Voices of Today
In August, the Vancouver Youth Poetry Slam Team Lilith Brodt, Ainslie Glass, Aaron Hunter and LJ Weisberg, headed to Toronto to compete in the youth national spoken word festival, Voices of Today. Voices of Today is a four day festival with workshops, open mics, and showcases run by youth for youth. It is the newest addition to the set of festivals run by Spoken Word Canada, and its goal is to bring together youth poets from all across this colonial nation to learn from community leaders and each other. It is a festival run by and for youth— all organizers are 25 and under, to ensure youth’s priorities are reflected in the way the festival is run.
Frankie McGee was the team’s chaperone this year and had this to say about the festival, “Witnessing the Vancouver youth team experience and participate in this festival was amazing, and I can only imagine the work that will come from them in the years to come! One of the richest things about being a part of the national spoken-word community is being able to build friendships with skilled and compassionate artists from across the country and the learning that takes place within those relationships, onstage and off. Those supportive relationships and the mentorship is incredibly valuable, so for youth to have a chance to start building those relationships as young as 15 is an important opportunity for personal and professional growth and the expansion of their craft.”
The Vancouver team competed against youth teams from Regina, Saskatoon, Peterborough, London, and the Toronto area. Our team made it into the finals, and placed 3rd overall in the competition. Throughout the festival, they participated in workshops led by incredible artists. With Janice Jo Lee the team reflected on the purpose of artistic work, why they write and perform, and crafted artist’s statements. Gabrel Ramirez led them gently through some writing prompts, grounded by reading selected poems. Angelica Pohveherskie led poets in clowning exercises and Desmond Cole had poets reflect on how language frames conversations, and how we can reframe issues to shift harmful narratives. Inali Barger led poets through prompts to reflect on how to connect personal experiences and the knowledge that comes from them to audiences who may not share those experiences. The team also helped create a zine, led by Zoey Pricelys Roy, that was published at the end of the week. On top of this, they were able to see an amazing range of feature performances from these and other spoken word artists brought in by festival organizers.
Through the festival, our youth poet team got to connect with poets from across the country, connections that will inevitably grow in the years to come.