April 2009

Toronto Poetry Slam
Hosted by Dave Silverberg
Featuring Shane Koyczan and Mike McGee
Finalist: Tomy, Lara, Truth Is, Nolan, Peace, Valentino Assenza, Ariel Platt and Kimiko
April 25, 2009 Hugh's Room Toronto
Poetry Slam A Trifle Soft
by Tova G. Kardonne
On Saturday, April 25 the top eight amateur spoken-word poets of Ontario came together at Hugh’s Room to speak their words and hear the famed and beloved trio Tons O’ Fun University (TOFU) inspire them along their paths. I went for TOFU; the Slam was, in advance, an incidental bonus. I had heard TOFU back at their debut performance in Toronto in 2005 and was captivated and entranced by their eloquence, their poignancy, their humour and their passions. Also their skills. The three gentlemen moved in and out of rhythms and pulses with the facility of water over a delta, showing the terrain they covered in all its variegated trouble, yet invariably finding the smoothest course. This performance was no different, if a little impoverished by the absence of C.R. Avery. The other two members, Shane Koyczan, and Mike McGee, apologized for his absence, saying C.R. had unfortunately been double booked. Shane’s tales of girls who tasted of tomatoes or pepper, or of the painful realities of infertility, were as rich and colourful as I remember. The line that captured me this time around was about handing over one’s heart in a glass jar, and asking, “Can you open this?” to receive the reply, “Not without breaking it.” A groan and a sigh went through the audience. Mr. Koyczan, you’ve spoken for us all. Mike’s pieces seemed both more upbeat and more feather-weighted. He opened with a well-told, drawn-out, unconscionably funny tale that was, it must be admitted, a fart joke. And though his following pieces climbed higher and addressed more than that opening gambit material, it was hard to regain the atmosphere of levity, as Mike and Shane alternated solo pieces through their set.

Shane Koyczan (Sept. 2005)

Mike McGee (Sept. 2005)
Part of that was due to the overall mood of the crowd. It was a spoken word poet’s love-in and the Slam competitors were all about the dark and the self-revelatory, not so much into witty or frivolous observations — at least this time. The judging panel was extremely generous, and the marks crept higher and higher as the evening wore on, until finally, it seemed the crowd would boo any judge who awarded a score of less than 9 out of 10. A few gleaming gems emerged, though, and my favourite was a piece entitled “9-1-1” by Ariel Platt. It had structure, both on the page and in the performance. It told of her painful teetering as a bystander to domestic violence, and lamented our collective non-committal stance as witnesses to it in our society. It built from an unassuming, undemanding beginning, and drew the listener into a more and more disturbing scenario. Her final staccato phrase was a classical symphonic climax, after all that, and achieved a ringing impact that few others that night approached. She, along with Truth Is, Lara, and Kimiko formed the first all-female Toronto Poetry Slam Team to be sent to the Nationals — hail to the ladies and their words. And yes, I agree with the judges on this one. The best poets did win.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
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