For the last five years spoken word poets both amateur and professional alike have ascended to the Tonight it’s Poetry stage on Sunday nights to read whimsical, insightful, sexy, hilarious, ingenious and, most importantly, original works of spoken word.
Founded by Taylor Leedahl, TiP originated at Flint as a venue for published poets to read work from their collections. It has since grown exponentially, migrated to Lydia’s and become a showcase of spoken word performances including both professional performers and community stage participants.
In addition to the growth of TiP, this year will mark the first time that the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word will be held in Saskatoon. The event will be held from October 8-13 with spoken word teams from over 20 cities and several feature performers from across Canada, will be pouring into Saskatoon to showcase the very best that Canadian spoken word has to offer.
“Everything that’s performance oriented towards the spoken word is now under the umbrella of TiP,” said TiP slam master and executive director Charles Hamilton.
TiP encompasses everything from poetry slams and story slams to music nights to haiku death matches, and allows aspiring local spoken word performers over the age of 19 to come out and express themselves to an audience that now averages upwards of 100 people each week.
“We’ve grown into one of the most well attended — if not the most well attended — weekly [spoken word] shows in the country,” Hamilton said.
Isaac Bond, a local poet who has read at TiP for three years, has become a notorious competitor in many events. TiP is a release for him— place where he can say something carefully and have an audience listen.
“Most of my carefully formulated thoughts just stay in my head and if I write them down then they just stay on the page so when I come out to poetry it’s just a way that I can say that [stuff] to people,” he said.
Bond recently undertook the task of attempting to coordinate a monthly poetry workshop for the youth demographic, specifically those 22 and under.
“We’re trying to have a more concerted effort to engage the greater community, but especially the youth.” Bond said.
“If we don’t engage young people that aren’t bar age then, you know, five years down the road if a lot of people move on that are currently reading then we sort of have to start from the ground up again.”
Bond hopes to offer an encouraging environment for aspiring young poets— a place where they can share their work and get constructive feedback. He feels that the best way to accomplish this is by having youth work with experienced poets who understand the pressures of performing and sharing one’s intimate thoughts to an anonymous audience.
“We want to help them hone their skills early so that they don’t have to feel that stage anxiety and that worry that [their] work won’t be embraced.”
This year Bond will be one of five local poets competing on the Saskatoon Poetry Slam team at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Simon Wourms, Khodi Dill, Brent Chappel and Shanda Stefanson will join Bond as the city’s top slam poets.
Saskatoon has gained, as Hamilton puts it, a reputation for being a hot bed for spoken word throughout Canada. He expects that, unlike in larger cities, holding the festival in a place like Saskatoon will have more of an impact on the city as a whole.
“Saskatoon will be able to notice that 150 to 200 plus poets have invaded our city,” Hamilton said.
Events throughout the week will include poetry slams and featured performers, some who will conduct by-donation workshops. Festival passes, which guarantee access to every event, can be purchased online or at the door at TiP events leading up to the national competition, although you can pay cover for each individual event.
Photo: Alyssa Rudyk