreal
Jenny Smart, London
Hilary Angus, Montreal
Festrell, Ottawa
Sepideh Soltaninia, Ottawa
Kathryn Lennon, Kitchener/Waterloo
Calondra Mainhart, Saskatoon (I think…)
Daniel Mark Patterson, Vancouver
Jenna Tenn-Yuk, Ottawa
Traistan DePlume, Vancouver
Sean O’Gorman, Ottawa

The waiting list, in case anyone drops or doesn’t show up…

Steve Miller, Vancouver
Grace Defined, Ottawa
Brad Morden, Ottawa
Jillian Christmas, Toronto
Paul Fischer, Vancouver
Loh El, Ottawa
Karen James, Ottawa
b!WILDer, Lanark County

The top slammers at the LCS will form the Wild Card team who will line-up against 17 other teams at the festival.

The other teams are:

Vancouver (3 time champions)
Toronto (Toronto Poetry Slam)
Toronto (Up From the Roots)
Lanark County
Ottawa (Capital Slam) – defending champions
Ottawa (Urban Legends)
Halifax (2 time champions)

The festival is going to be AMAZING!


Posted: July 19, 2010 in Poetry, Slam, Uncategorized
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Saturday was the Lanark County Slam Finals. I was invited to host again (and I performed the poem included below)!

The Lanark scene is really shaping up with talent presented, but there was also only one poet (I think) who hadn’t appeared in their finals before. Getting new people is tough but neccesary. I hope they can do it because the scene is strong and the poets and the community deserve it. 🙂

In the end, one of the best poets they have (in my opinion) was knocked out of the running due to time penalties when she stumbled over her poem, which is a shame.

The team is still top notch, though! The Lanark Champ is Emily Kwissa, who has been on the team all three years, but this is her first as champ. (An interesting note, two years ago in Calgary, Emily broke the record for the youngest poet on the CFSW stage, beating Ottawa’s DJ Morales. This year, Lanark could have broken it again if Satinka Schilling had made the team. She came very close but lost in a ‘slam-off’ for the alt spot.)
Second was Sarah Bingham. Last year Sarah had time problems, which kept her off the team. This year she got that in order, kept under three minutes both rounds, and kept her spot!
Third was Inez Dekker. Inez has been a part of the scene from the start but this is her first time on the team. (interesting note #2 – remember I mentioned that Lanark had the youngest performer ever on the CFSW stage? I BELIEVE that with Inez they will now have the oldest as well. – Oh, I asked Inez’ permission before I said that…) I am not 100% sure because I haven’t been to every festival, though. I’m going to try to find out because that sure says a lot about Lanark County! Everybody says they are inclusive but to have the youngest AND oldest is pretty impressive.
Fourth was Ken Kicksee. He was on the team last year as well. He was the only male competing this year as Lanark continues to have the opposite problem that CapSlam was having.
The alternate is Britt Faraday for the second year in a row. As I said above, she was actually tied with Satinka but won in the slam-off.

Good show. Fun times. Too bad about Danielle because we all know she has the ability to be on the team, but it just wasn’t her night. I’ve certainly known that feeling of panic when suddenly the words vanish from your brain.

At Danielle’s request, I performed a piece that I had only done as part of the Copper Conundrum… and happens to be the next poem for this blog.

CONTEXT: June, 2010

First off, it is a true story and I am going to out the person I refer to in the poem: Gilles Labelle. Gilles is a good guy, but he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to spoken word. He has never been to a show but still thinks he knows all about it. 🙂 I have played him a few tracks by notables like Steve Sauve and John Akpata. He was unimpressed. He even said that John Akpata had no rhythm.

John Akpata.

Clearly Gilles is an idiot.


Seriously though, he IS my friend. We just differ on this point. He once told me that poets just spit out angst, angst, angst. I told him that I don’t. When I started writing this poem (it started being about the image of turning the wheel across the center line while driving), I remembered that I said I didn’t write angst, and that would certainly fall into that category. Then I started to think, “if you can’t write ‘angst’, what do you do if things really ARE bad and your head IS in a dark place?”

That led to this poem.

So, thanks Gilles!

(Oh, the Unhappy Angst-Men joke is old. Back in the early 80s my friend Shawn Kilpatrick was telling me about the Uncanny X-Men comic and he told me that it was angst-filled. I dropped the Unhappy Angst-Men line… and I never forgot it.)

So, thanks Shawn!


I told a friend that
I perform poetry.
He said that poets just
Spew angst,
Overgrown emo kids
Ranting about all the
Perceived failings in
Their lives.
I told him that he was right and
That we have banded together
To form a new super-hero team:
The Unhappy Angst-Men!
We fight crime but
We don’t feel good about it.

No angst for me, I said.
I write about art and music
And books and love
And suicide and child abuse
Because sometimes writing happy
Is a lie.
Sometimes putting on a brave
Face with your mouth pulled up
In a rictus-grin
Only serves to deepen the
Pits as shovelfulls of dirt
Are dumped on your face as you
Close your eyes and wait for
It to be over.

Is that angst?
But is the world better served
By a Tom Sawyer
Whitewash over the screaming
News headline graffitti that
Reminds us that just because
She was smiling doesn’t mean
June Cleaver was happy?
As the world tightens
A rubber tube tourniquet
Around its forearm
We remember
That there is no difference
Between track-marks
And highways
When the end of the line
Doesn’t hold salvation.

We lump the kid with the
Hollow realization of
Mediocrity in with
Those who see rebellion as
A fashion statement
And think that a $40
Haircut can make them
Seem more ‘street’ –
Putting tears in
A new pair of jeans so they
Can fit in with those
Who would trade any amount
Of ‘street’ for a new
Pair of jeans…
Or a bite to eat…
Not that they would admit it,

Because neediness equals
Vulnerability equals
Depression is some sort
Of personality fault,
But try telling that to
The kid who wonders how
Many pills it would take
Or the woman who sees the
Center line as the perfect
Spot to turn the wheel
And face the headlights
Of the on-coming truck.

If it is wrong to let the
Darkness out…
Stopping it from gnawing at
Your insides until you
Are as hollow as you feel…
Then how do you fight the
Because sometimes the
World just fucking sucks and
The opposite of depression
Isn’t joy.
It is indifference,
Because caring cuts both ways.

So give the emo kids their
Stupid haircuts and whiny music
If that’s what gets them
Through the day,
And if you are having trouble
Holding on, tell me!
I will listen.
Because detachment
Doesn’t make you cool,
Stoicism doesn’t equal strength
And suffering in solitude
Is never nobler
Than healing together.
So to my friend that thinks
All poets spew angst
I’ll wear that mantle with
Pride because what you call
Angst I call giving a shit
And I’ll defend that
Until the day I die.


Next up is, uh… nothing yet. I have cleaned out my notebook. Until I write something new…

I really want to write a poem about the police. Maybe that will be next.