Tag Archives: Capital Slam

10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis

4 Dec

I love reflecting and dreaming. It’s shocking, right? I get into deeper reflection mode in December as I soak up the past year and think about my dreams for the future. It has been another year of wonderful opportunities, tough challenges, amazing people and living out my passions.

While reflecting on this past year, I realized I don’t take enough time to soak up my accomplishments. I probably spend more time appreciating the little things in life, but I think it’s also important to value reaching certain goals.

One of those moments was FINALLY finishing my thesis. 

Last month, I walked across the NAC stage, shook Michaelle Jean’s hand and got my master’s degree. It’s pretty surreal writing this post, considering the fact I didn’t think I would actually finish. If you ask my friends, the thesis updates were rarely positive!

(Robert Tenn-Yuk)

I finally did it! (Robert Tenn-Yuk)

But it’s done and I’m writing this post. Woo!

The past three years have been quite the journey. There were many tears and low points, but I’m glad I pushed through. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis.

  1. What if you lose your passion? Sorry to break it to you, but this will happen. You won’t always feel passionate and will probably want to quit many times. This was a huge struggle for me, especially as someone who advocates for people to follow their passions. Sometimes, you need to suck it up and do it.
  2. Tough love goes a long way. Have blunt people in your life who will tell it like it is. When I told one of my closest friends I wasn’t passionate about my thesis and wanted to quit, she gave me some tough love. She told me I had come this far, couldn’t give up and had to finish what I started – even if I wasn’t passionate about my work. This conversation was a turning point in which I committed to finishing what I started.
  3. Trust your gut. My thesis changed drastically from my original vision. I didn’t trust myself on how I wanted to do it, which made writing a challenge (i.e. critical discourse analysis isn’t the most exciting methodology). If trusting your gut means putting more work on the front end, do it.
  4. Find the cheerleaders. You’re going to stare at your computer for many, many days. You won’t write anything. You’ll waste a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You’ll probably cry. When you’re in those spots, surround yourself with people who will encourage, support and ask you how you’re doing. When you don’t believe it, others can keep the faith.
  5. Reward yourself. Set mini goals instead of focusing on the end product. The finish line will overwhelm you. I often rewarded myself with going to the gym or hanging out with friends. It’s okay to take a break. And it’s okay to cry.
  6. Have work friends. My supervisor set up group meetings every week, which were really helpful to keep me on task and stay motivated. It was nice to be around people who were going through the same process, and could encourage and give feedback.
  7. Add a new discourse. It’s exciting to think I’ve added a new discourse to academia and documented Capital Slam’s history. Many people talked about the lack of female poets in the scene, and I got to deeply investigate the community and put that story in the public sphere. There’s also limited research on slam poetry (especially in Canada), so it’s neat to add a new discourse.
  8. A piece of paper matters. I had numerous arguments with friends about this piece of paper. I constantly questioned if it really mattered. They said yes. I know that doing a master’s degree in women’s studies has opened up several doors for me. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want my lack of a piece of paper to prevent me from certain opportunities.
  9. Where’s your focus? My thesis was never my focus, so that’s why it took me an extra year to complete. If I had acknowledged that sooner and was okay with taking a bit longer, then I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. Since I didn’t focus on my thesis, I could pursue some other great opportunities.
  10. A good thesis is a finished thesis. This was great advice from my friend. My thesis wasn’t perfect and there were many ways I could’ve taken it, but I finished it. Someone else can take up where I left off and hopefully it’ll help someone who’s doing research on slam poetry.
The fam.

Grateful to share this moment with my family.

And remember, don’t be so hard on yourself. Writing a thesis (or any essay or project) can be really challenging. When you need some encouragement, watch this scene from The Waterboy. I’m living proof that you can do it!

When you have chance, please check out my thesis on Capital Slam’s poetry scene: Where My Girls At? A Critical Discourse Analysis of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Voice and Activism in Ottawa’s Capital Slam Poetry Scene.

Here’s a quick abstract:

Ottawa’s Capital Slam poetry scene has transformed over the past decade, marking a shift in the identities, discourses and performance styles of local poets. This thesis investigates these changes and trends within the time periods of 2008-2010 and 2012-2014.

This thesis demonstrates the shift from male poets of colour in 2008-2010 to female voices in 2012-2014 at Capital Slam, through an examination of Ottawa’s history and a multimodal critical discourse analysis of online performances. In particular, the creation of local alternative poetry shows over the past five years has increased the representation of female poets and transformed the racial dynamics of the scene.

During the period 2008-2010 and 2012-2014, poets used key historical elements of slam poetry such as storytelling and speaking through personal experiences to effectively demonstrate how marginalized individuals can speak counter-narratives to dominant culture. The use of storytelling allowed these poets to engage, connect and dialogue with the audience, as well as demonstrate their different identities, discourses and performance styles.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from writing a thesis, paper or finishing a project?


