KPU Slam Poetry Team… Assemble!

Slamapalooza’s new team discuss the poems that got them where they are

From left to right, Jesse Read, Martina Aspen, Dana I.D. Matthews, Leslie Stark, Julia Pilegetti (Tristan Johnston / The Runner)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s monthly slam poetry event—Slamapalooza—has produced a new team that will compete this October at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Winnipeg.

“We start counting points in September, that’s when our season begins,” explains Simon Massey, host of Slamapalooza and coach of the new slam team. “We assign a number value to each place someone comes in, so [for example], if they come in first they get 16 points, [and] if they come in second, they get 9 points.”

“At the end of May we total up all the points every person has and the 12 people with the highest points get to compete to be on the team.”

According to Massey, similar teams from around the country will be competing in Winnipeg, each with four or five members. There will be an estimated 24 teams in total, and four teams will go against each other in single bouts.

“[There] will be [approx.] four rounds, he says. “For each round, a team sends up one of their poets, or they send up a team piece. Our team will be practicing stuff together, trying to write pieces together, and figuring out fun and interesting things to do.”

The team will be getting together this summer to start collaborating.

“I’m honoured to pursue my passion at the national level,” says Jessie Read, one of the team members. “I feel like that will be really eye-opening, and really exciting, so I’m stoked. I couldn’t be more enthused.”

Read is a gender studies major at Queen’s University. To qualify for the team, she performed three poems.

“One of them was entitled “Miracles”, and it was just my interpretation of how the world should be and ideologies that I live my life by. It was just perpetuating them into my poetry.”

Read describes another one of her poems, “Recovery”, as“kind of like an uplifting poem that symbolizes how it’s really difficult to get through hardships in life, but we should all keep pursuing our dreams and keep doing things to further better ourselves and others.”

“[The last poem] is called ‘Selfish’.It’s about suicide, talking about how there’s really nothing selfish about it.”

Read says that she’s most looking forward to collaborating with other like-minded artists and being able to express herself.

New to the slam poetry scene in the Lower Mainland is fellow team member Julia Pileggi, who moved to the city just last fall.

“It feels good, it’s nice to have a community that I can be a part of like this,” says Pileggi on being selected for the team.

“The first poem I did was called “Hungry”. It’s about people in relationships. It’s like, if you waste food, what does that mean for what you might waste in the actual relationship, or what you might not get to know about the other person because of a tendency to throw things away.”

Another of her pieces was a “resteraunt rap,” which recalls her time as a server. Pileggi says that family and food are what she mainly talks about in her poems.

“It’s really surreal and amazing,” says Martina Aspen, another team member. “I’ve been wanting to be on a team for about two years now, and this is the first one I’ve been on, so that’s really cool.”

Aspen’s first poem was a gender piece called “Time bombs.

“I’m transgender, I’m non-binary, so I don’t identify as a girl or a boy,” says Aspen. “That poem was sort of about that and about transphobia, and also how it’s society that shapes girls to be a certain way.”

Aspen is most looking forward to meeting the wider slam community, and hearing the wide-range of poetry.

“I really want to travel around and go to the international slams. I know a lot of the slam poets in the scene here but not many of the ones from other parts of the country, or the world. I think that [it’s] really cool that we’ll get to meet a whole bunch of them.”


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