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Founded in 2011, the KW Poetry Slam is a series of community-building spoken word poetry events in Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario. KWPS is an official slam community under Spoken Word Canada. KWPS is supported by funding through the City of Kitchener, and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.
By bringing together diverse artists in Kitchener Waterloo, the KW Poetry Slam builds a strong arts community by hosting a series of spoken word poetry events in Kitchener and Waterloo. The regular season slam series sends a team to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.
Artistic Opportunity: An integral element to the community building project of KWPS is destabilizing common assumptions about who is allowed to take the stage as a performer and who is disallowed from doing so. In other words, we believe that people have great stories and it is those stories and poems which we want to hear regardless of whether those people would be considered typical “artists”. Our goal is for KWPS to serve as a forum for established performers as well as up and coming poets and for all those who are just beginning to share themselves with the world.
Community Building: Before anything else KWPS is a venue to build strong, intentional and responsible community. We want the gathering of diverse peoples at KWPS events to share poetry and listen to each other’s words in a way that supports the artistic growth of our poetry community. This means that KWPS is not a means to an end, like say winning slam competitions, building prestige or competing at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. KWPS is envisioned as an end in itself.
Safer Spaces: The only way we can really engage in community building is if we first have an environment which favours positive growth. For KWPS this means working to create spaces which recognize the needs and desires of a multitude of different peoples and honour the struggles and contributions which all members of our community bring to our venue. Identifying KWPS as a safe space would be misleading as we cannot guarantee the comfort of all those who attend. Instead, we work to create a slam that is a safer space because we acknowledge that the work of creating inclusive, comfortable and nurturing spaces is a process. We do this knowing that slam culture is not immune to the power dynamics and privilege allotment enforced by mainstream culture. We do this recognizing that oppression exists within slam culture and to address this within our community.
Accessibility: If KWPS isn’t accessible to everyone then how could it be a community building project? We recognize that accessibility does not simply refer to the physical environment of the slam its self but also the design of the organization. Part of this project is regularly asking ourselves who can access the space, the art and the conversations happening therein. In considering this we have integrated mechanisms into the slam to make it more accessible. This includes trigger warnings, the pay-what-you-can policy and comment cards. We also want to be accountable for the ways in which our slam is not accessible. Currently our slam space the Little Bean Coffee Bar has one step into the front doorway and one step onto the stage. We also acknowledge that our model and method of operation may put off certain individuals, especially those who are more privileged in life or those who are unfamiliar with anti-oppression. At KWPS we are always seeking to maintain open lines of communication and not simply to draw lines in the sand of who is right and worthy of the mic and who is wrong and deserving of being silenced. Always know we are interested in engaging in dialogue about all of the happenings at the slam.
To contact the organizers regarding booking and fees, volunteering, or any other inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org
Artistic Director: Janice Jo Lee
Slam Master: Beth Murch
Treasurer and Poetry Circle Coordinator: Bashar Jabbour
Box Office and Scorekeeper: Katherine Lee