Slammin’ in the Capital

Poster courtesy of Madeleine Kelly

The Capital Poetry Collective brings the art of slam poetry to Ottawa. Their next show is Capital Slam, which takes place on Saturday, November 21 at Origin Studio at 57 Lyndale Ave in Hintonburg.

A “slam” is a poetry competition in which poets perform original spoken-word poems independently or in teams before an audience.

The audience is the judge, and they evaluate each performance based on the poet’s manner and enthusiasm while also looking at the poems’ content or style.

Photo courtesy of Molly Cockburn
Photo of Sarah Ruszala courtesy of Molly Cockburn

The Collective is an umbrella organization that joins together several poetry slams within Ottawa. The organization is completely run by volunteers. Sarah Ruszala, a University of Ottawa student and poet, serves as its director.

“I first discovered spoken word and poetry slams a few years ago following a workshop at my high school,” says Ruszala. “I loved how performing my poetry out loud felt, and especially how it sounded. I wanted to give other people, particularly youth, the chance to experience the same thrill of sharing their words and ideas.”

The Collective was formed in 2004, and its marquee show Capital Slam is one of the longest running poetry slams in Canada. The Slam boasts several championship winning teams and individuals. To date, the Capital Slam team has won two National Team Championships, and poets representing Capital Slam have won two National Individual Championships, as well as two Individual World Championships.

An interesting component of the Collective is the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam. OYPS is a youth poetry competition, open mic, and workshop series created to help youth between the ages of 12 and 20 explore spoken word poetry. It meets on the first weekend of every month at Pressed Café. The shows are free and open to the public to participate.

2015 Capital Slam team, photo courtesy of Jenica Shivkumar
2015 Capital Slam team, photo courtesy of Jenica Shivkumar

“I really love OYPS because the environment is so comfortable and it really shows off just how talented young writers are,” Ruszala says. “It’s really exciting to see that passion ignited in someone and to watch them grow (as a poet) over the course of the year.”

It’s no secret that the Ottawa poetry community is a thriving one. Versefest, Ottawa’s annual poetry and spoken word festival, for example, takes place over the course of six days each March. Ruszala adds that Ottawa also has an active French poetry scene, as well as several reading series that take place all over the city.

Doors for the upcoming Capital Slam open at 6:30p.m. and the show begins at 7. The next Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam show is on Sunday November 22 and features Toronto slam poet Kay Kassirer. Kassirer is an acclaimed poet who frequents Canada’s slam circuit.

If you are interested in Capital Slam and would like to learn more about upcoming events, a show recap or volunteer opportunities, visit Capital Slam’s website.