Reflections on Women of the World Poetry Slam

From late night cyphers to early morning writing workshops, I can’t even begin to measure how much I have grown in the last week. The whole time I was there, I tried to speak with as many people as possible to get a better understanding of what WOWps is all about. Poet, activist and slam champion Sonya Renee explained to me that slam is a microcosm of larger society, so things such as racism, sexism and homophobia are not divorced from the slam community. 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion Rachel Mckibbens explained that WOWps is an attempt to inject some balance into the scence.  There is a privileging of the male voice, prevalent in society at large and WOWps is a space for giving women the centre stage to speak out, shout out and spit like no one’s business.

On the first night of preliminary bouts, I performed right after T.Miller – one of the poets who made it to final stage. I’ve been in a slam with her before @ the Rustbelt Regional Slam in Michigan last year and let me tell you, it aint so comfortable stepping to the mic after T.Miller has wrecked a room.  I held my own but in the second round, I got thrown by the nerves and did not perform well. Good learning experience though. Slam is a sport and I had not taken the time to get into that mindset and connect with my poetry before spitting it.

Day two, I got more focused and really took my time to get into the mindset I needed to be the throat of my message. I was up third and performed the hell out of my poem. I did good with the scores, but, most importantly, I felt like I had done the poem and my own expectations justice.  I remembered what Ernie Paniccioli had said in a talk he gave a few weeks back, “you are your own biggest competition.”

There are some days when I still wonder what the hell I’m doing in slam. It’s a crazy idea to put your blood sweat and tears in front of an audience and ask them to judge you and give you scores out of 10.  And then there are other times when I see so much truth and humanity on the stage; it feels like I’m exactly where I need to be.

Much love and respect to T.Hollywood for her coaching and being an amazing support and friend all week.


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