What’s New?

Here’s a brief recap of some recent projects. It’s been such a pleasure to take part in some of the most meaningful work of my career to date!

First, as a continuation from the previous blog post:

The Holiday Alley Poetry Slam was a success! After a 2-week residency at East Selkirk Middle School (sponsored by the Manitoba Arts Council’s Artists in the Schools program) a few students joined me to help spoken word make a splash in Selkirk!

The Holiday Alley film crew put together this video highlighting some of the great work the youth performed on stage.

So much has come from this residency, including Jules Stevenson, who has joined me in Creative Manitoba’s Rural Mentorship Program. She was instrumental in bringing spoken word to Selkirk via Holiday Alley, as you will see on our appearance on Global TV Morning News. I’m helping her to build a spoken word community in Selkirk where writers of all ages can have the transformative experience of sharing their truth on stage. The first ever Selkirk Poetry Slam hit the ground running in late February! The next edition is coming up soon….

Also hearkening back to a previous post, the youth poets who took part in the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation’s Voices For Change project did an absolutely fantastic job with their piece, “What We Teach”! The live performance was stunning, and the video recording of the poem  garnered lots of positive attention across the country during International Development Week!


The wonderful poets Jay, Urooba and Sophia each represented themselves well on stage, in video, as well as in the media!

Beginning in January 2019, THIN AIR: The Winnipeg International Writers Festival took over duties in running Winnipeg’s longest-running poetry reading series, Speaking Crow. Stepping into the role of host/admin, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing new work by many local poets of all experience levels. ‘Crow’ is where the poetry community gets to see and hear itself, and in the early stages of my career, it was instrumental in me building the confidence to share my work.

The next session of Speaking Crow takes place Tuesday April 2nd, with featured reader Lauren Carter!

Also coming up very soon is a First Fridays event that I am very excited about!

This one definitely feels like a culmination of my years working with youth, as I’ll be hosting a showcase of poetry and spoken word featuring current and past members of Creative Manitoba’s mentorship programs.

I can’t wait for the audience to see what these youth can do!

Finally, I’ve been honoured to be involved with Poetry in Voice, a charitable organization that encourages Canadian students to fall in love with poetry. I’m lucky to have been included in their Poet Network, where teachers have sought me out to visit their school and build spoken word skills.

They come in handy, especially with regards to PiV’s recitation competitions taking place in high schools all across Canada. In March, I was on a panel of judges that selected Kildonan East Collegiate to qualify for nationals, this year taking place right here in Winnipeg!

Coming up in April at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, students from across the country will be gathering to represent their choice poems, mind, body and soul!


Time for a bit of a break to work on some projects…but so many thanks go out to the organizations and individuals I’ve worked with, and who have given me the opportunity for so much growth!

Youth Projects and Holiday Festival News!

November has been a busy month of residencies and youth projects! First, I spent a fair bit of time with early-years students in Winnipeg’s St. James School Division working on poetry that explored peace literacy and community values. It’s been a trip, developing lesson plans for students in grades as early as kindergarten, and looking at my CV now, I can accurately say that I can effectively teach spoken word to all ages! It can be done!

Then over two weekends, I returned for a fourth term as the facilitator for Manitoba Council for International Cooperation’s Voices for Change spoken word project. We tackled the topic of gender equality on an international level, and the young trio of poets have come up with a wonderful, visceral piece that will be released on YouTube just before they hit the stage at the Legislature during International Development Week. I’m very proud of their work, and believe that it’s the finest piece to come out of that project yet! I can’t wait to share it with you.

Finally, I’ve been in residency at East Selkirk Middle School building community and safe space – all in preparation for the students to take part in a spoken word showcase at the 2nd annual Holiday Alley winter festival! Thanks to the Manitoba Arts Council’s Artists in the School program, I’ve been able to draw some impressive stories and images from these young poets, while building their confidence as performers and public speakers. There are still a few bundles of nerves to unravel, but I believe that by the end of next week, students will be ready to step up and be visible to their community, and have their voices heard.

We’ll be taking over the High Tea tent on Saturday, December 1st at 5:30pm-ish. I’ll be grabbing as many ESMS students as I can and inviting them on stage to share work from our workshops together. Then, a cadre of teenaged poets will take over for some short sets, all headlined by my future apprentice and Insta-Poetry star, Julie Stevenson. Finally, we’ll top off the showcase with feature sets by myself and reigning SLAM! champion, Tiana Northage!

I recently spoke with Global TV about the event. You can also catch a clip of one of Julie’s poems!

I’m hoping the showcase makes a splash in Selkirk, and that a buzz for spoken word continues in the community. Julie and I have applied to Creative Manitoba’s Rural Mentorship program. It will be our goal to use that buzz to build future events where youth can share their art, maybe even going so far as to develop a spoken word community in town!

Update From Winter/Spring + What’s Next!

With a big yawn, I shake out the stiffness from this digital hibernation to bring you an update of some of my major activities since the New Year…and a preview of what’s to come!

