Spoken word artists speak their minds at York

Experience the power of words to evoke emotion or tackle political issues as spoken word artists have their say at the Art Gallery of York University’s first ever spoken word event – Speak Your Mind – on Wednesday, May 28.

The event features new and experienced spoken word artists, including York English student Adebe DeRango-Adem, who goes by the stage name Adebe D.A. It takes place from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) in the Accolade East Building, Keele campus.

Right: Adebe D.A.

"I’m honoured to be a part of Speak Your Mind because that is precisely what I stand for – being able to write freely and with a sense of social consciousness," says Adebe D.A. Chekhov once said, ‘the task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly’."

Billed as a way to gain exposure to spoken word poetry and find out who is up and coming in the world of politicized spoken word artists, Speak Your Mind gives young artists a chance to show their stuff. It is coordinated by Emery Collegiate Institute Grade 11 student Nancy Kamalanathan as part of her Advance Credit Experience internship with the AGYU through the Westview Partnership at York.

Left: Nancy Kamalanathan

"I’ve always been interested in spoken word poetry. I write whenever I’m stressed. I don’t really have a theme, I just write whatever I’m feeling at the moment," says Kamalanathan, who had the opportunity to meet a leading Canadian dub poet, Michael St. George, during her York internship. St. George has recorded several albums, including Self Assession, Root 2 Fruit and Dubbin’ De Vibes. That meeting got Kamalanathan thinking about putting together a spoken word event at York.

St. George is one of the performers at Speak Your Mind along with Kamalanathan, who hopes to pursue social work or psychology at York. Some other big names in the spoken word community performing at the event, include Blakka Ellis, a Jamaican writer, performer and educator; Mohammed Mohsen; Andrea Ramautar; Motion; and Jamaican-born d’bi young, a dub poet, playwright and actor now living in Toronto. d’bi young wrote and performed the one-woman performance piece blood.claat at Theatre Passe Muraille in 2005, produced four dub albums, and published two books of poetry, including rivers…and other blackness…between us (Women’s Press, 2008).

Adebe D.A. is on her way to becoming one of Toronto’s well-known spoken word artists. Several of her poems have been published in Canadian Woman Studies Journal, The Claremont Review and The Toronto Star, while her first poetry chapbook was published last fall – Sea Change (Burning Effigy Press, 2007). She also won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s Junior Poet Laureate. "I have since made a resolve to help bring out the voices of other emerging writers," says Adebe D.A.

It was while taking a creative-writing course in high school some 10 years ago "with a teacher who gave us renegade writers and spoken word artists to study, in addition to conventional texts" that Adebe D.A. first realized her love of writing.

"Spoken word is re-emerging as a phenomenon. As a fan of jazz poetry, I have a ton of respect for poets who can turn words into music. In either case, though, page or stage, a good poem is a good poem; and I see a good poem as dynamic, able to transcend expectations of how it treats its subject," says Adebe D.A. "In many cases, a good poem also transcends the subject itself."

The trick to good poetry, says Adebe D.A., is to find a different way of saying things, don’t continually use the "same old bag of tricks", and realize it could take a lifetime to create your own style. "The poetic ideal: if one abandons themselves to change, they can no longer be chained up by anything."

Adebe D.A. is assistant editor of York’s Existere, a student-run journal that publishes fiction, photography and art, and a founding member of Step Up, a poetry collective that helps young writers develop their spoken word skills.

"I feel especially proud as a York student to be able to speak up in an environment that I know will listen to what I have to say, and share in my visions," says Adebe D.A.

For more information about Speak Your Mind, contact Nancy Kamalanathan or Allyson Adley, AGYU education assistant, at ext. 88608 or e-mail aadley@yorku.ca.