Slam Poets represent KPU at Canadian Festival of Spoken Word

‘Slamapalooza’ makes semi-finals in national event.

The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, an annual competition for spoken word artists, took place this month in Victoria from Oct. 13 to 18. Slam poets gathered there from all across Canada to perform and compete for their chance to become the number one slam poetry team in the nation. In attendance this year were 100 writers and performers from 20 different cities, and among these legions were a handful of poets representing Kwantlen Polytechnic University for the first time in the history of the festival.

Kwantlen’s team consists of the five poets who scored high enough at the Slamapalooza finals back in September: Dana I.D. Matthews, Lindi Nolte, Britt MacLeod, Giselle Miller, and Tasha Monterrosa. Coached by Simon Massey, KPU’s slam organizer and vice president of the Kwantlen Creative Writing Guild, the team adopted the name of their monthly competition, Slamapalooza, and took off to Victoria to represent KPU in this national event.

“We gel so well together,” says Slamapalooza team member and KPU creative writing major Tasha Monterrosa. “You’d think that we’d known each other for a really long time.”

The spoken word team has come a long way since forming just over a month ago. The team started out as a group of competitors, with potential members being chosen from those competing at Kwantlen’s slam events. The top-10 highest scoring performers were chosen from those events—and of those, five were selected at a tryout event.

“It was kind of intimidating, having to be a team with people who were previously my competitors, when you think about it,” says Monterrosa. “It was a little jarring but it worked out great. I couldn’t be happier with the team.”

These writers spent a lot of time preparing and going over the pieces they planned to perform, as well as mentally readying themselves for the moment they would storm the stage. As a team, they put a lot of focus on supporting each other in both rehearsals and in the post-show.

“We get together and practice as a team, and we just praise each other,” says Monterrosa. “We’re all about the good vibes.”

With the presence of so many accomplished poets, the team can be forgiven for being a little nervous upon arrival. While the KPU spoken word team is new this year, others have been attending this event and others like it for years. It was the community among these writers that put Monterrosa’s nerves at ease.

“Everyone coming together and talking and wanting to get to know each other, [and] that kind of threw all the fear away,” she says.
For such a new team, KPU’s spoken word already made attendees take notice at this event. The first night of the event, Slamapalooza was selected to perform first among some very well known teams. Team coach Massey selected poet Dana I.D. Matthews to “take the bullet” (be the very first performer of everyone at the festival to deliver a poem), and the team was able to come in second place for the night. The second night was much the same with another second place score.

“People are coming up to us and saying ‘We had no idea who you were and now we know,’” says Monterrosa. “It’s crazy to think that we can come up out of nowhere and these people who have been together for years and have performed at other things and are very well known, are saying they’re afraid of [our] team.”

Monterrosa goes on to describe how being at the festival was “Such a great experience, but really tiring.” The poets of Slamapalooza spent nearly every waking hour of their time at the festival prepping their pieces, attending workshops, cheering each other on and meeting artists from all over. That’s not to mention the marathon sessions of poetry with the shouting and cheering that went along with it.

Ultimately, Slamapalooza made it to the semi-finals before being eliminated, making them one of the eight best spoken word teams in the nation, and the only team to represent the Lower Mainland at the festival. Next year’s festival will be taking place in Saskatchewan, and Massey’s already begun making preparations to assemble his 2015 Kwantlen slam team.

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