Battle with Your Tongue at the Canadian Festival of the Spoken Word


Quebec can seem like a language stew. Forget French and English. Think about the hundreds of other languages that come with our immigrants, ranging from Farsi to Norwegian. Think even further — all the indigenous languages of the First Nations, the Inuit, and the Métis. The “bilingual” (multilingual?) Canadian Festival of the Spoken Word celebrates “Diverse Languages” as its theme for its 10th anniversary year. Over 40 events with 150 poets/performers, and 2500+ attendees will participate in slams, workshops, showcases, and panels.

The centre of the festival is the Slam competition. 24 teams compete in preliminary rounds and work their way to the Slam Finals. Other events include workshops such as “Safer Spaces in Slam” to look at building communities that can engage groups of people who might feel victimized or harmed in other places, “Career and community in Spoken word” about discussing the hurdles performers must overcome to “go pro,” and a panel “Indigenous Languages: Heritage and Spirit” on looking at the First Nations oral traditions and the threats that these languages face. Among those speaking are activist Chelsea Vowel.

One of the workshops is about creating Zines (The Zines Workshop). Another is on the ever useful skills of social media and grant writing led by Nora Nathoo and Natalia Toronchuk. There is even a headshot session available for $20. “Oral Fixation: The Art of Performance and Taboo” helps performers turn fear and shame into pieces. Louise Halfe leads “Transcending Fear through Writing.”


Readings and performances are also part of the festival. Luminaries and Literatti is a showcase presented by the Mile End Poets group. Feminafesto has 7 women celebrating those who inspire them while looking at injustices faced as women. Off the Shelf Book Showcase looks into publishing by having readings from graphic novelists and poets. There are late night readings such as Underground Indies, Wax the Moon Poetics hosted by Miss Sugar Puss  and Once in a Blue Moon. Among those performing during the festival are poets, slammers, and performers Brandon Wint, Sheri-D WIlson, Tanya Evanson, Queen Ka, Ivy, and Miss Claudia.


The Canadian Festival for Spoken Word runs from November 4-November 9, 2013. See website for details about venues and costs.

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