No fuss, just(e) slam

Writers share their poems in open-mic sessions

The monthly Just(e) Slam event is a rare opportunity for French poets to share their work, though other languages are also welcome. (Supplied photo)

For writers seeking an opportunity to share their poetry beyond their journals, Just(e) Slam secures an attentive audience.

Organized by Centre culturel franco-manitobain, Alliance Française du Manitoba and La Maison Gabrielle-Roy, Just(e) Slam is a monthly event for professional and amateur writers to recite their own poems.

“It’s an incredible night because of the audience. In this audience, there are poets, non-poets, early poets, and they share their texts in three minutes. These are three minutes without music or accessories, just your own text to share with people,” Sébastien Gaillard, the director of La Maison Gabrielle-Roy, says.

Unlike non-timed spoken-word gatherings, the slam sessions give an equal time limit for all participants or “slammers” to articulate their thoughts through poetry. This rule helps to engage the audience by keeping the poems concise and, as a result, more emotionally driven.

“In a situation like the one we are currently living in, poetry is the only form of art that can transmit sincerity. I can tell you that it is amazing to hear poems with so much emotion and with themes that are important during one of these night sessions,” Gaillard says.

A poet himself, Gaillard is one of the people coordinating Just(e) Slam. He leads writing workshops through La Maison Gabrielle-Roy on the Mondays prior to the sessions, which take place on the last Wednesday of every month. Having performed some of his work in Quebec and New Brunswick, Gaillard felt there weren’t enough opportunities for francophone writers in Manitoba.

“I am a slammer and, as an artist, I felt like there was a lack of this art expression within the French-speaking community. I saw that there were a couple spoken-word sessions in English but not in French,” he says.

“A slam session is a democratization of poetry, because we have this misconception that poetry belongs to writers only, and that is absolutely wrong. It belongs to everyone. As a slammer, I am very proud to have the opportunity to perform in French.”

Although these sessions are predominantly conducted in French, the mic is open for people who want to recite their poetry in other languages, as long as there is a way to explain the meaning of the poem beforehand.

“All slam sessions are open to multiple languages. In the past, we even had people performing in Arabic,” Gaillard says.

Earlier this year, Just(e) Slam’s efforts to maintain French programming in the province gained recognition from the Caravane des dix mots, an organization that promotes francophone rights and culture around the world.

The next session will happen in person at the Alliance Française du Manitoba. However, Gaillard says that the event will adopt a hybrid approach, so slammers still have the option to participate via Zoom.

To register for Just(e) Slam, email culture@afmanitoba.ca or call 204-477-1515. For more information about future sessions or other events, visit afmanitoba.ca.

Published in Volume 76, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 17, 2022)

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