Nathan Leblanc always keeps a notepad and a pen on him and jots down his ideas when inspiration strikes. He just recently competed in the Individual World Poetry Slam from Oct. 10 to 13, representing Eastern Canada.
The competition was in San Diego, CA, and gathered 86 poets from around the world, mostly from the United States and Canada. The 22-year-old accountancy and finance major at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) got into the competition through the storm applicants, meaning he applied as one of 12 independent poets at the event. There is no venue in Quebec that officially recognizes the international competition, so Leblanc couldn’t apply through a venue as most applicants do.
Leblanc started writing poetry in high school. “I would write poetry to my girlfriend at the time just cause, and she said it was pretty good so I kept writing,” said Leblanc. It wasn’t until he attended a performance in Vancouver two years ago that he discovered slam poetry.
His first slam, entitled “Is it okay?” was an assignment on homosexuality for a CEGEP english class on gender issues.
The slam that got him into the competition, however, is called “The sea of love.” “It’s a romantic love poem. Love poetry isn’t common in slam,” said Leblanc. “It’s about a boyfriend who loses his girlfriend—she passes away. He’s enlightened at the end and he’s able to remember her memory and continue through [life], involving the ocean and water metaphors,” Leblanc added.
The poems Leblanc writes are based off of his personal experience; rarely does he ever write intentionally. For “The sea of love,” Leblanc wrote about a breakup he experienced, but also the death of his cousin. “I had to write a piece about both of them. They both happened around the same time,” said the poet.
“I’m a number-based guy. At the same time, I’ve always loved writing and I always thought about doing poetry full time if I could make it happen financially. I grew up with the ambition of being a businessman, but I try to do both,” said Leblanc.
Leblanc doesn’t openly talk about his poetry at JMSB. According to him, the friends he has told about his poetry are generally neutral about his endeavours.
“Passionate, impactful, and heartfelt,” are the words Leblanc used to describe his poetry. “All my pieces that I use for competition are all about the themes of heartbreak and love,” said Leblanc. “A lot of it is very dark, very deep.”
Leblanc explained that the hardest part is starting and ending the slam. The beginning makes the audience want to listen. “I always try to keep it at least uplifting at the end; I always like to end with the idea life will get better,” said Leblanc. It’s his way of letting the audience leave with some hope.
As a musician as well, Leblanc can see himself incorporating music into his slam. He can eventually see himself going down a more comedic and uplifting route, the more he writes and explores his work.
Leblanc is planning a poetry tour for next summer, on the West Coast of Canada and in the United States, and will be meeting up with poets he met at the competition along the way.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.