Ten individuals plus one poetry Collective equals a hell of a lot of words. But just wait until you hear the music in how those words are spoken.
The poets who make up the newly-created artist group “THROW Collective” are lovers of rhyme and rhythm, and they are quickly establishing an open community for fellow wordsmiths.
At the group’s second monthly Slam on Feb. 16, the crowd piled into Le Cagibi’s back room behaved more like a Southern Baptist congregation than a literary audience. They encouraged those stepping up to the mic with sighs, groans of approval and even shouts of praise. Apparently, what separates a Slam poetry “reading” from a traditional one is the audience; an engaged group that is positively the inverse to its stuffy, serious-faced, pursed-lipped counterpart, listening in head-nodding respectful silence to its Wordsworth.
Well, OK. So maybe the poets had something to do with it too. The kinetic energy generated by the 12 performers pouring out their gutsy words in sliding tonal scales, sometimes with a scream or two for punctuation, made for an electrifyingly diverting evening.
Introduced as the “teddy bear version of Tom Waits”, featured performer Ian Ferrier took the stage after the first round of performers, grabbing for the heart with a hair-raising, sobering lament to a now-deceased friend. He accompanied himself on guitar through a maze of words, utterly at ease whether romping through the joy of the blues or crashing through the lows of love and lust. He left the audience exhilarated, charged, ebullient.
Ferrier runs the local spoken word label Wired on Words and an event at Casa Del Popolo featuring local and national poetry and musical acts on the third Sunday of every month. Ferrier has published two spoken word volumes: “What Is This Place?” and “Exploding Head Man.”
While MC Kathryn Hogan agonized over having to cut anyone out, the first round of 12 contestants was somehow whittled down to four by the five judges in the audience. The four finalists, limited to three minutes each, gave themselves fully to their words and to the audience, ranging from pathos to passion.
THROW Collective founder Michelle Dabrowski, a fourth-year creative writing student, delivered a dialect-driven poem called ‘Miss Rexdale’ about a conversation with a woman she met on a Toronto bus.
“Miiiiicccchhhhheeeelllllle! You be da only suitable construction worker of your own heart. Be the magician of your own life, make your best trick, the one where you, climb right back outta those holes everybody be diggin out for you.”
As good as each of the performances were, it was Chris Masson’s ‘Love like normal’ that took the $75 cash prize at the end of the night (see photo at right).
Masson, a creative writing and theatre student at Concordia, published a book of peotry called Pants With Pockets (available at the Co-Op bookstore or www.withwordspress.com).
Points won at every Slam contribute toward a total for each of the members, who are competing for a spot on a team to will represent Montreal at the Slam nationals at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in October.
– Tobi Elliott
When I joined them on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the appropriately-titled ‘Apathy is Boring’ artist’s studio in the Plateau, the group was in the throes of preparing for their second monthly poetry Slam.
A Torontonian, Dabrowski came to Montreal by way of London, England, where she lived for two years. Arriving in Montreal, she noticed that the poetry scene was somewhat “disassembled” and knew that a community needed to be established. Thus was her inspiration for the group born.
“The word ‘Throw’ really has to do with the relationship that exists between an audience and a performer. I try to explore that in my own work and thus wanted to extend that to a group of people and create a space where that can be explored deeply,” explained Dabrowski.
“Montreal is just fertile ground for starting any kind of art collective, because people live breathe and eat it here.”
The essence of the Collective is not competition, but community. “The points are not the point, the point is poetry,” Michelle quotes Mark Smith to me.
Only six members show up this particular Sunday at the loftspace they rent by the hour, but even so, the group is big enough for me to understand the ways of the Collective. This is a community in its purest form, from the manner in which newcomers are welcomed, to the way the veterans care for the newest members among them.
Adrianna Stipanovitch, also from Toronto, says she was introduced to the Collective when she went looking for a slam where she could contribute her poetry. Maria Mavrig is the regular fill-in for Fortner Anderson’s CKUT McGill Poetry radio show, which has been around since the ’80s. Another newcomer, Jason Sreure, joins them and then finally the lively Kathryn Hogan, a natural choice for MC for the upcoming Slam competition.
The group moves quickly through the business, choosing a sound technician to record the event and mix it down to be posted as a podcast. A couple of names pop up as they go through a list of presenters for Saturday and they discuss how they will host, feed and entertain a sister group, the Capital Slam Collective from Ottawa.
Hogan tries to convince me to come next Saturday as they close up and head out: “Being at a slam is amazing . . . so much energy! The community is incredibly supportive in terms of the process, it’s just plain inspiring!”
– ENRICO QUILLICO
THROW’S next event is on March 8 at Coop-sur-Généreux, a housing collective, when Radical Vulva performs a “response to the Vagina Monologues.”
The next THROW Collective workshop is March 9 at the Apathy is Boring Loftspace, 10 Des Pins Suite #412, 12 noon.
THROW Collective will be performing March 14 in the Art Matters festival at The Hive, Loyola Campus, at 8 p.m.
Check out their website at www.michelledabrowski.blogspot.com to listen to the latest podcast.