Writers match wits in slam poetry finals

Slam poet Scott Thompson holds up his notebook while sitting at his apartment desk. He’ll compete in a slam poetry competition at the Victoria Event Centre this weekend.

Unique art form allows individuals to explore different sides of themselves

Scott Thompson’s life has been transformed, just a few short months after he was introduced to performance poetry.

“Poetry is probably the most important thing I’ve ever started doing,” said the Esquimalt man.

After witnessing his first spoken word performance last August, Thompson was hooked.

“I was inspired. After that I just started keeping track of my thoughts and typing ideas into the notepad on my phone.”

In January, Thompson, 25, signed himself up for a performance poetry class and dove right into the art form.

“When I started writing I felt like my brain was starting to wake up. I’d spent years shutting it off with video games,” he said, adding he wrote a poem about that experience.

When Thompson looks for inspiration, he uses his feelings, frustrations and experiences to draw from. “Everyone needs a way to express themselves and performance poetry is a great way to do that.”

Thompson has been actively competing in poetry slams in Victoria, a competition among spoken word poets.

On the night of a slam, poets sign up to compete and a few are selected randomly to hit the stage. Each competitor is given three minutes to perform an original piece of work without the use of props or costumes.

“There are no constraints on what poetry is or what spoken word is,” said Missie Peters, the Victoria Slam master, a.k.a. organizer and host of the events.

At slams, she’s seen people perform stand-up comedy, freestyle and even haiku. “You get three minutes, but it doesn’t mean you have to use it all.”

The judges for each event are also picked at random from the crowd. “They give scores like they do at the Olympics,” Peters said.

To Thompson, performance poetry is an art form and poetry slams offer a venue for that.

In February he competed in his first poetry slam. Although he didn’t make it past the first round, he kept honing his craft. One month later Thompson stepped back up on stage and won the slam with his poems titles, “Milo” and “Blackbird.”

An avid improv performer, he has spent more than half his life on stage and admits that writing is tougher than getting up in front of an audience.

Thompson and 11 other performance poets will face off at the Victoria Slam Finals, June 16. Competitors earned their spots on the roster, an exception to the normally random selection process.

The top five go on to compete in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Toronto, Ont., in October. Peters, a two-time Victoria Slam champion, will coach the top five.

“If you’ve never seen (a poetry slam), go experience it. There is no feeling quite like it,” Thompson said.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. at the Victoria Events Centre, 1415 Broad St. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information go to www.vicpoetryslam.blogspot.com.


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