Behind the Scenes: Feminist Poetry Slam

An individual performing a piece off their phoneThe Feminist Poetry Slam hosted by the Women’s Centre is a highly anticipated event each term in the community. It’s a platform for performers to express their identities and struggles through words, and an opportunity for the audience to dive into the themes like never before. To most, the Slam is like a warm embrace; it’s what feels like home.

During the Fall 2017 term, the Feminist Poetry Slam was organized by three talented execs from the Women’s Centre: Midori Matthew, Amanda Singh, and Alyssa Ozaruk! Midori and Alyssa were kind enough to reflect on their volunteer experiences.  

What program and year are you in?

Midori: I’m in my 4A term of Health Studies with a minor in Legal Studies.

Alyssa: I’m currently in my 5A term with a Social Development Studies major, and a double minor in Legal Studies and Women’s Studies!

What motivated you to volunteer with the Women’s Centre?

M: I started volunteering with the Centre in Spring 2016, amid the din of several high-profile sexual assault cases in the news (R v. Ghomeshi here in Canada as well as the Brock Turner case). As with many other individuals, I was incensed by the way the legal system treated these victims and wanted to connect with like-minded people to do something to combat further injustices. In joining the Centre, not only have I been able to make connections with intelligent, passionate, and socially aware people, but I’ve had the opportunity to exercise my voice on a variety of fundamental social justice issues.

A: I’ve been interested in advocating for women’s rights - and human rights at large - for years. However, I wasn’t sure how I could do that while I was busy working, going to school, and trying to figure out my future. I liked that by joining the Women’s Centre I could do something local and have the chance to see people in real time. When students come to events, drop in at the office, and come to peer support, it motivates me to volunteer every new semester.

Tell me – what is a Feminist Poetry Slam?

Alyssa Ozaruk and performer Sophie WhitcombM: Essentially, it’s a platform where people may be heard on a number of experiences that we don’t necessarily talk extensively about in everyday life. Artists talk about their struggles, different facets of identity, or the events that shaped them into the people they are today. The performances are empowering, heartbreaking, inspiring, and joyous all in one. It’s truly a one of a kind event on campus.

A: Everyone from an amateur to an expert can perform, and you’ll feel the audience's support as people always snap, clap, cheer or laugh during the pieces. If you haven’t come to a Slam yet, I strongly encourage it! Plus, Bomber’s hashtag fries are amazing!

What was your experience organizing it?

M: The Slam is always fun to plan. We start by looking for a headliner from the local KW area, such as the wonderful Janice Jo Lee who was at our most recent event. Following that, we recruit as many students to perform as possible to showcase the incredible talents and people around campus. While organizing it certainly doesn't come without stress at times, it’s always worth it!
 
A: In a word? Incredible! I had the privilege of reaching out to Janice Jo Lee who is an amazing human being that wowed the audience with her poetry, singing, and drum playing. We also invited MATES, a peer support service on campus, to ensure our event was a supportive space for everyone. I’m so grateful for the Women’s Centre coordinators as well as my fellow execs and volunteers who brought it all together.

Were there any performances that stood out to you?

M: Every performance at the Slam is amazing in its own way. I personally can never choose a favourite because they are all impactful and stay with you in some facet.

A: There’s always so much raw talent in the room. There were poets who cracked up the audience, who left people misty eyed, and who had the entire room snapping. I must have been cheering all night long!

In what ways does this event help build community on campus?

Sophie Whitcomb reciting a pieceM: At the Slam, people tend to free the most vulnerable parts of themselves through their art. When people are open about some of their hardest and most personal experiences in life, the whole room becomes like a family. The audience is always super supportive and engaged with each performer, which is incredible to see in a venue as big as the Bomber!

A: Even hearing about Poetry Slam gets a room buzzing! Students really respond well to it. I think it's because we want to support our peers and share our experiences with one another. It’s not uncommon for audience members to approach poets afterwards and comment on something they enjoyed about the performance. Everyone I’ve spoken to that's been to a Slam is glad they did, and everyone who couldn’t make it plans to go next time!
 

Is the Women’s Centre hosting any other events this term?

M and A: Yes - Love Your Body Week is happening from November 6-10.  It comprises a series of fantastic body positive events. There’s a great mix of education, arts and crafts, and relaxation! 

We are also hosting Women in Geek Culture in collaboration with the Games Institute on November 22. We're featuring Betsy Brey from First Person Scholar's as our guest speaker! There will be a Kahoot game regarding tropes on stereotypes in the gaming world, followed by everyone engaging in a casual, fun game at the end!

There’s definitely something for everyone, so please come by and check our events out! 


If you’re interested in learning more about the Women’s Centre, see their page on Feds for additional resources. 

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