Stories shed at energetic poetry slam

Lisa
Lisa Goudy
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Published on July 19, 2014

Johnny Trinh from Regina performs a poem during the first round of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words' poetry slam competition on July 18, 2014 at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre. He won second place.

Published on July 19, 2014

Chimwemwe Undi of Winnipeg kicks off the first round of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words' poetry slam competition on July 18, 2014 at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre. She won third place.

Published on July 19, 2014

Shayna Stock from Regina hosts the poetry slam competition at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre on July 18, 2014 as part of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words.

Published on July 19, 2014

Performance poet C.R. Avery delights the crowd after the first round of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words' poetry slam competition at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre on July 18, 2014.

Published on July 19, 2014

Performance poet C.R. Avery performs a piece of poetry with his harmonica in hand at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words' poetry slam competition at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre on July 18, 2014.

Published on July 19, 2014

C.R. Avery performs some poetry with his guitar as accompaniment at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words' poetry slam competition at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre on July 18, 2014.

Published on July 19, 2014

Performance poet C.R. Avery interacts with the crowd by getting audience members to say, 'What?' during one of his poetry performances at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words' poetry slam competition at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre on July 18, 2014.

Cat Abenstein believes the trick to writing good poetry is to write a lot of it.

“Inspiration is everywhere, but you just have to be writing enough bad poems to get good ones,” she said. “The odds are in your favour.”

Abenstein, who is from Regina, walked away with $300 after winning first place at the poetry slam on Friday night at the Mae Wilson Theatre at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre. The event was part of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words.

Abenstein said she didn’t expect to win the competition.

“It’s always a surprise. I learn not to expect anything,” she said. “I enjoy the art form itself, the ability to express so many different ideas in an intimate environment where people are engaged.”

There were eight participants in this year’s slam with two poets from Moose Jaw, four from Regina, one from Saskatoon and one from Winnipeg. Host Shayna Stock of Regina drew poets’ names to determine the order in the first round. The judges were randomly picked from the audience members, who rated each poet on a scale of one to 10.

After the first round, performance poet C.R. Avery delighted the 225-person audience with his poetry, using music as a backdrop. He utilized the piano, a harmonica and a guitar while reciting some of his poetry. Friday’s slam marked the highest slam attendance in the history of the Festival of Words.

In the second round, poets performed again in reverse order from the first round. Johnny Trinh from Regina won $200 in second place and Chimwemwe Undi from Winnipeg won $100 in third place.

“When I was there, I thought I’d lost. I was like, ‘What?’” said Trinh. “So it’s always a surprise.”

He added he enjoys telling stories through his poetry.

“I think it’s great to tell stories and tell other people’s stories so they can be heard,” said Trinh. “I’m just really inspired by relationships and how we connect. I think that there’s the dynamics and power. I think power within relationships is really important.”

After finding out she’d won third place, Undi said she was “really excited.”

“A lot of my stuff is news and how it affects people closer to me, how larger events affects people in my life,” she said. “You can’t really step into other people’s shoes, but being able to sit quietly for a few minutes and learn about how other people’s lives are going, it’s pretty cool.”

The performance poetry scene across Canada is “pretty impressive,” said Undi.

Abenstein, Trinh and Undi have been doing performance poetry for about two years. All three said they still get incredibly nervous before performing live.

“It’s kind of comforting to know that I haven’t died the last 10 times I’ve done this. I probably won’t die now but there’s still a chance. I’m not really good at statistics,” said Undi. “We’re poets. We’re not stat majors.”

“I sit there with my headphones so I can’t hear anybody else. It’s just the worst,” added Abenstein.

While rehearsal is a core part to helping fight that anxiety, Abenstein, Trinh and Undi said, at the end of the day, the best way to cope with nerves is to get up on stage and just get it done.

“We’re all in our respective slam teams in our cities,” said Trinh. “Cat is the slam champion in Regina.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

 

Organizations: Mae Wilson Theatre, Moose Jaw Cultural Centre

Geographic location: Regina, Winnipeg, Moose Jaw Saskatoon Canada

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