Upcoming poetry shows and photos from Jamaica

19 Sep

It has been more than a week since I was enjoying the beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, delicious food and visiting family in Jamaica. It was a time to recentre, refocus and actually relax. I tried to soak up every minute of my time there.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset with my mom.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset with my mom.

When I returned to Ottawa, it was tough to resist the urge to fill up my time and quickly move back to this fast-paced lifestyle. Life is a balance and I’m trying my best to take the time to recentre, refocus, slow down and continue pursuing my passions.

I’m excited to get back on the stage this month and I have some upcoming shows and performances to share with you. I hope you can check out a show if you have a chance!

Sat. Sept. 21
Art as Resistance:  All-Star Artistic Showcase and Artist Library feat. Brandon Wint, Luna Allison, Melody McKiver and Jenna Tenn-Yuk at the University of Ottawa at 7pm

Wed. Sept. 25
Words to Live By feat. the 2013 Capital Slam team at Pressed Cafe at 7:30pm

Sat. Sept. 28
Furaha Project / Inspire Hope fundraiser at Peter Devine’s at 8pm

Footprints in the sand. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Leaving my mark in Jamaica. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The food was amazing! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The food was amazing! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The first time I came out as gay in my poetry

25 Jan

You know what’s scary? Performing spoken word poetry in front of strangers. You know what’s even scarier? Performing spoken word in front of strangers at a slam competition, and telling them your deepest fears and secrets.

That happened to me last year at Ottawa’s first Women’s Slam Championship. It was the first time I shared my difficult struggle of being gay and Christian in front of a large audience and at a slam. Terrifying, right?

Last January, Ottawa held its first Women’s Slam Championship to create a higher profile for women in slam and spoken word around the city. Ottawa’s slam scene is known to be competitive and male dominated, and VERSe Ottawa, the organizers of VERSeFest, hoped to showcase the breadth of talent among female voices and encourage more women to get involved.


Some “movers and shakers” at Ottawa’s first Women’s Slam Championship. (via Mia Morgan)

The 12 poets were chosen as some of the “movers and shakers” from throughout the history of the spoken word scene in Ottawa. I was honoured to be part of that list and to share the stage with such talented poets.

Leading up to the slam, I knew I wanted to share a piece I wrote about being gay and Christian. I had never shared that poem in public and it was an issue deep on my heart. I hadn’t heard many poets in Ottawa talk about the complexities and difficulties of negotiating one’s faith and sexuality, and I felt compelled to speak.

I knew I wasn’t the only one who had experienced this struggle, and I couldn’t be silent when I had this platform to speak from and knew many people wrestled with these issues. I wanted to help people know they weren’t alone and to also challenge the notion that it’s impossible to be gay and Christian.

However, the thought of coming out in such a public space petrified me. I tried to convince myself I couldn’t do it and it was too vulnerable, but I knew I had to speak this story. 

I knew I had to speak my story.

I had already been out to everyone who needed to know, but I’d never shared my sexuality in front of a huge group, let alone more than 100 people at the Arts Court Theatre.

What would people think of me? Would they judge me?

As I stood in front of the sold out crowd at Arts Court, I knew I couldn’t turn back. No matter what the score, reception or outcome would be, I had to speak my story. I had to gain my voice back in this area of my life where I’ve experienced so much shame, guilt, self-hatred and fear.

After I performed my piece on my struggles of being gay and Christian, some powerful and liberating words repeated through my head.


This is what freedom looks like. (Pearl Pirie)

This is what freedom looks like. (Pearl Pirie)

I had taken a huge step and it didn’t matter what people thought of me. Maybe they judged me for being gay. Or perhaps for being Christian. Or maybe they connected with my story and knew they weren’t the only one trying to negotiate these parts of their identities.

I had never been to a slam like that before. Everyone was so supportive and the competition wasn’t at the forefront – an aspect of slam I don’t like. You can check out a recap of last year’s slam, written by Averie Macdonald.

I’ve always struggled with my feelings for slam. It’s a beautiful space for people to speak their voices and talk about issues they deeply care about. However, it’s also a space of competition where poets may perform certain poems in order to get high scores.

Despite the politics I dislike about slam, this platform has opened up spaces for myself and many others to speak powerful stories. I hope this slam does the same for the other poets performing on Saturday, as well as inspire those in the audience to see ways they can use their voices.

Please come and support this slam. Rusty Priske, the slammaster of Capital Slam, wrote a powerful piece about the lack of support for women in Ottawa’s slam and spoken word community. It’s going to be an amazing show and you don’t want to miss out!

I also have some upcoming shows I’d like to share with you.

Consent Is Sexy Week closing celebration – Friday, January 25, 2013 at 8pm at the University of Ottawa.

Ottawa’s second Women’s Slam Championship – Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 7pm at the Mercury Lounge.

