a cork board

What Poetry Means To Me
PMpSat, 23 Jul 2016 12:26:41 +000026Saturday 1, 2010, 12:26 pm
Filed under: the ether, the mirror, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,


A few years ago I was doing some solo grocery shopping at Fresh Co. I was in a hurry, in the zone wearing track pants and trying to grab some orange juice get home quickly. A lady walking with her daughter saw me and slowed down. She paused, half-tilted her head and grinned. She said “you’re a poet right?” I hadn’t performed in a couple of years and had all-but-forgotten about that part of my life. I said “yes, yes I am.” She said she saw me feature at Guelph Poetry Slam in November of the previous year (that was even almost 2yrs removed from performing) and loved my work. She said she bought both of my books and keeps them in her car. It left me feeling perplexed and very good. Wow, my words touched someone.

Last week I was at Starbucks ordering the closest I can get to fancy there, a Grande Americano. The cashier asked my name “Yogi, Y-O-G-I”. She paused, looked up and said “do you do spoken word?” I said “I used to.” Turns out, she used to manage a bar/restaurant where I used to perform at a lot in 2012. She knew my work pretty well. She asked me why I’d stopped. Truth be told, I put it down to focus on being a present father with my little ones. She paused again, “you were good, I remember. You should do it again.” I showed her my journal in hand and said I was working on it. It left me feeling confused. I actually said I used to. WTF? When did that happen?

Something happened in the years I stopped performing. I went through a few years of writer’s block. But I’ve gotten past that. In the last year I’ve been writing a lot, lot more. I’m not finishing anything, but I’m writing nonetheless. Good ideas, good wordplay. I’m getting back in the groove. I was in a really good place in 2012 when I stopped. I felt more comfortable on stage than I ever had before. I was churning out more new, quality poems. My stage voice had found legs to stands on and wings to fly with. But I wanted to be present and accounted for during bath time, story time, good night kisses and late night snuggles. I wanted to be there for it all and I didn’t wanna miss a thing. Spoken word/Poetry slam have been around for a while, it’ll be fine without me. It’ll welcome me back when I’m ready too.

What happened in the meantime was cynicism. It was skepticism. I began to wonder if words can ever really have an impact. Why bother? What legacy do these poems and performances really have? What are we really leaving behind? I still sit and wonder about it. You stand up for 3 minutes and 10 seconds, speak your truth and bare your soul and make some noise for a round of applause, some pats on the back, some much-needed personal release and that’s about it. It began to feel like it was just spinning wheels, like an exercise for the ego. Are we really awakening minds, or are we just another passing phase? Does what you say stick with someone when they wake up in the morning? I’ve been questioning the purpose and reason behind this spoken word thing for a while now and it began to make me jaded.

But then the universe had me cross paths with someone like I did that day at Starbucks or Fresh Co. Someone reminds me, hey your work really inspired me. I occasionally bump into a person who heard me speak my truth 4-6 years ago, and I’m still with them. My words uplifted them then and stayed with them. So I start to think that maybe there is some resonance. Maybe there is some staying power. Maybe there is something more to it than ego and glory and punchlines. Performing/Sharing poetry isn’t about immediate change. It’s about planting seeds. It’s about creating a spark. We may never see the tree take root or see the inferno blaze across the horizon, but it’s there. It’s a lot like karma, it takes time but it happens without fail.


Poetry, for me, has always been very personal. I never excelled at tackling “issue poetry” unless I was able to relate myself into it. Standing on that stage, just you and the microphone. Just your voice and the audience. Just your gut and their ear drums. There’s something magical about that. The butterflies. The feeling that you’re going to fall…but then you take flight. I’ve gone to a couple of poetry slams in the last couple of months on account of my wife encouraging me. She gives me gentle little pushes into it and I’m taking her queue little by little. I don’t want to make a team and compete on a national stage, but I want my voice out there again. Because I finally realized, after all this time, that I have something to say…and it’s worth hearing.




Something Brewing…
PMpTue, 29 Sep 2015 22:44:22 +000044Tuesday 1, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

A strange thing has happened as of late….I’ve been writing multiple times a week. I don’t know what they are, I just know that my pen is moving and my fingers are punching keys on my phone at a rapid rate. I’m using poetry as a means to self-healing and self-discovery again. It feels great. I have something that I’m working on that I will share soon.

let your words live through you


The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word is Canada’s National Poetry Slam (or Spoken Word Olympics). For seven years now, cities from across Canada put together their best spoken word artists and we all get together to throw beautiful words at each other in eloquent word wars. The festival travels like a carnival, but only once a year. It’s been in Ottawa (2004 & 2010), Vancouver (2005), Toronto (2006), Halifax (2007), Calgary (2008) and Victoria (2009). This year there was a record 18 teams from across Canada competing (Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa Capital Slam, Ottawa Urban Legends, Lanark County, Peterborough, Toronto Poetry Slam, Toronto Up From The Roots, Burlington Slam Project, Guelph, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and Wild Card Team).

 This was my very first CFSW. I’ve heard for years from my fellow poets how amazing of an experience it is. How it feels like a family and it’s all love. I was looking forward to it needless to say. On October 12th 90+ poets converged onto Canada’s Capital City. It was a groundbreaking festival, not only because of the record-setting 18 teams, or because it marked the first time the Festival would return to a city, but also because it marked the first time the Festival was marred with protest.

 And thus, a group of well-to-do poets who volunteer their time and hearts to be part of Spoken Word Canada (SpoCan) along with the Festival Organizing Committee, were turned into politicians. The Festival was accused of supporting white supremacy. Some ill-thought-out comments made by my very own teammate (Team Burlington) were in-turn taken out of context. The entire community across Canada got involved and a big, blatant race line was drawn right through the middle of the scene. It was a division (you’re either with us or against us type of the thought). People kept saying things like I support A or I support B, if you supported a different letter (or color) you got glares from the other. Because I share a team with the subject of protest I found myself getting luke-warm, tepid shoulders from the same poets who used to give me hugs, because I apparently refused to take action.

