Left to right: Julia Florek (alternate), Amber O’Reilly, Larysa Musick, Tharuna Abbu, Mike Johnston
Competition was stiff and the scores were incredibly close at the Park Theatre tonight as Winnipeg’s 2015 Slam Poetry team was distilled from the eight finalists. Slam poetry is a growing subculture of modern expression that Winnipeggers are embracing. A large crowd nearly filled the theatre which surprised the organizers and elicited much gratitude.
The three poets who didn’t make the team – Kortnee Stevens, Rob Malo and Shelly Genthon – gave admirable performances. The winner of the shiny satirical belt for the highest score was Mike Johnston.
Calgary slam poet Andre Prefontaine brought his bitter life truths to the stage with refined humour and compelling presence as the half-time show. Charming, erudite and highly tolerant Bruce Symaka (left) MC’ed the evening and rolled with the frequent audience jibes.
The four finalists will represent Winnipeg at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Saskatoon October 18 to 25, 2015.
The final eight poets who will slam for the four spots to represent Winnipeg at the Nationals have been decided. The Handsome Daughter hosted the second semi-final round last night where seven poets slammed, four went through to the finals.
The eight finalists are Tharuna Abbu, Julia Florek, Shelly Genthon, Mike Johnston, Rob Malo, Larysa Musick, Amber O’Reilly and Kortnee Stevens.
The top poet last night was Mike Johnston (left), Manitoba’s 2014 slam poetry champion. His word and presentation are unique, collegial and compassionate. Click Mike’s pic to see him perform Question Box from last year’s finals.
The second place finisher was young Tharuna Abbu who slammed two personal moments from her life with elegance, enthusiasm and marvelous control. Her first poem made me cry. Unfortunately I don’t have video of Tharuna.
You’ll just have to go to The Park Theatre on Wednesday June 3 to hear her and seven other fine performers slam their best works. The event starts at 7:00, doors open 6:30, admission is $10. Bring a friend.
Read my post on last week’s first round of semi-finals.
UPDATE: Read my post on the finals on the results of the finals
Last Wednesday night I attended the first round of semi finals in the 2015 Winnipeg Poetry Slam at The Handsome Daughter on Sherbrook Street. Seven poets competed for four spots in the final with the last semi final round coming up on Wednesday May 20 at the same fine venue.
I was one of the randomly chosen judges and dutifully received the derision of the crowd when I scored a poet too low. In my role as judge I used Andrea Gibson as top of the class, Carlos Andres Gomez a notch down. Very high standards, indeed.
The event is held under specific rules with each poet performing twice in random order. My two favourite poets of the evening were Julia Florek and Rob Malo (above), neither of whom needed cheat sheets for their powerful, emotional performances. Their poems, in word and performance, stood above the competition in my humble aesthetic. Rob’s poem It’s Quiet on Langside at Midnight is particularly memorable.
Mike Johnston (left), a Winnipeg middle school teacher who is currently the Winnipeg Poetry Slam Champion, brought excellent levity to the proceedings as the evening’s host.
Mike along with seven other poets will be performing on May 20 for a spot in the finals. Admission is just $8. The Handsome Daughter, 61 Sherbrook has a bar and a restaurant for munchies. The final eight will compete to be among the four poets to represent Winnipeg at the Park Theatre, June 3, 2015. Admission $10.
I plan to attend the next semi final and will have a follow-up report.
Read my post on the results of the finals.