Sunday, February 04, 2007

IWPS Finals Night Review

Saturday night was an important night for poetry and the Vancouver poetry slam community as we played host to Canada’s first Individual World Poetry Slam. No Canadians made it to the final round at the sold-out Rio Theatre - the perfect spot for an auspicious event like this - but we were still well-represented with brief, yet powerful performances by local slammer Patrick Swan and the IWPS artistic director, Angus “The Svelte Ms. Spelt” Adair (pictured wearing the wedding dress). What followed was a 1 ½ hour rush of passion and emotion to the cerebellum. The cream of the crop of 72 poets from all over Canada and the states – belted out impassioned, stirring 3 minute (the maximum length a slam poem can be – according to the official rules) monologues and diatribes and are judged by random members of the audience on a scale of 1 to 10 using score cards - just like in figure skating. Amazing artists like Seattle's Buddy Wakefield and Jamie DeWolf from Oakland, Ca., rocked the crowd’s sensibilities. The ultimate winner was the booming and charismatic Ed Mabrey, from Columbus, Ohio.

Poets, believe it or not, can actually be a gregarious lot, and the elated crowd that spilled out onto Broadway kept the energy going at the all-night after party that followed. Highlights there included DJ Timothy Wisdom and $3 beer, not to mention the portable sauna truck parked in the back yard.

The success of this 3 day long festival (and other recent larger scale literary events) bear witness to the obvious growing interest in spoken word locally and on a national scale. It is attracting an varied and interesting following. Notably present throughout the entire fest was last season’s "Survivor" heroine Jessica "Flicka Smith

(Why didn’t I get her picture!). The charming rollergirl was here working as a camera person for one of the IWPS’s major sponsors,

The competitive art form of Slam Poetry, which is now a mainstay on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of every month at Café Deux Soleils, has seeds sewn 11 years ago back in 1996 when Vancouver sent it’s first team of poetic Olympians down to Portland, Oregon.

I was part of the first entourage to follow the team (which included Justin McGrail, Cass King, Andrea Thompson and Alexandra Oliver) down to that year’s finals. Riding shotgun were Vancouver Slam founders James P. McAuliffe and Graham Olds.

The bug caught on from there and we have been consistently sending teams down to various US cities to battle it out for cash, fame and coveted recording contracts ever since.

Many of the Drive’s most notable performers, like CR Avery, RC Weslowski, and Shane Koyzan have cut their teeth our slam stage. With rumours already spreading of Vancouver playing host to a future National Team Poetry Slam, we can only expect to see more and more talented writers rising to meet the challenge.

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