The year kicked off with me leading two youth workshop groups featuring high school students from all over Winnipeg and the area – each with a specific goal in mind. I love working in goal-oriented spaces as I get to turn on my “director/editor” brain to help shape the ideas and writing into transformative outcomes.

The first was a smaller group of 6 students who were gathered by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation for their Voices for Change program. Over the course of two weekends, we learned about issues related to gender roles, learned spoken word skills, wrote and then rehearsed an ensemble piece based on the topic, and then had the piece recorded on video — phew!

And that’s not to mention their stellar performance at the Legislature during International Development Week. Check out the piece, called “Shaping Us,” on YouTube.

Next, I met with another group of high school students as part of Creative Manitoba’s Careers in the Arts Program, where I returned as workshop facilitator. Every second Tuesday, we met at the Millennium Library to build on career ideas and constructive writing skills with the help of guest writers from the community, including Keith Cadieux, Colleen Nelson, Stephen Sim + Caity Curtis, Brian Drader, Lori Cayer, and Jennifer Still.


Each had something different to offer the students based on their own journeys as writers, and it all added up to some significant professional development – in particular, the publication of their work in our very own, bonafide anthology. Titled, “These Words Make Worlds,” the collection was completely written by the students, and designed and edited by myself. With help from the folks at McNally Robinson, the anthology was printed and launched at a public event at the Carol Shields Auditorium to the encouragement of parents and friends.

In early spring, I took part in a collaborative effort between Thin Air and Blue Metropolis writers festivals to teach and learn from some of Canada’s newest citizens. Over the course of a few days, I met with students at Hugh John Macdonald School to develop writing that explored their identities and stories as immigrants moving away from spaces of conflict towards a new home. The writing was then collected and published alongside other stories from across the country as part of the My Roots Project.


This project was particularly special in that I had the honour of experiencing the culture of a community-based school. The positive, enriching vibes were palpable as I engaged with students to explore the use of the English language, which was new to most. I’ll tell you that the learning curve did little to hold back any of the bright personalities I encountered, and I hope to return there sometime soon!

I’m looking forward to the launch of the collection, to take place at a special event during Thin Air in September, which will also be a part of Culture Days. Stay tuned for more info on that, as we’ll get to hear the words coming from the young voices themselves!

Jump ahead to May, where I took part in a UNESCO Peace Literacy Conference at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. There, students from UNESCO schools across Canada gathered to learn and discuss skills of mindfulness in human connections, building the capacity for respect and conflict resolution. My part was in collaboration with Jordyn Sheldon from The Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties to first teach students about privilege and intersectionality, and then to take action with art, in creating calls to action. These took form of short chants that used poetic devices of rhythm and rhyme to engage with listeners, in the same way protest chants carry strong messages by large groups of people to enact change.

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I’m especially proud of my work, both creative and educational, that has the potential to effect audiences and produce an outcome of transformation. It’s inspiring and empowering to see it happen in front of me, and it does so much to validate my practice – to myself and funders as well!

After all these workshops, I finally got the chance to focus on my own creative development as an ensemble member at the Sasktatoon Poetic Arts Festival. Joining 9 other poets from across the country for about a week, we engaged in workshops, collaborative creating sessions, and nightly performances to step out of our comfort zones and transform significantly as artists. This was particularly the case for our final, one of a kind show, which was entirely conceived of earlier that day!

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I have to give a warm thanks to festival director Brendan Flaherty for organizing us all into a safe supportive space to create and be artists. This festival, which is the offspring of the now defunct Victoria Spoken Word Festival, is essential to developing spoken word artists, existing well outside the competitive slam spaces most are familiar with. Now an alum of both festivals, I can speak to the value of the space in forming lasting bonds with other artists, and the immeasurable creative and professional development opportunities that have, and will continue to spring from the experience.

Carrying that vibe onward, I’m excited to announce the return of the Winnipeg Poetry Slam to the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in our sequel production of SLAM! Featuring 7 of the finest local spoken word poets (and one from Edmonton!) as well as an affable host, we’ll be throwing down in a poetry slam tournament where the winner receives a cash prize!


Using the format of a slam competition to draw in the Fringe crowd to participate as cheerers, jeerers, and audience judges, this production functions at its best, as a showcase of both established and up-and-coming talent. Last year’s production was a success in both audience turnout and professional development for the entire team, and with the help of a Winnipeg Arts Council grant, I’m intending on building the production towards new heights in contributing to the Winnipeg Poetry Slam community at large.

Be sure to check in at the WPS website for info on our ensemble, as well as updates on tournament scores and rankings!

Moving further onwards…

New material?…The Winnipeg International Writers Festival?…A residency and a winter carnival in Selkirk?…A rural mentorship?…The ever looming shadow of a novel-in-progress hanging over my head?

Come back for a visit to find out more!


Voices For Change

Voices for Change 2018 Poster

Partnering with the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, I’ll be facilitating a spoken word project with youth ages 14-24. We’ll be meeting for workshop sessions that build on creative writing and performance skills to create a group piece focused on the topic of gender equality.

