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While still somewhat underground, the slam poetry scene has begun to flourish in Toronto. Slam poetry’s growing popularity is, in part, thanks to events such as Toronto Poetry Slam and Toronto BAM! Youth shining a light on all the talent that the city holds. The following are ten slam poets in Toronto whom you won’t want to miss.
Well-respected in the Toronto slam poetry scene, Spin El Poeta is not only a poet but a youth advocate, arts educator, and workshop facilitator. Grand Slam Champ of this year’s Toronto Poetry Slam, Spin El Poeta demonstrates why he deserves the title. Referencing ancient African spirituality and the Bible, Spin’s words are fueled with knowledge, honesty, and a vision for revolution.
‘But ladies, I admire the fire you have acquired because without you, many revolutions would not have transpired. Without you, human evolution would have to retire.’
Thunderclaw, a poet, musician, and artist, is leaving his mark on the city. Using the elements of speed and volume to project the emotions in his words, Robinson shows a great deal of verbal agility. Having joined the 2015 BAM! Youth Slam team, Thunderclaw harmonizes fluidity and intensity with ease. Robinson’s writing – once something he did not enjoy – is now a great source of strength and empowerment.
‘And I’m trying to find my cheat sheet, trying to find my own cheat sheet, ‘cause the tests in testimony are on repeat and I stay failing.’
With fiery words and hair to match, Kay’s poetry is the reflection of a life-time’s worth of constricting gender norms and the status quo. Using poetry to educate the audience and manifest the truest form of rawness, Kay breaks free from all the labels that society uses as tools for oppression. Kay competed earlier this year in The Toronto Poetry Slam and is now a part of the team.
‘You don’t realize how often people put a gender on you until you realize that gender isn’t you. And every single “girl” and “young lady” and “Miss” wears away at your subconscious.’
Perhaps the most experienced poet on the list, Jamaal began preforming his pieces in the 1990s for audiences in New York. Though not a Toronto native, St. John has definitely made a mark in the city’s slam poetry scene by winning the Toronto International Poetry Slam six times. Tying together humor and wit, Jamaal makes bold statements of self-love for both men and women in pieces such as ‘Heavy’ and ’10 Things I’d like to say to thick women.’
‘Write your body a letter and make sure that it reads: Dear Body, People only try to get under your skin because they aren’t comfortable in theirs.’
Cassandra began preforming slam poetry in her first year of university in Toronto and is now 2015’s BAM! Youth Slam team captain. In her pieces, Cassandra uses imagery to walk the audience through a story which mimics fairy tales. Despite the well-crafted visuals and light fluidity of the narratives, Cassandra manages to incorporate serious issues about today’s society such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and discrimination. Her performances are captivating thanks to the contrast between the heavy messages and the graceful fluidity of the words.
‘Consent has never been a concrete concept so I could not cement walls to protect myself when charming characters opened their draw bridge and offered entrance into their castles.’
Poet, rapper, and producer, Jason was born and raised in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). His pieces are a sensitive balance of hip hop and poetry while being boldly political and critical of society. Philosofly was featured in the first Toronto Poetry Slam of this month and continues to make a name for himself. Pieces such as ‘My Backyard’ and ‘6 O’Clock News’ prove the feeling Jason has for the city and his passion for improving its condition.
‘You’re my sexy little mermaid lost in a sea of information, but you can’t see so you’re in formation with the rest of my fishes. Follow the leader. The world is so big, all the pawns want a preacher.’
Member of 2015’s BAM! Youth Slam, Lindsey ‘Londzo’ has blazed her way into the city by creating an experience with every performance. She uses her abilities with words and music alongside her naturally low tone of voice and mysterious energy to enchant the audience. Her pieces are mostly a reflection of her own experiences and struggles yet are crafted in such a way that the audience can relate.
‘You’ll find there is no trouble in shredding off the weight of this cycle, of this holy roulette. Oh, I am so lucky that the most blood I have ever spilled from my own body has been from my uterus.’
A prominent performer in the Toronto area since 2009, Truth Is… uses her poetry as a way to reach out to the community. She has been co-director of Guelph Spoken Word organization since 2009 and is now the artistic director of Guelph Youth Poetry Slam. Truth Is… has headlined conferences and workshops across Canada and the United States regarding gender equity and youth motivation, among other issues. Her pieces encompass a sense of power through her undeniable vulnerability and willingness to open up. She partners pain and joy in her poetry to get her message across.
‘This, this is what it feels like when every self-paid compliment makes me a liar. And there are days I believe I will never finish writing this poem.’
Brian competed earlier this year for a spot in the BAM! Youth Slam team and earned his place in it. His poetry is paired with theatrical gestures and double-meaning word play that carries the audience throughout the whole poem. Brian brings his own struggles to light and in doing so addresses many battles that are fought within in today’s youth, such as sexuality and self-harm. He has a way of making his distress valid without feeling sorry for himself and allowing the audience to share in his experience.
‘You’re welcomed to love boys or girls, but when you change the “or” to “and” nobody believes you.’
Sabrina was a part of the 2014 Toronto Slam Poetry team which went on to win in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in BC. The video for her poem ‘Explaining my depression to my mother’ on Button Poetry went on to reach over 2 million views on YouTube. Her charisma on stage drips with a fearless vibrancy and a quirky energy which is impossible to detach from when hearing her poetry. Sabrina is the perfect example of the best that Toronto has to offer in slam poetry.
‘Mom, my depression is a shape shifter. One day it is as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear. The next it’s the bear.’