“This shit just works”

Downtown Peterborough at night is a busy place to be.

Families are out to dinner, couples are on dates and as the night gets darker, Peterborough begins to show all of its colours. There’s the café district on Hunter St., Pappas’ Billiards for those pool sharks, and of course the array of night clubs hosting Nothing But 90’s or Country Night for the Peterborough partiers.

But where do the people with written words and booming voices go?

They go to The Spill, where the Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective has made its home.

The Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective (PPSC) is a poetry collective consisting of eight members including Wes Ryan, Sasha Patterson, Joshua Butcher, Xandra Leigh, Beth Lexah, Rick Webster, Danny Taro and Carolyn McGee.

The PPSC runs poetry slams on the fourth Thursday of each month at The Spill. Poetry slams are competitions where people have the opportunity to present their own poetry and their own ideas to an audience and a panel of judges randomly chosen from the audience.

However “as much as it is a competition, it is also a safe place for people to come and share their narratives, that’s what we do,” explains Ryan.

At these events people also have the amazing chance to perform on the same stage as some of the top poets in the country as the PPSC brings in a monthly feature poet.

The PPSC also runs the Peterborough Youth Poetry Experience, “PYPE because we smoke poetry,” says Ryan.

PYPE—which receives support and funding from the City of Peterborough—will soon be happening monthly for people 22 and under.

Along with the monthly slam and PYPE, the Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective runs at least one other spoken word event each month.

There is the opportunity (three times a month, at least) to be heard and to have your poetry heard. The Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective is just that, a collective, leaving hierarchy and rules out on the side walk, because when you walk into The Spill on the night of an event, there is nothing but an overwhelming feeling of inclusiveness.

While having my conversation with Ryan about the PPSC, we sat outside The Spill and chatted as he waited for the Toronto Slam Team to arrive (they were featuring this past Saturday night at the PPSC event).

As the team appeared, walking their way towards us, Butcher—who was performing inside—reached the climax of his poem and his voice resonated outside on the street. The Toronto Slam team was greeted before they had even walked over the threshold.

That’s what slam poetry is about, “slams are interactive poetry experiences,” says Ryan.

Though the PPSC is a small scene, they have expanded in “leaps and bounds,” says Ryan, within the last couple years and that includes coming third at Slamtario, a provincial slam contest.

“There is a lot of spoken word and story telling that goes on in Peterborough,” says Ryan.

On the third Wednesday of every month, Rick Webster runs Word Up, which is an open mic night. “The nice thing about slam poetry and performance poetry is that you’re not trapped by the page in any way, you can put your body into it. It gives the audience ‘the feelings’,” says Ryan.

Slam poetry is a wonderful and emotional and powerful way of expressing yourself, it’s therapeutic; “this shit just works,” says Ryan.

On September 25 PPSC is hosting their season opener.

The evening will begin with an open mic, followed by a poetry slam, which has two rounds.

What this means is that whomever wishes to compete will participate in the first round, and then there will be an elimination based on the decision of the judges (randomly chosen from the audience) and then the finalists will compete in the second round, after which a champion will be named.

There will also be a feature poet at the opener, Sean O’Gorman.

“O’Gorman is an international spoken word performer who has spent the last few years in Korea and has competed in multiple national poetry slams. He is doing a national tour to promote his fifth collection of poetry titled Issues With Edict,” explains Ryan.

The opening night event, September 25, is not one to miss, and is five dollars at the door. ONLY FIVE DOLLARS?! That’s right, only five dollars.

About Caleigh Boyle 32 Articles
Caleigh Boyle, double major in English Lit and Cultural Studies is passionate about the arts, words—both spoken and written—and can often be found at Chapters buying more journals than she needs.