April 1, 2023


A workshop promoting activism and the spoken word was held at the Kitchener Public Library on Jan. 20. The free workshop is a regular event and inspires creativity and openness in all who come. Janice Lee, a local spoken-word poet, musician, and arts educator, led the workshop, which, after introductions, saw open discussions about topics such as the meaning of activism and writing activities, and finished off with a beat-boxing jam in which everyone huddled together, got a beat going, and one by one, recited a few lines of their written answers from earlier along to the beat.

“Spoken-word exists in community,” said Lee. “There needs to be a storyteller, there needs to be an audience.”

And a room full of storytellers meant that there were lots of stories to be told. Throughout the two-hour workshop, each person shared stories from their past, hopes for their future, and their current feelings about the world and the way life was treating them. No one was judged, and everyone was encouraged to spill their thoughts. When people enjoyed or agreed with what another person was saying, they would snap to show their support.

“(What draws me to these workshops is) meeting the extraterrestrial humans that are always in these rooms, because it’s people who are crazy enough to want to not stay within their status-quo,” said Jasmin David, a participant at the workshop. “This is a place where no one is judged.”

Jen McGuire, another participant, said, “last week was my first time coming (to a workshop) … but I left with this feeling of acceptance and freedom here to say or be or do whatever I wanted. It was a perfect opportunity to try something that I had always wanted to try.”

Lee also holds real poetry slams, competition style, on the first Saturday of every month at Cafe Pyrus, a small coffee shop across from the Charles Street bus terminal in Kitchener. These slams are $5 at the door, or pay what you can – since no one is turned away.

“The poetry slam, as a structure, is meant to democratize poetry, for it to not be this ‘elitist’ form (of art, only accessible) if you have a certain kind of education or you understand a certain kind of style,” said Lee. “It’s always super fun, very energetic, a very supportive audience.”

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