When she was first able to read, Kristal Jones recalls pulling out the glossy, accordion-like paper inserts that accompanied cassette tapes.
As she listened to the music, she’d pour over the lyrics.
“I wished I could articulate emotion in that way,” Kristal tells Electric City Magazine.
“These words put meaning to all the things growing and changing in and around me.”
She has since found in poetry that channel for communicating her thoughts and feelings. Kristal has just returned from a national poetry competition where she and four Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective teammates advanced to the semi-finals. The poet reflects on the experience of discovering the art of the spoken word, which was also somewhat sparked by seeing the movie Poetic Justice.
“I realized that there was a way you could share song without singing,” Kristal says.
“It took me a long time to decide that what I wanted to say had value and meaning and was worthy of an audience.”
From Oct. 13 to 19 in Guelph, Kristal had those captive listeners as she performed her original poetry during the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.
From her forthcoming book, she shared Fat Girl Riot: Poems To Piss Off The Patriarchy. The pieces centre around “the idea of fat acceptance and radical self-love as resistance, the fight for autonomy as a fat femme and being naked on the internet,” she explains.
Meanwhile, Kristal’s poetry slam team member, Sarah Lewis, shed light on issues related to Indigenous people. The poet says she was inspired to write after exposure to poetry in her community.
“I occasionally went to poetry slams throughout the years and ultimately, I thought it would be a beautiful medium to discuss and spread awareness about Indigenous issues/my life experiences,” Sarah says.
“I’ve always loved being in the spotlight when it comes to the performing arts, as well as having a love for writing, so I thought I’d try it out for myself.”
In regards to her recent experience on the national stage, Sarah says, “it’s nerve-wracking going up there and baring such heavy topics and personal experiences to a room full of strangers and then to get judged on it after. We all did amazing and left what we needed to on the stage.”
Sarah, Kristal, Ray Godin, Jon Hedderwick and Ash, who did not want a last name published, made up the Peterborough slam team that competed in Guelph.
Ray became involved in the Peterborough Poetry Slam about six years ago. He took a hiatus and returned to the scene recently.
“I’ve loved poetry and hip-hop for a long time,” Ray says.
“I think performing live always makes you vulnerable. Anything can happen, which is terrifying. I like that.”
The team members presented a variety of original poems. Their individual and team presentations collectively earned points for an overall score that secured their position in the semi-finals.
Jon has been part of the Peterborough Poetry Slam since 2013 and currently serves as its artistic director. He has been writing for as long as he can remember.
“My nana said to me as a young boy that ‘the right words said in the right place at the right time can change the world,’” Jon says.
“It’s an idea that I’ve carried with me my whole life. What I love about my art form is that it seems unique in its ability to trigger empathetic reactions in people. I think it provides opportunities for a deeper understanding of the human conditions while also challenging audiences to see and even feel beyond their own bubbles.”
The Peterborough Poetry Slam provides an open stage on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Sapphire Room, 137 Hunter St. W. Sign-up begins at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. The cost is $5-10 or pay-what-you-can.
This is the second in a series of stories about poetry and members of the Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective. Stay tuned to Electric City Magazine for a final article about a mentorship opportunity for aspiring poets.
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