 The problem with these things is it becomes like a game of telephone, the message gets skewed with each par of lips it passes through. The issue got so big, it was out of the hands of the two individuals it began with. It was like this monster that was threatening to eat everything we’ve worked so hard to build. But the beast was set at bay by the wonderful poets turned politicians thanks to closed door meetings and motions and sheer frankness. Our poetry community still has scars on it’s face from this. Lines are still drawn and people still murmur in corners.

 While all this was happening, we still had the poetry to worry about. We locked ourselves into our hotel room and took every ounce of energy surrounding us and we practiced. We practiced with stopwatch in hand. We ran our poems into the ground and learned to hang our hearts on our shoulders. We were there for poetry…and that was it. Poets get together and the words are supposed to do the talking. We had crafted work before and after the fiasco, but the frustration from the situation pushed our passion into a fervor. We made the Finals Stage. One of the top four teams in the country! We came last of the night, but I know we showed something great that night. Win or lose…it’s how you play the game. And we played it like we had nothing to hide. It was a fantastic ride and I think Team Burlington (Myself, Tomy Bewick, Truth Is …, Made Wade & Lishai) displayed utmost solidarity and cohesion in the face of skepticism and even slander. Our words spoke for themselves…which is what should happen when poets gather to sling eloquence.

 When the dust settled Ottawa Capital Slam came out on top (National Slam Champion 2 years in a row!). Huge Congrats John Akapata, Open Secret, Prufrock & Chris Tse!!! Ottawa Urban Legends (Marcus Jameel, Hyfidelik, Hodan Ibrahim & Synonymous, you guys slayed it!) came second. Team Montreal (Alessandra Naccarato, Queen KA, D-Na & Caytey Lush, thank you for your words) came third. And Team Burlington came fourth. Finals Night was everything you would expect it to be…a night full of humor, brave honesty, spitfire politics and reflection from the voices of our generation. We speak so the voices of tomorrow can hear us and be brave enough to speak for themselves. We can be as loud as our hearts will let us. As a community we should never feel threatened in providing or receiving feedback, we should be open and ready to discuss the inner workings of our work. We are poets, and we have to stand for something. But we also have to be tolerant of others, forthcoming with our intentions and willing to not only accept criticism but to deliver it in a way that is not destructive. Let’s learn from this, poets. If you’re from the outside looking in, let’s learn from this as well.

 A part of me hopes to get warm hugs from those tepid shoulders in Ottawa…and if I don’t then I know that they just don’t get it. And I don’t have to expend my energy opening my arms to stone faces. We can love each other and move forward. I write not only to express myself but in the hopes that words actually can bring us closer as a people and not divide us further. We should all try to be so noble as to live our words rather than turn ourselves into hypocrites by being bigots. Let’s live AND write poetry. I will sign off of this message with a quote from Matisyahu’s Two Child One Drop:

I don’t run.I don’t flee. I don’t fight
I don’t make fun but don’t flex my might
I don’t act dumb but don’t shine my light
I sit down on the ground till the time is right

They seek my demise and rely on my dark side to give into the night
All those desperate ghosts, stuck souls trapped in black holes
became werewolves, stolen souls wanna see me bleed

So tread lightly no need to fight me
No need to be right it’s so frightening
Soul like dust and flash like lightning
I slip through your grip cause you hold so tightly
I didn’t stop nah I’m just becoming
I’m not finished nah I’m just arriving
I’m not done don’t know where I’m going
Not afraid not to know and keep growing
Once you know you’re dead and not living
and that’s the wisdom to know while your breathing

c.r. avery & baton rouge
PMpFri, 16 Apr 2010 12:49:26 +000049Friday 1, 2010, 12:49 pm
Filed under: events, music, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

the background hum of the office is ever-the-same. light key-punching and muted conversations humming like public transit. I drift like Magic Hour Sailor Songs and dwindle down the Mississippi River back to Baton Rouge. I miss those muddy waters. I used to glaze them over with my eyes from the window of a courthouse in the city. I saw C.R. Avery last night at the Burlington Slam Project. the man is a beast. the man is the wheels on busses and bicycles and coincidence. it was the first time I saw him perform without a mic. his harmonica-beatboxing persona was not lost in the quiet room at The Black Bull. the crowd fell to a hush when he began performing. the waitresses lined the outskirts of the room and there was not even the sound of glass clinking from the bar. C.R. was brilliantly simple without one of his three bands and only two of his family of instruments. there were no electronics, but it worked. the bass from his throat shook our ear drums and we ate it up. I finally got to see him do his “Boxer” piece and the beat was bouncing off of the wood. like I said, the man is a beast. the highways and road-maps he’s travelled are etched on his face; his clothes are weather-worn wonderfully extended from his self-proclaimed hobo caricature; his voice is worn and weary and woefully whimsical in its eloquent story-telling mannerism; and his smile is as genuine as Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s handshake. I beat-box his songs into sleep, into work and throughout the day. and today…the background hum of keyboards and head-set-held customer service phone-calls takes a backseat to C.R.’s greyhound shenanigans. the hobo has me horribly hooked and I am blessed to call this man my friend. everytime I hear him play…I miss Baton Rouge. last night he asked me “have you been back since Katrina?” and all I could say was “not since ’97.” now I’m thinking about The Great Canadian Novel and Magnolia Trees and Pelicans and gumbo and crawfish…over the background hum of keyboards and phone calls and generic office ramblings. it starts to sound the same after a while…so tune out and tune in and “take a bus to Baton Rouge.”