Opinion: It’s Saturday Night In Toronto, Must Be Time To Slam

If you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto you can come to Poetry Slams at the Drake Underground on Queen Street West every month. On March 28, it was the Toronto Poetry Slam’s semi finals hosted by Dave “Big Deal” Silverberg.
This Saturday night’s show featured some of Toronto’s best Slam Poets along with special guest Jamaal St. John from New Jersey. Big Deal David Silverberg (yes, the same guy who helps run DigitalJournal.com) was on hand to keep the pace moving and provide a haiku or two.

People had to be turned away tonight. There was no room to find a chair so the floor had to make due for many lucky enough to find a spot to rest. My spot on the ground was beside Valentino Assenza’s mother who told me how very proud of her son she was.

Teens on a first date and teachers wanting to have a first experience joined others who live for Slam. Screaming out the Slam Anthem we all became one, a mass of souls ready to hear the spoken word.

Tomy, Lara,Truth Is, Nolan, White Noise Machine, Yogi, Peace, Pan, Valentino Assenza, Ariel Platt, Kimiko and Mike Lipsius were all completing for the eight spots to go onto the finals in April. The final winners will be representing Toronto not only at the Canadian slam Finals but at the National Poetry Slam in West Palm Springs, Florida later this year.

Slam Poetry isn’t your momma’s poetry. It’s gutsy, new age and in your face. Topics can range from comedy to tears. The energy is infectious and the emotions are raw. Tonight’s spoken words did not fail the standing room only audience. From the fears of Iraq and the pain of the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip the horrors of war were expressed by many of the poets. Self doubt, body size, capitalism and the spoken word rounded out the mix. Two of my personal favorites were spoken by Tomy and Truth Is. Truth Is spoke of wanting to be able to sing a love song to one’s self and fearing that the words would never ring true while Tomy spoke of his daughter’s silent first minutes of life. Both poems are raw and powerful, as were all of the poems tonight.

Slam events have judges. It’s hard to judge a poet’s word but as Slam is not just poetry in motion but the energy and performance level the judge’s scores are needed for one poet or several to move on.

The eight finalist that will move on to the Finals on April 25, 2009 at Hugh’s Room at 2261 Dundas St. West are:

Tomy, Lara, Truth Is, Nolan, Peace, Valentino Assenza, Ariel Platt and Kimiko. Kimiko and Peace are newcomers to the Toronto Slam scene while the other six have been touching the crowds for a while now.

As with all Slam’s an international star is featured. Tonight the audience was graced with the stylings of Jamaal St. John from New Jersey. He was amazing. From his poem honouring women who know what Lane Bryant’s is and how he knows there is a God because real women have curves to his final piece the questioned a man who told him that Barack Obama wasn’t black enough to earn his vote, his words rang true.

If you have the chance to hit up Hugh’s Room on April 25 don’t hesitate. Poetry slams are where it’s at in Toronto. Culture comes cheap and speaks to your soul.

*The photos with this article are not the best quality, as they were taken on a cellphone with dark stage lighting.

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