Peterborough Slam Team hoping to compete at Nationals

The Peterborough slam team is looking to show off their talents at the 2013 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word this November.

The national competition will be held in Montréal from November 4-9, and the Peterborough Poetry Collective continues to fundraise to cover the costs of getting the team there and back. The team is comprised of regular slammers Kate Kelly, Rick Webster, Carolyn McGee, Wes Ryan, and Jon Hedderwick.

“Basically, a bunch of teams from across the country come together to compete,” explained  McGee. “Each member has a certain number of poems you can do, and team pieces are allowed. So there are a few [team] pieces we’ve been working on.”

“It’s just great to be focused on your art form for a week. The amount of learning available at an event like this is incalculable,” said Wes Ryan. “Basically the best poets in the country will be there.”

Besides the main competition, the week also allows participants to have impromptu poetry readings, attend many workshops, and witness or participate in an underground slam where poets compete head-to-head.

Hedderwick, alternate for the team, recounted, “[I was] actively encouraged to avoid things like slams. I was told, ‘This is not poetry. This is ranting and raving and what have you,’ only to find the actual experience an explosion and transformative. I like that it’s topical. That it’s not just written for an elite few to appreciate … It’s a communal force. You write for yourself, but if you’re not sharing it with others, it’s incomplete.”

“It’s a good sort of medium for sharing your stories with people,” comment McGee. “It’s empowering to say something the way you want to say it.”

“The poetry slam is class-A entertainment. It’s real, it’s dramatic, it’s funny. There’s always love in the room,” Ryan said. “It’s like Facebook live but with substance. It’s untold stories presented in a supportive environment.”

The supportive nature of the Peterborough poetry scene was something frequently touched on by the slam team members. “We’re all working together to produce art here,” said Hedderwick, and added, “Locally, I think the supportive community in Peterborough allows artists to take chances, which bears interesting fruit.”

“One thing we do consistently is we bring in world class poets every month. We bring great artists to this city,” said Ryan, also calling the variety of people who come out to the slam “a fairly accurate demonstration of the demographics of Peterborough,” with participants ranging in age from teens to older adults.

“It’s a really rewarding kind of thing,” commented McGee. “You always have people coming up to you and saying ‘I really connected to that.’ “

“I slammed a lot at first,” Ryan said, “and now I find it more rewarding to facilitate and let others take the stage.”

McGee agreed, adding, “Sometimes I like [being an audience member] even more than performing. I always feel so full of good things after the slam. It’s the aspect of being able to share something not so much on the performance end, but to witness someone share really personal things. There aren’t many other places you’re able to do that in the same way. I think it’s the connection to other poets.”

“In modern society, we compartmentalize and box things up. At slams, it’s a big open heart or wound,” explained Ryan.

“There is this deep need to connect through narrative that this renaissance of poetry really speaks to,” said Hedderwick.

If you’d like to help the team make it to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, the next poetry slam here will be at happening at The Spill on Thursday, October 24. Sign-up is at 7:30pm, and the show begins at 8pm.

“The nice thing about our slam is it is pay-what-you-can,” Ryan said. “If all you have to pay with is your applause, that’s okay too.”

He also promised that they’d “definitely be dropping some team pieces” at the next slam, which “push the boundaries of performance.”

As Hedderwick remarked, “I suffer from the belief that the right words in the right place at the right time can really change the world.”

About Simon Semchuk 51 Articles
Simon Semchuk writes primarily on the arts and queer issues. A third-year English major, he is also interested in theatre, literature, and fluffy animals.