The youth that participate in the Hamilton Youth Poetry Slam are courageous, passionate, inspiring, funny, political and always evolving, said organizer, Nea Reid.
The Hamilton Youth Poetry Slam is a competition where young poets perform their work on stage and have them scored by judges. The slam provides a platform for issues to be spoken about with a much larger voice than they would in another outlet.
Reid’s understanding of the importance of youth poetry extends to her past experiences. When her daughter was assaulted in high school, Reid confronted obstacles on her quest for justice. After navigating school bureaucracy, she grew frustrated with the lack of discussion centred around the celebratation of difference.
Poetry slams take place on the third Tuesday of every month at Hamilton’s Lyric Theatre. An open mic, workshop, slam and featured poet are all part of the event, attended by youth up to 22 years old.
“The poetry slams cancel silence,” said Reid. “It is a healing way to speak about things because writing is part of your heart.”
“The story is already happening around you: Write it!”
“Seeing youth advocate really brings together the community,” she continued. Also described as competitive, the slams are ultimately meant for personal and spiritual growth.
Seeing the vision realized is a rewarding aspect of Reid’s work, but the most inspiration moments are witnessing the courage of first time slammers presenting.
Even people from Ottawa come for the Hamilton Youth Poetry Slams, which is encouraging and inspiring on its own. Youth supporting each other and surrounding one another with love though, is what stood out to Reid.
As for deciding subject matter, Reid offered some advice. “Thinking the work is about you is the worst mistake you can make,” she said. “The story is already happening around you: write it!”
Poetry works best when one tells a story that’s right in front of their nose: what is real to them. Those are the most truthful stories, she added. Of course, it is not her job to ask for what she wants to see from the youth. Her only job is to put up the microphone and provide the opportunity.
“Most people would rather die than speak in public, but if you can do that, then you can do anything,” she said.
“Maybe slam is the way to start fighting discrimination,” she suggested. After all, poetry celebrates the voice of difference, and gives it a microphone.
Article by Erica Greaves | Photo by Michelle Drew