The victorious voices of Victoria youth

Slam Championships showcase Secondary School talent

Reynolds Secondary senior Kanika Jackson is ready to punch you in the face with her poetry. She's a member of Reynolds' slam team, competing in the Victorious Voices April 2 and 4 at the Victoria Event Centre.

 

 

Take advantage of a rare opportunity to hear exactly what’s on the minds of Victoria’s youth at Victorious Voices, The Victoria Secondary School Slam Championships of spoken word poetry.

In its third year, Victorious Voices is going off campus (it’s been held at Reynolds Secondary the past two years), to showcase the performance poetry of eight secondary schools in what is surely going to be one of the most eye- and ear-opening events all year.

“For the last two years this has been easily one of the most inspiring nights of my whole year,” says Jeremy Loveday, director and one of Victoria’s most established performance poets. “To look into the audience and see only a few adults there, mostly teachers and parents, I thought the Victoria community was missing out on the powerful voices that the students have, and I wanted to share that with the community at large.”

That’s why he’s decided to move the event to the Victoria Event Centre, with eight teams facing off Monday, April 2 (8 p.m.) in the semi-finals. The top four teams will continue on to the finals, Wed., April 4 (8 p.m.) at the same location.

A poetry slam is a competition where poets are judged by audience members on a scale of 0-10. Poets have three minutes and must perform original work, without costumes, props or music. Victorious Voices is a team competition, and teams are required to perform group pieces as well as individual poems.

Loveday, who often teaches workshops at secondary schools, partnered with teacher Brad Cunningham at Reynolds Secondary three years ago to bring performance poetry to the students.

“I was interested in spoken word in high school and never had an outlet for that so I thought it was important to give the students access,” says Loveday. “We’re building the community of young poets in Victoria, and this is just one way to continue that growth.”

This is Kanika Jackson’s second year on the senior slam team at Reynolds Secondary (Reynolds holds both the city and provincial title from 2011).

Jackson discovered poetry at the behest of her English teacher, Cunningham, who caught her performing a sketch from Mad TV for the class in his absence.

“He recommended that I come to the poetry club, but it didn’t sound like a place to do something funny like that,” says Jackson. “But I realized poetry can be cool. When people hear poetry they think we get up and recite Shakespeare, but it’s not that at all.”

A workshop with Loveday got her interested in writing for performance over page poetry, which she tried her hand at but says her product was “bad. Very bad, and angsty.” She laughs. “Plus I love microphones.”

“My poetry has to be relatable in my life, but I don’t only write about things I’ve experienced,” says Jackson. “I write about religion a lot, which is interesting because I’m not a religious person.”

Jackson’s written a poem about Jesus being a girl in her class and a take on the story of Adam and Eve where Adam is a girl and the two are involved in some lesbian discourse.

“Mr. C always says it’s good to surprise them and give them something unexpected,” she says.

Jackson says Victorians might be surprised at the topics and depth of understanding that high school poets display.

“People think we’re really apathetic and maybe that’s because we act apathetic towards them, but that’s a reflection of how they treat us. There’s a lot of shit that goes down in high school. We have something to say and it’s so much more than going to the mall and to Starbucks. We do that, but there’s so much more going on, so it should be no surprise that we have something meaningful to say.”

Jackson and her three teammates (Zoë Duhaime, Holly Lam, Jordan White plus one alternate) are heading to Vancouver in April to defend their title as provincial champions at Hullabaloo BC Youth Slam. Here’s hoping that any further teacher strike action doesn’t affect the contest.

“I’m so much happier since I started with poetry,” says Jackson. “I feel like everyone needs an outlet, whether it’s creative or a sport. Writing of any kind is a great way to get things out of your system.”

This year’s celebrity judges include Victoria’s Poet Laureate Janet Rogers and Mayor Dean Fortin,  and will feature a performance by Victorious Voices Alumni of Honour, Keenan Proud. M

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