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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.

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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.

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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.”

onstage

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!

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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!

Upcoming Shows in September

It’s going to be a busy month!

On Friday, September 1st, I’ll be joining fellow spoken word poets as well as local improv legends Stephen Sim and Caity Curtis for a First Friday event at Little Brown Jug. There, us poets will be sharing written pieces that the 2 improv gurus will play off of, creating short scenes. In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of working with both Stephen and Caity in a similar format and I can say that it’s a lot of fun to be a part of – and watch!

This show is presented by THIN AIR: The Winnipeg International Writers Festival which kicks off later in September. We’ll be hosting Stephen and Caity there for the “Forewords” event on opening night, as well as a bevy of writers from across the globe! I say “we” because I’m a part of the staff helping to put the festival together (it’s my day job)!

Next, I’ll be performing alongside me fellow Winnipeg Poetry Slam teammates at the Anything Goes Slam – where the rules (except for the time-limit) are thrown out (oh, and the nudity rule as well)! I’ll be trying out material to be used for the national poetry slam competition at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in late October. I’m excited to dust off some old work, and try out some new stuff!

Finally, Thom Bargen is hosting a Winnipeg spoken word showcase at their downtown location as part of Nuit Blanche. The Winnipeg Poetry Slam will be well represented there by a fantastic lineup of voices that have comprised recent slam teams. Come see the best of the best before the slam season kicks off later this fall!

All that said, October will be a whole other story: a trip to The Pas to engage youth in public speaking through spoken word workshops, and of course, CFSW itself!

SLAM! Wraps up at WINNIPEG FRINGE!

You might have heard through social media posts already, but here’s the official announcement: Our inaugural SLAM! Champion is Tiana Northage!!!!!!!
Our Finals saw the best crowd of our run, and amazing performances from our poets on stage. Thank you to those who spread the word about our little niche production, which is only just a taste of what you might experience in the Winnipeg Poetry Slam community.
Big thanks to Rob Malo for hosting the entire run, and doing a fantastic job of it at that! Also to KimmyZee Jaremglinski for her hard work in mentoring me through the process of building and promoting a show (Rob did a fair bit of that too!).
Big love to my fellow poets who showed up for meetings, fundraisers and shows, knowing that they were all stepping outside of their comfort zones to grow as writers and performers. To Rob Malo, Mike Johnston, Tino Hove, Brenden Gali, Larysa Musick, Kortnee Stevens, KimmyZee, and Tiana Northage, thank you all for coming along on this ride with me. I’m so proud and honored to have experienced this with you.
Thank you to our volunteers, Aaron Simm, Amber O’Reilly, Kier Mailan, Lindsey Olver, Mason Victor Kanne, and Joanne Schapansky for helping us make the show happen. Super big thanks to Stephen Sim, Caitlin Curtis, Rob Gee and Penny Ashton for joining us and helping us to build a space inside of the Fringe community!
We have something here, folks. Something that impacted audience members enough to come back and see us a second and third time. I can’t wait to see the show, and our community grow as a result!

SLAM! Hits Winnipeg FRINGE!!

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The days are winding down until SLAM! debuts at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

For months, I’ve been working hard to gather local spoken word performers and Fringe veterans together into a cast of competitors for a bonafide poetry slam tournament. I’ve taken on many roles in this production including producer, promoter, and of course, performer, and I’m excited to see what will come of this art/social experiment.

We’re taking our familiar slam format into the Fringe playground to show off to the neighbourhood theatre kids. Let’s see if we pick up a few new audience members and poets for next season! And in the meantime, let’s celebrate our words in front of a new crowd…with a few special guests along the way! (Stay tuned to Winnipeg Poetry Slam social media to find out!)

I want to thank some of my fellow cast mates who have risen above and beyond to offer their time and energy towards helping me along. Rob Malo’s confidence and performance experience, Kimmy Zeglinski’s personal support and knowledge of all things Fringe, and Larysa Musick’s design skills have all helped to make this thing a reality (that’s her image design above)!

Visit our SLAM! landing page for a rundown of the show, and follow the scores and standings as we move towards the last show of the run – the SLAM! Championship Final!

I’ll be on stage at the Roblin Centre in the Exchange Campus of Red River College on these dates:

Saturday, July 22 – 3:30pm

Tuesday, July 25 – 1:45pm

Friday, July 28 – 12 noon

Also, I’ll be joining Larysa Musick, Mike Johnston and former WPS feature Beatox (Adam Fainman) at the CUBE for an outdoor performance on Thursday, July 27 at 7:00pm!

Then, I’ll be just about ready for a nap, eh?