December 7, 2021
  • December 7, 2021

How the pandemic has affected performers of spoken poetry

By on September 23, 2021 0

In March 2020, open mics and various in-person poetry events were canceled due to necessary restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. With the cancellation of the open mikes and the few opportunities for oral poetry artists to make a living, the lives of students and poets have changed.

“I’ve been touched in so many ways,” says Kaitlyn Tolch, a former English and professional writing student, now in her third year at OCAD University in creative writing. “The main point has been the loss of the community. I hadn’t realized how many of my friends I only saw during the events. As a performance artist, Tolch relies on open mics and poetry events as a source of income.

With the cancellations, her livelihood was affected.

“One of the many consequences of experiencing a pandemic must be the inability to attend oral creation / poetry evenings,” explains Anisa Ali, a future former English student. “It’s one thing to read poetry, but it’s a whole different experience to be among a crowd of poets and poetry lovers. Its contingency lies in its oral history.

During open mic evenings and / or poetry slams, a common sense of validation is formed between the poet and the audience through the recognition of a dedicated collective in listening to the other – something that is rarely experienced. in everyday life. A performer can be heard and a poetry lover can be seen, moved and entertained.

“Poetry communities are a supportive network,” says David Goldstein, professor in the Creative Writing program. “The hiatus from open mics, readings, book launches and other types of poetry gatherings has had a negative effect on people’s ability to nurture their and others’ engagement with the local poetic scene and their own senses. of purpose as writers. “says Goldstein.

This concept rings especially true for Ali, who felt his own identity as a poet began to fade with little access to a community of poetry during the closures.

With all of the lost opportunities and the missed community that the cancellations have had on Poetry Communities, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, new Poetry Communities have managed to grow.

An example of a poetry community that has grown, in part because of the shift to the virtual world that the pandemic has forced upon us, is The Soap Box Press – a small local press located here in Toronto, which in fact has expanded its programming since the pandemic.

“Virtual events allowed us to connect with creatives outside of the GTA, which probably wouldn’t have been possible otherwise,” says Tali Voron, founder of The Soap Box Press.

“We loved being able to offer virtual panel discussions, workshops, lectures and open microphones throughout the pandemic, and we hope to continue to develop this more accessible programming in the future.”

As the arts scene and poetic communities of York and Toronto were affected by the cancellation of open mics, many people suffered from the loss of income and unity. Fortunately, there are still growing communities of poets and poetry lovers who are dedicated to maintaining this sense of community.

Whether it’s meeting in the Zoom rooms to read poetry together or participating in open microphones online, “poetry,” as Goldstein puts it, “like other art forms, is always needed – especially in times of crisis “. , you can find information on The soap press evenings open mic on their website or Instagram.


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