Sunday, February 16, 2014

JCUF VOL 1 NO 1 (2014) - "Building the Canadian Urban Identity Through the Arts" by Angela Walcott

Poetry has grown to the point where today’s treatment challenges, shocks and leaves us wondering, analyzing and questioning our previous understanding of things. Poetry can be subversive, controversial, confrontational, cryptic—it can be code. But it begs to be answered, why does poetry move us? Poetry inspires.
Poetry is a reflection and provides a commentary of what was and what is.  If we look back on the earliest forms of poetry, Shakespeare springs to mind as the founding father. The Harlem Renaissance period in the U.S. was a time for cultural enlightenment and expression of the African-American identity, while the 1950s Beat Generation marked a confrontation of society’s obsession with materialism. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, The Last Poets challenged society further and sparked yet another vision for expression.
Within the Canadian urban landscape, poetry has evolved and taken a foothold based on the establishment of an adapted culture and new social identity of immigrants who settled in Canada. When families came to Canada they brought with them traditions, ideals and practices which became a backdrop which their children would continue to draw upon. This new perspective ultimately emerged in their writing.

Although poetry produces little in the way of generating revenue compared to the world of fiction, it has been marketed and rebranded into several hugely popular forms that has been well-received by the public. One such popular form is spoken word.

Within the subculture, spoken word has come to represent a means of transforming the voice via performance art. For the Canadian-born Trinidadian-raised visual artist Apanaki Temitayo M, who emerged on the scene as Indigo in the 90s, spoken word is art.

“Spoken word encompasses the poet’s body language, breath and body as an instrument. The instrument is not only the voice.

You can use song, rap and a capella,” she points out.  “Poetry is powerful. You can be a warrior and it can take you to another place.”

From a Canadian perspective, spoken word is not a new phenomenon. Spoken word poets have emerged from every generation in every language and like song, it creates a universal reach.

“I admire the ability of spoken word artists to create performance we consider closer to art through dramatic performance—performances that capture our attention where there is something ‘more’ in the delivery,” says Trinidadian-born poet Ian Williams.

Williams, who was recently nominated for the Griffin Prize for poetry for his collection Personals, hasn’t openly experimented with spoken word performance. But upon closer analysis, his rhythmic patterns and cadence echoes a musical form in keeping with the tradition of spoken word genre.

As it later turns out, a background in classical piano has found its way into his work from a literary perspective.

“Music is close to poetry,” Williams admits. “Poetry is a place to experiment. It is a true experience, it is not petulant, serious but challenging,” says the winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the short story collection Not Anyone’s Anything.

Whether it is referred to poetry in the traditional sense or spoken word from a contemporary perspective, both are powerful media and as the English professor succinctly dissects the power and relevance of this art form a step further, this notion becomes clearer.

“It is not about changing things just because, it’s about exploring. Poetry doesn’t knock convention—it makes it bold.
Angela Walcott - is a writer/ copy editor and member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She created Perfect Bound Magazine while at Ryerson University. Published namely in This, CPA Magazine, Sway, Share and culture365, her creative writing appears in ‘Reimaging the Sky’ and ‘Beyond the Journey: Women’s Stories of Settlement and Community Building in Canada’. She has organized Culture Days events including ‘How Does Culture Influence the Arts’ and ‘Getting Started in Non-fiction Freelance Writing’. Angela has completed her second children’s picture book, ‘I Want to Be’. Contact Angela at:

No comments:

Post a Comment