By DANIEL MACLEOD
Are you a wayward poet or sculptor of prose feeling down because of a sense of isolation? Do you pine for an artistic forum where you can present your work in front of a crowd of like-minded people? Or do you just feel like taking in some culture (as well as some delicious gelato)?
If you happen to wander into Whole Lotta Gelato on the last Tuesday night of every month, you may very well find the symposium of literary savants you’ve always dreamed of.
Currently, The Smokin’ Word Poetry Slam is organized and hosted by local poet Mike Charpentier, however, it was started by local resident Mark Edward Green (aka Mr. Green) in 2007. It began as a radio show on CKMS, based out of the University of Waterloo.
Charpentier and Green formally met on the street outside the Museum Café in downtown Kitchener. However, Charpentier remembers encountering him at a party a couple of years earlier where Green “made out The Smokin’ Word as being the next best thing to the circus” and this first impression was backed up by his outfit. He was dressed in a frock coat and a top hat, claiming he could breathe fire. Charpentier related this memory to Green at the cafe and recited a short poem he wrote about the evening. Green was impressed and invited Charpentier onto the radio show. He became a regular, bringing more young local talent to the air, such as Jason Freure and Sam Higgins. The Smokin’ Word began to grow in popularity and started receiving calls from listeners.
It wasn’t long before The Smokin’ Word became a live monthly event for anyone to present not only their written work but musical work as well in front of a crowd. The Seven Shores Café was its original location in 2008 until they received an evacuation notice for unknown reasons. Luckily, Green had recently met the owner of uptown Waterloo’s Whole Lotta Gelato and had made arrangements for The Smokin’ Word to be held there.
At its new location, things developed quickly until little over a year ago when The Smokin’ Word’s radio show was shut down for funding reasons. Shortly after, on Nov. 9, 2009, Green committed suicide due to various personal reasons. At his funeral, friends and family decided to hold a commemorative Smokin’ Word in his honour that Mike was asked to host.
Frequent attendee and poet, Sam Higgens, said: “Mr. Green really made something great here. I love having a place where I can share my work and feel like it’s appropriate and, above all, appreciated. The people who are here really want to be here and they want to hear what I have to say.”
The event still goes on to this day with all sorts of bands, poets, writers of prose and any other form of talent who decides to show up. If you’ve got your own personal art form you’d like to showcase or if you’d just like to spectate and support local artists, then come on down to Whole Lotta Gelato and pull up a chair; admission is always free.