Slamapalooza Places 13th at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word

Student and poet Justin Bige says it was “life changing” to see poets in final rounds

KPU Slamapalooza team member Justin Bige at the Poetry in the Park event in Trout Lake Park in Vancouver, Sep 17. (Alyssa Laube)

The Kwantlen Polytechnic University Slam Poetry Team, known as Slamapalooza, placed 13th out of 22 teams from around the country at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

In a poetry slam, writers fuse poetry with performance and compete for points as determined by audience members. At CFSW—an annual, nation-wide event which this year took place from Oct. 23 to 28 in Ontario—the stakes could not be higher.

“The poetry community is absolutely wild in Canada,” says Justin Bige, a member of the Slamapalooza team who is also a KPU student.

“[CFSW] is like poetry camp,” says Simon Massey, the Slamapalooza organizer and coach. “The neat thing about it is that you’re going to a different city and you’re kind of displaced in that city—you have a community of two to four hundred poets there that you all just know in this new place.”

Only four of the 22 teams competing in the festival were from British Columbia: the University of Victoria team, Vancouver Slam team, University of British Columbia team, and, of course, our very own Kwantlen Polytechnic University team. The team from B.C. that ranked nearest to KPU was the VanSlam team, which came in 17th overall.

Both Massey and Bige feel proud of where the team ranked, and were glad to be able to expand their skills by learning from other poets.

“Vancouver is really lucky that we have some amazing poets,” says Massey. “Only one team gets to win, so going there expecting to win isn’t a healthy thing.”

While attending the festival, Bige had the opportunity to perform in the “Underground Indies” event, where the audience—primarily made up of CFSW contestants—sits in a circle while poets perform in the center. Poets face off without a microphone and try to keep the attention of everyone in the circle. Judging by the volume of the applause, the audience determines which poet moves on the next round until only one stands.

Bige did not win, but says that his poem took on a powerful new life through the performance he gave at the Underground Indies.

Another member of the Slamapalooza team, Jaye Simpson, was featured in a showcase with three other performances that the organizers of CFSW felt represent the spirit of the event.

The day that Bige and Simpson returned from Ontario, they channeled the experience they gained from the festival into a performances at the Vancouver Poetry Slam at Café Deux Soleil. That night, Bige placed first and Simpson placed second—successes that Bige says were “definitely a direct result of what we did at CFSW.”

In order to attend the festival, Slamapalooza fundraised throughout the fall, and also received a sponsorship from the Kwantlen Student Association. According to Massey, the team was “proud to rep the Kwantlen Student Association at CFSW.”

Poetry slams take place every third Thursday of the month in the Grassroots cafe on KPU’s Surrey campus. The next slam is on Nov. 16. Look up Slamapalooza KPU on Facebook for more details.