spoken word poetry

Setting the Record Straight on Competing for Up From the Roots

Next month Up From the Roots (UFTR), one of the two teams which represent Toronto at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW), will be holding its team qualifying SLAM. Being a proud member of this team last year I am curious to see what the outcome will be. I am especially curious as I have been following the rankings this year and notice that besides Dwayne Morgan (can someone please knock this guy off the team already lol), the top ranking poets are all youth of color, with at least one female poised to be on the team again. I look forward to following the outcome and then the performance of the UFTR team at the CFSW which takes place in Winnipeg this October.

Besides their performance, I am more curious to see what kind of reception this team will get at CFSW after last year’s team experienced what was in my opinion a rather hostile send off. After spending a week in Saskatoon last year, for the most part silently observing the way in which this team was targeted, our poems nitpicked for signs of misogyny (and attacked with made up lines when folks conveniently wanted to strengthen their case against my team mates) and the most traumatic finals stage I have ever experienced, my only hope is that the lessons learned from last year’s festival were heavily taken into consideration as the CFSW aims to create a safer space for EVERYONE at this year’s festival.



Why Spoken Word is no longer my “Sidechick”

My name is Paulina O’Kieffe and I am a Spoken Word Artist.

I have been in the spoken word game for over 10 years although you may not even know it. Why is that you may ask. The answer is simple, because for far too long I have been treating my spoken word art as my side piece. I have used my talents, my passionate and skill as a continual side project for far too long, often leaving her underdeveloped, underused, underexposed for the sake of making money doing more traditional types of work (community work, project management, etc) However in doing so I have come to discover that not only did my quality of life degrade (literally my bouts of depression and anxiety got worse over the last few years thanks to burnout) but I noticed my ability to write, to perform and express myself was no longer as easy to do. This is where I knew I had to change my perspective.

This year I gave birth to my second child, CJ, and I have been on maternity leave since February. It was been the most liberating experience of my life as I have no excuses now and am free to develop myself as an artist once more. I also won’t be going back to my position at my old job and so there is nothing holding me back from going full force back into the beautiful art form known as spoken word. I have already performed this month and the experience was exhilarating. To ensure that I wouldn’t fall back on my artistic practice I diligently signed up to compete at Dwayne Morgan’s Toronto International Poetry SLAM in August. I have a whole summer to “clear the cobwebs” as Dwayne put it. And clear them I will.

With a handful of unique and interesting artistic opportunities lining up for me I feel that the stars have aligned and it is time for me to upgrade my spoken word art to full “wifey” status. No longer will my art remain in the shadows as a hobby, but it will once again be a major force in defining who I am and how I live my life. And there is no doubt in my mind that my life will be better for it.

I look forward to sharing my artistic revival journey with you as well as my new works, performances, workshops, programs and other spoken word community events on this site. I look forward to sparking dialogue with my words so please feel free to leave your comments.