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Youth poetry group gives young people a stage for their art to be heard

By in Culture
A performer recites their poem during Tonight it’s Poetry at Amigos’s Cantina in Saskatoon, SK on Oct. 6, 2019.

Write Out Loud is a local poetry organization for youth between the ages of 13 and 22. This creative initiative branches from parent organization Tonight it’s Poetry, which provides a platform for poets 19 years and older.

After starting up in 2008,  Tonight it’s Poetry reached its peak when it was held at Lydia’s Pub. However, there was a need for a youth poetry group so young voices could have a space to write. Write Out Loud was founded in 2012 by spoken word poet and hip-hop artist Isaac Bond to accommodate this want. Since then, the poetry group has been providing youth with a platform to express their art. 

The essentials of a poetry slam are five judges, a timekeeper, a host, slam poets and an audience. While the poetry group has seen shifts in attendance numbers throughout its eight-year life, new artists have found their way out to the poetry slams. 

Typically, the season begins in September and ends in May, when there are poetry slam finals where youth vie for a spot on the Saskatoon team that competes at the national youth poetry festival of spoken word: Voices of Today. The festival has been running for the past three years.

Voices of Today is held in Toronto, ON and is a four-day festival. Accommodations are covered by Tonight It’s Poetry, so the trip is accessible to all poets. Youth get the opportunity to hear feature poets from across Canada as well as attend workshops. 

At Voices of Today, there are writing workshops, performance workshops as well as anti-oppression workshops so teams can foster a safe and inclusive space for artists. This past summer, the Saskatoon slam team Homegrown placed second out of the six teams that competed. The previous year, the Saskatoon team placed third. 

Write Out Loud hosts poetry slams at the Frances Morrison Library at 6 p.m. on the last Thursday of every month. These events are free to attend because of a partnership the organization has with the Saskatoon Public Library.

 In recent years, the organization has tried to increase its accessibility by having an interpreter from the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at some of the shows. 

Write Out Loud is also very welcoming to those of the 2SLGBTQQIA community due to the growth of this demographic of poets over the past few years. 

Organizers prioritize creating and maintaining this safe space to ensure every poet feels welcomed into the spoken word community. One of the ways in which organizers uphold this tenant is by preceding every slam with the statement that hate speech will not be tolerated. 

Between navigating identity, relationships, social and political issues, youth have a lot to say. Their struggles and triumphs are captured in the spoken word that is shared at the poetry slams. 

Disclaimer: Lauren Klassen is a volunteer contributor for the Sheaf and a board member for Write Out Loud.

Lauren Klassen

Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

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