Art

Spoken word poet publishes Ode to Teen Angst

Book ‘a lasting memory of what I’ve learned along the way of adolescence’

 

"I put my picture into photoshop and played around until I came up with this," says Andre Phenton about the cover art for his new book of poems, Ode to Teen Angst.
“I put my picture into Photoshop and played around until I came up with this,” says Andre Fenton about the cover art for his new book of poems, Ode to Teen Angst.   Rachel Collier

Andre Fenton feels confident and strong when reciting his poetry, but his work often carries themes of feeling misunderstood and alone – themes he has compiled in a book of poems.

Fenton started performing spoken word poetry in 2013 and immediately fell in love with the art. Now, at 21, he has self-published Ode to Teen Angst.

“Having my point of view and having my words out there on some platform is important for me,” he says.

It’s a point of view that includes a look back at his life so far.

“It’s a lasting memory of what I’ve learned along the way of adolescence,” he says about the book, adding that he’s happy it will make his poetry more accessible and he hopes to make some money from selling copies at shows and competitions.

From the cover art to the final acknowledgments, the book is entirely Fenton’s work.

After receiving a donation from Tim Crow, a regular customer at the pharmacy where Fenton works, the poet was able to set out for a print shop to bring his book idea to life.

“I just got this sense that there was something special about Andre, something warm and gentle in his interactions” Crow, the president of ROCKWORLDEAST, said in a interview. “So I passed along a favour that got me started on a very successful path in life.”

With a little bit of help, Crow knew Fenton would be able to finish the book.

“I asked him if there was anything I could do to help,” he says. ” I don’t question what he’s doing creatively. I’m proud of him for getting it done.”

The 43-page book is a compilation of Fenton’s 10 favourite and most-polished poems, many of which he has performed at national poetry slam competitions across Canada.

The poems expose Fenton’s experiences as a young man of colour, his experience dealing with bipolar disorder and his views on being human.

Fenton performs his poem, 'Alive', at Nocturne: Art at Night festival.
Fenton performs his poem, “Alive,” at last weekend’s Nocturne: Art at Night festival.   Rachel Collier

“I wanna feel alive,” Fenton read from the first poem in his book, during a Nocturne: Art at Night show last weekend at Dartmouth’s Alderney Landing.

“Like I’m running through a grass field with the girl of my dreams or like I’m looking through at the stars trying to solve all this galaxy’s mysteries.”

He explains that, outside poetry circles, his stories as a person of colour and as a person dealing with mental illness are often silenced or misunderstood.

“Some of the topics in the book aren’t really relatable to everybody,” he says. But “by listening you can learn to understand a new perspective and gain a greater sense of empathy.”

Rebecca Thomas, Halifax’s poet laureate, applauds Fenton’s poetry.

“It’s not often you find a man who is so willing to talk about love and vulnerability like that,” she says in a phone interview. “Andre’s poetry is so earnest and heartfelt.”

While Fenton speaks about serious issues and takes his audience to some dark corners of his reality, he doesn’t leave readers without hope. He has a welcoming humour, sensitivity and a sense of perseverance.

“When Andre talks about oppression, it’s powerful,” says Thomas.

Fenton hopes to use the funds from his book sales to invest in future art projects. He has a second book in mind, with the title and poems already sketched out. But for now, he’s focusing on the upcoming national slam competition in Winnipeg this weekend and selling copies of his first book.

Copies of Ode to Teen Angst are available from Fenton for $15 at his shows, or by contacting him at andre.fenton@live.ca.