Poetry

Halifax slam poets preparing for national competition

The Hali Slam Team, consisting of four members, is set to represent Nova Scotia at the Canadian Festival of Spoken word from Oct. 18 – 24 in Saskatoon.

Sophie Kaufman, one the four team members of the Hali Slam team, performing a poem at the event Thursday.
Sophie Kaufman, one the four team members of the Hali Slam team, performing a poem at the event on Thursday.   Dina Lobo

A mixture of snaps and claps fill the room as fans of slam poetry listen to their peers recite rhythmic, vulnerable, humorous and politically engaged poems.

Following an open mic of various styles of poetry, a slam session began where a few members of the audience holding up scores, acted like judges as younger poets performed.

This is the last time the Hali Slam Team holds an event before competing next week at the national finals, held in Saskatoon as part of the 2015 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

The four adult poets representing the Maritimes at Nationals performed at the event Thursday at the Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth, but the show also featured younger poets, the Hali Youth Slam team.

Andre Fenton, a 20 year-old graduate, is captain of the Halifax Youth Slam team and was hosting the Alderney event for the first time. Fenton, who is one of the four adult poets competing in Saskatoon, has already participated in youth and adult festivals for four years and is preparing for the national competition.

“I’ve been beating my head and trying to force out poems. Poetry usually feels fluid to me, but with nationals it’s a big stressful build up. It’s a different interesting experience, but it helps me grow as an artist,” said Fenton.

Andre Fenton, host of event, as well as leader of the Hali Slam Youth team, performs a poem. Fenton, is one the team members competing at nationals.
Andre Fenton, host of event, as well as leader of the Hali Slam Youth team, performs his poem. Fenton, is one the team members competing at nationals.   Dina Lobo

Rebecca Thomas, the captain of the Hali Slam team for a second year in a row, was dismayed to see other poets appropriating native culture at last year’s national event. This year, Thomas, a Mik’maq First Nations female, wants to send a message: “This is our voice and I am that voice … it’s coming from my experience.”

Thomas, who has barely met any other self-disclosed aboriginal poets, isn’t too worried about winning and is approaching this year’s competition with a simple goal in mind.

“I have a national stage to share an indigenous voice and I’m going to take advantage of it,” she said.

Thomas fundraised the tickets for all the team members with the help of donations from friends and family and using her Air Miles reward points. She says she begged and pleaded with supporters to be able to afford attending the festival.

Halifax Youth Slam members, as well as adult members compete in humorous slam session during event.   Dina Lobo

There are various teams competing who come from the same province but the Hali Slam Team is the only team competing  from the Maritimes this year.

“A lot of poets have a similar flow or style,” she said, but the poets from Halifax have a unique voice because ”we are far away from (most of Canada’s) population.”

Before registering for nationals, the qualification process requires team members to participate in at least three slam competitions locally. The Hali Slam team will start slamming for next year’s national event in January.

“We have a rich community and getting involved forces poets to become better at presenting themselves and better at writing and performing,” said Fenton.