The group piece will be recorded by professional videographers and posted online, as well as performed live in front of an audience at a special event during International Development Week!

This will be my third time partnering with MCIC, and each past group has come up with some exceptional material that you can watch online.

Sign up is open for the 2018 project, and I’m looking forward to working with the new batch of writers next month!

Deadline is December 11, so spread the word!

Youth, Get Creative!

ACI Youth Reading

Applications are open for Creative Manitoba’s Careers in the Arts Mentorship Programs! 

I’m excited to be returning to the program to facilitate a youth creative writing group. Last year, I had the chance to meet a super team of bright and engaging youth who gathered every second Tuesday between January and April at the Millennium Library. There, we held discussions on writing and the creative life featuring guest lecturers from the local community like Kate Vermette, Sharanpal Ruprai, and Writers in Residence John K. Samson and Christine Fellowes. In those workshops, students explored various genres including fiction, poetry, and spoken word, and constructed thoughtful pieces that were edited, collected and printed in an anthology that was officially launched in a reading in the Carol Shields Auditorium.

It’s a great opportunity for youth to get not only a sense of their voice expressed through writing, but to build an awareness of the local writing community and the career-building opportunities therein.

Applications for this year’s group are due by Friday, December 15 2017, and are open to youth aged 16-19. Hit up the link above to learn more! I can’t wait to meet the new group in the New Year!

…and grace, too.


On October 17 Canada lost one of its icons, and a man that seemed to embody the spirit of the country in songs of its history, culture – and especially, and most recently – its future.

Gord Downie continued to be a huge influence on me in my developing years, and it was truly an emotional day (if not week!) spent reflecting on his career. I teared up at memories of seeing The Tragically Hip live in concert, and of listening to my favourite albums (Fully, Completely, Road Apples, and Trouble at the Henhouse) on road trips through the Canadian Shield, alone in my bedroom contemplating the art I’d create someday, and the journeys I’d make to faraway places with those songs of home in my heart. I remember that watching the live broadcast of The Hip’s final concert in Old Market Square was a very fond farewell, without feeling like it was really over. Still doesn’t.

If there’s one thing I can take away from Gord’s work as a poet and musician, it’s that his lyrics expressed not just how to be Canadian, but why. In particular, the work that’s been released since the announcement of his illness has had significant impact on me as a settler on this land, with the Secret Path Project teaching me lessons on humility, dignity and grace. Of course, such a thing can’t possibly replace authentic voices in art reflecting lived Indigenous experience, but I’ve recently been giving a lot of reflection on the process by which Gord approached the Wenjack family, bore witness to the story, and produced the material which is now being used as an educational tool for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a teaching on how a settler can, and perhaps should, engage with the history of Indigenous genocide in a way that produces something meaningful, and contributes to the decolonization of the country, and of ourselves.

As he said to Justin Trudeau in Kingston at his band’s final concert, and which rings true for all of us, “…we’re going to figure it out, you’re going to figure it out.”

And so I’m proud to say that I’m helping to organize, and will be performing in a tribute show alongside a list of musicians and fellow poets called “Ahead by a Century – A Charity Tribute to Gord Downie” taking place at The Pyramid Cabaret on November 10. Acts will be performing their favourite tunes by Gord and The Hip, and proceeds will go towards both The Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research, and The Downie/Wenjack Fund.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of Gord’s work from his collection, Coke Machine Glow, and to singing along with the other artists at the top of my lungs.


An October Re-cap


October was a heck of a month, full of travel to new places and meeting people that have opened me up to new ideas!

Days after we wrapped up the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, I was sponsored by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation for a road trip up to Opaskwayak Cree Nation. There, students from upper Manitoba congregated for a conference on the interconnected relationship to life on land, and learned from yours truly about how to use their voices to speak up for sustainability.


Next was a bit of fun with the folks at IF: The Winnipeg Improv Festival. Gathering one afternoon, a few of us spoken word poets collaborated with improvisers on a brand new show which debuted that very night! Building scenes off of snippets of poems, we went back and forth until the show culminated in a wild cacophony of sounds and bodies. You’ll never know what happens until it does, and it was a great experience to perform outside of my comfort zone!

Group shot

The end of October saw the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word touch down in Nogojiwanong, a.k.a. Peterborough, Ontario. Traveling year to year, the festival hosts poetry slam teams from across the country in a national competition, as well as a full program of workshops, master classes, panels and showcases. Qualifying in early June, our own Winnipeg Poetry Slam Team (comprised of myself, Joanne Schapansky, Kier Mailan and Lindsey Olver) brought heartfelt poetry to the stage, and soaked in all the fun of the annual “poet camp.”


More than the performances, I took away a bundle of new ideas on how to decolonize my art, and build a sense of inclusiveness in the local slam community by acknowledging the land and history that it’s built upon. Special thanks to The Winnipeg Arts Council for sponsoring a portion of the trip!


As the season changes, I can feel myself expanding and contracting with every  experience, and I look forward to the art and community that will be built around each new idea!