The top 10 spoken word events in Toronto this summer
Spoken word events heat up over the summer in Toronto. Our hot, hazy and humid summers are a great motivation to be in the great outdoors, but also to get into a spot where a cool drink, good company and a great show are always in order. Between trips to the cottage, festival life and dips in pools to keep from overheating, be sure to keep a few evenings free. For the spoken word and poetry slam community in the Greater Toronto Area will be serving up the usual high-quality fare for your listening and viewing pleasure.
Here are the top 10 spoken word events in Toronto this summer.
Live Thursdays x Spoke n' Heard / June 26 / 6:30pm / Vogue Supper Club / $10
One of the hottest new groups in the local spoken word scene is Spoke N' Heard, led by Jordon Viera, which brings you this new series of art, music and poetry in a desirable mix to tantalize all who take it in. This show will be co-hosted by Viera and 2013 national slam champion David Delisca. The series continues on the last Thursday of every month, so they'll be in the Vogue on July 31 and August 28 as well.
Outrageous VII: The Great Beaver Love-In / June 30 / 7:30pm / Habits Gastropub / FREE
This new series, run by the intrepid Elizabeth Burns, has sent shockwaves through the local spoken word scene. Deliberately irreverent, disdainful of routine and tradition, and scintillating in execution, Outrageous is a physical manifestation of what can happen when you get the ideas about poetry shows right. Nothing but positivity flows when people talk about this event - one you shouldn't miss. But if you miss this one, you can also drop by their new location on July 28 and August 25.
Slamtario Spoken Word Festival / July 11-12 / Tranzac Club / $10 Fri; Sat $20
The third annual Ontario slam championships, produced by Open Minds Respect Events and Cytopoetics, will bring together the best the province has to offer in poetry slam and crown a new champion. Over two evenings of competition, the question will be answered: which community has the top slam team in Canada's largest province? The festival will include preliminary bouts on Friday evening, a panel discussion and open stage during the day on Saturday, and a Finals Night featuring two time Individual World Poetry Slam champion Buddy Wakefield. This is easily the biggest event in the spoken word community during the summer. Festival passes are available in advance via the SLAMtario website. Here's a Wakefield performance in honour of World Pride:
Old School TPS Showcase Fundraiser / July 17 / 8pm / Supermarket / $10
Toronto Poetry Slam, the city's largest regularly running poetry slam series, is sending a team to compete at the National Poetry Slam in San Francisco and the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Victoria. Two west coast trips means they need to raise a lot of cash, so a heavy smattering of TPS alumni are coming out to show a little love to the current crew. That Brown Bastard, Lara Bozabalian, Gypsy Eyes, Amanda Hiebert, Electric Jon, White Noise Machine, Krystle Mullin and David Silverberg are all scheduled to make appearances. What is old will be on stage again.
Book Launch - Ochun: Watah Anthology of Poetry Vol. 1 / July 17 / 8:30pm / Artscape Youngplace / $10
Toronto spoken word / dub / monodrama legend d'bi.young anitafrika presents this event to showcase the writings and writers in the first volume of the Watah Anthology of Poetry. The Watah School was founded by young to teach eager artists her sorplusi method, which is also at the core of her other teaching initiatives including the Yemoya retreat (scheduled this fall in Hawaii). A large and diverse group of artists will share their work with the audience.
Burlington Slam Project 6th Anniversary / July 17 / 8pm / Black Bull / $5
2014 Burlington Artist of the Year nominee and longtime show organizer Tomy Bewick has established a strong footprint for poetry in Halton Region. Audience and poets alike will be in attendance as BSP takes a bow after 6 years on the scene. Bewick's little slam that could proved all the doubters wrong, who thought a slam series could not be viable west of the Credit. All credit where it's due to a crew of poets who continue to excel and inspire. This one should be a celebration par excellence.
Black Love Soul and Spoken Word Reunion and Up from the Roots 20th Anniversary / July 23 / 8pm / Lula Lounge / $20 Advance; $25 Door
Last year, acclaimed spoken word artist and speaker Dwayne Morgan celebrated two decades in the game. This summer, the organization he founded to change the game for poetry in Toronto takes its turn to celebrate twenty years of excellence. This show will be a blast from UFTR years past, as previous contributors to Black Love (Morgan's and UFTR's first spoken word series) return to share work and catch up with the local audience. Here's an oldie but goodie performed at one of the earliest Black Love shows:
ARTiculated Noise Spoken Word Open Mic / August 20 / 8pm / Charlie's Gallery / $5
The sixth instalment of Toronto's newest monthly spoken word open mic series will showcase Wes Ryan to the local poetry audience. A stalwart of the Peterborough community, Ryan will bring his raw, unapologetic, achingly authentic poetry to the stage at Charlie's. ARTnoise has been home to ever growing crowds as people who want a break from the competitive atmosphere at the local slams come to be part of a beautiful emerging artistic community. Also enjoy ARTnoise on July 16 and September 17.
The 12th Toronto International Poetry Slam / August 31 / 8pm / The Great Hall / $20 ADV; $25 Door
TIPS is a must-see annual event on the city's poetry slam calendar, when nearly two dozen poets take to the stage to do battle in three rounds of slam unlike the city sees anywhere else on the calendar. Show host Dwayne Morgan puts serious dough on the table to see which poet from wherever can claim it. With poets rumoured to be coming in from as far away as Bermuda, it promises to be a deep field. With a $1500 prize purse up for grabs this year, superb poetic performances are sure to dominate an unparalleled evening of slam.
Wordspell Spoken Word 2nd Anniversary Showcase / September 3 / 8pm / Free Times Cafe / $6 and up
Series co-founders Alyssa Ginsburg and Vanessa McGowan will have lots to be thankful for when they and the members of the WordSpell Collective celebrate two years of bi-monthly poetry for poets who identify as women. The final show before the anniversary is a Pride tribute on July 2 but there's no doubt that having a series such as this to provide safe space for women to speak their truth is a fantastic addition to the local poetic landscape. Congratulations to the collective, and know these shows are always an incredible tour de force by capable, powerful poets.
Thanks to Pure Leaf for sponsoring our summer adventures. For more things to do this summer, check out our Best of Summer page.
Photo of David Delisca