Dave Silverberg Talks About the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word

CFSW2006: Slammin' with Dave Silverberg

The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word kicks off this Wednesday, bringing together the best spoken word artists from across the country for a weekend of inter-city slam competitions and daytime workshops and events.

In preparation for this fantastic event, I had the chance to chat online with Dave Silverberg, day events coordinator for this year's CFSW, about the festival and spoken word across the city.

How important is the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word for the spoken word scene here in Toronto?
Toronto has never witnessed a celebration of performance poetry like the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Most definitely, this will be a raucous high-energy event that will show the city what the most under-recognized art form can do.

The CFSW garners little press when it descends on Canadian cities, but whenever people attend a CFSW slam or day showcase, their enthusiasm is overflowing. I've seen poetry virgins come up to poets and say, "Damn, I didn't know this kind of art existed!"

How has Toronto responded to the planning of the festival and what kind of support have you received from the arts and literary communities in the city? Any serious challenges you have faced?
As far as support goes, Toronto-area organizations like the Dub Poetry Collective, Xtra Newspaper and NOW have all been very helpful with in-kind support. In the spoken word community here, the buzz about the fest is reaching a fevered pitch, so much so that I expect the Trane Studio slams to be standing room only by 8:05pm. I kid you not.

We've faced challenges in receiving sponsorship donations of a financial nature. We're very appreciate of the in-kind sponsorship deals, but we endeavour in the next few years to find more stable funding from either community-based organizations or arts groups. Funding is always tough with a niche art form like spoken word, but the grant from the Canada Council of the Arts was a huge boost.

What can the average Torontonian expect (and look forward to) from this year's festival?
There will be performance poetry from a calibre of talent this city has never seen before. Vancouver's team alone is so much fun to watch, you'll wonder why they don't have a record deal!

As far as poetical styles, there will acapella hip-hop, poetry duets, rhyming storytelling, social justice spoken word, love poetry from one of the top spoken word artists in Canada, Shane Koyczan, and much more.

Essentially, Toronto will experience a cultural expression that is still underground, but bubbling to the surface. Undoubtedly, Toronto will never forget the words "spoken word" once we're through.

The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word takes place from October 11 to 14 at various locations across the city. Be sure to come out and support Toronto's team and support spoken word across the country.

More information and the festival program are available from the CFSW2006 website.

(Image: Toronto Poetry Slam)


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