KPU Slam poetry team gets new roster

Members set to compete in Saskatoon this October

Courtsey of Slamapalooza

A measly sum of people made their way into the social justice space in Surrey to attend the second Slamapalooza team finals on Sept. 3.

In fact, I was the only audience member.

But KPU’s slam poetry team, complete with new faces, can anticipate performing in front of hundreds of people when they slam down in Saskatoon at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW) mid-October.

“We have a full team! And that’s really good,” says Simon Massey after the poets have filed out of the social justice space. In addition to being a KPU student, Massey’s a regular performer in the Vancouver slam poetry community who organizes these KPU Slamapaloozas, and now coaches the new team. “I mean, all of the poets who qualified are absolutely capable of competing at the level of CFSW,” he says.

Of the 16 eligible poets to compete on Sept. 3, only three showed up to the competition, and those three made the vacancies on the team. As expected, it was an intimate night. I, being the only audience member, was appointed judge, where I gave scores on a 10-point scale after each of the poets slammed.

“Applaud the poet, not the scores!” Massey would say enthusiastically after each scorecard, which I found out were, to my embarrassment, abnormally on the low side of the spectrum when it comes to scoring slams.

Applaud the poet, let’s please not make eye-contact.

New additions to the team include Chloë Arduini, Lukas Ritter and Siling Zhang. Megan Oakley also joined the team, though she qualified in the first team finals preceding Sept. 3. Veteran Leslie Stark is also on the team as an alternate, and that makes five. Massey says that Arduini and Ritter have participated in Hullabaloo in the past, which is the youth stream in the Verses Festival of Words. They aren’t strangers to the team setting and large competitions.

Siling Zhang is new, but Massey says she’s “hit the ground running.”

“I’m an arts student right now outside of slam,” says Zhang. “But I feel like since slam is artistic, it’s kind of an extension of what I do anyways. I explore the same themes in poetry as I do in visual arts.”

Zhang characterizes her work as “very imagery-heavy.”

“I think it focuses a lot on juxtaposition, and just that kind of school of thought where you take the mundane and position it so that it’s suddenly unsettling,” says Zhang. Now that she’s on the KPU team, she aims to soak up experiences rather than try and place in the slam poet standings. She’s not hugely competitive, she says.

Massey’s confident that the team can hold their own at CFSW this October, even considering any greenhorn qualities that the team may have. Massey says the festival is really more exciting than intimidating.

“No poet’s like, ‘ohmygodimthebest.’ Everyone’s really humble,” says Massey. “The competition’s really awesome, but it’s really an excuse to see each other’s poetry.”

Maybe I should have kept that in mind when I was—yeesh—putting up the scorecards. I might as well have been beneath Olympic diving boards with my immediate stoicism. But for some, like Zhang, it isn’t all about the numbers. She often participates in the Vancouver poetry slam community, and for her, it’s about having poets she likes enjoying her work.

“The numbers don’t matter if at the end of the night the people that I enjoy talking to and hang out are like, ‘That was awesome,’” says Zhang. “That makes me wanna work harder and do more.”


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