Mary Lambert’s GOOD FEELINGS MUSIC AND POETRY 2013Mary Lambert is a talented spoken word artist and musician from Seattle, and sings on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ song, Same Love. I’m excited to be part of this show on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9pm at the Rainbow Bistro.

The POWERofWORDS (SLAM) – Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 6:30pm at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian.

Finding your sweet spot: living out of your passions, dreams and gifts

29 Oct

You know what’s exciting? Discovering your “sweet spot,” that place where your passions, dreams and gifts meet. It’s that space where you come alive and often tap into all the beautiful parts of your life.

You can tell when you see those people who are living out of their sweet spot. Their enthusiasm and passion are contagious. You can’t help but be encouraged, inspired or desire to discover what makes you come alive as well.

Over the last several years, I’ve been living more and more out of my sweet spot. It has taken a lot of personal development, self-reflection and figuring out my purpose and passions.

It’s neat to look back and see the steps in my journey that have led me to this point where my desires, strengths and vision are unfolding right before my eyes. Like a knee injury 10 years ago that opened up music and writing for me. Or studying journalism and becoming passionate about the importance of telling our stories.

In an old journal entry I wrote almost two years ago, I was recognizing my desire to help people find and speak their voices.

“I feel very excited right now! I sense one of my roles/passions is helping people find their voice and use it… My heart is for people to use their voices and to know how valuable they are. We each have a story worth telling.”

When we follow our passions, live out of out gifts and stay focused on our vision, these dreams can actually happen. Our work, goals and day-to-day activities become  a lot clearer and exciting to pursue.

If you’re in school like me or may not know what you want to do, you may be asked similar questions and comments like this: “What will you do after school? Where’s your degree going to get you? You need to make sure you get a good job and make lots of money.”

These questions can be quite annoying, but you know what has helped me deal with these types of comments? Focusing on my vision and passions, as opposed to a specific career. I tell people I’m passionate about helping individuals find and speak their voices. I could live out of that purpose while working in communications, journalism or maybe teaching.

There are many different careers and venues to tap into my passions, but this broader way of thinking opens a variety of doors and helps me to look outside the narrow box many of us believe we need to fit. I’ve also found it helpful to be open in the uncertainty, change and other curve balls that have come my way.

What passions and activities make you come alive?

This week, I see a variety of ways I’m living out of my sweet spot and tapping into my passions and strengths. Today, I performed some spoken word and music on Photogmusic LIVE on CHUO 89.1FM. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Ming and sharing more of my creative side with the world (you can check out the interview below).

Playing some music on Photogmusic LIVE on CHUO 89.1FM. (Ming Wu)

I’m also leading a spoken word workshop tomorrow on finding and speaking your voice at the University of Ottawa. I’ll be leading biweekly workshops every other Tuesday and the seminars are open to the public.

Tomorrow night, the Capital Slam team is featuring at a monthly show I started with Brad Morden at Pressed. We had a great turnout at our last show in September featuring the Urban Legends team. There were also some newcomers who stepped up to the mic, which was awesome to see!

Some members of the Urban Legends team performing at Pressed. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

It’s so exciting, rewarding and life-giving to be living out of my sweet spot. I can’t believe I have the opportunity to do these activities and share my passions with those around me. I encourage you to see what you’re passionate about, and not be afraid to discover and live out of your sweet spot. 

What is your sweet spot? How can you live out of your passions, dreams and gifts more?

Spoken word poetry is back at Pressed

25 Sep

During the summer, I started a poetry show at Pressed called, Spoken Word at Pressed. We had some awesome features, great open mic performances and it was a place to showcase local poets.

Sean O’Gorman featuring at Pressed. (Rebecca Jones)

When the five-part series ended in August, a number of poets and audience members asked what they would do on Wednesday nights. I told them we’d be back in September and here we are, continuing be a space for you to listen to some inspiring words and to share your voices.

A number of people also said this kind of series was missing from Ottawa’s spoken word poetry scene. There hasn’t been a series like this since the Oneness Poetry Showcase.

I’m excited to be collaborating with spoken word poet and musician, Brad Morden, to bring you some up-and-coming poets, as well as seasoned veterans. We’re also coming up with a new name for the show, so please let us know if you have any suggestions!

Our first show will be tomorrow on Wednesday, September 26, and will feature the Urban Legends team. The team will be sharing some powerful words before they head to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Saskatoon this October. Come listen to some great poetry and share your voice!

Pressed feat. the Urban Legends team
Date: Wednesday, September 26
Location: Pressed (75o Gladstone Ave)
Time: 7:30pm (open mic sign-up); 8pm start

Along with Urban Legends, Ottawa will be sending the Capital Slam team to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word Nationals in Saskatoon. Check out some fundraisers to support these poets and other upcoming poetry shows.

Poets Against the Machine feat. the Capital Slam and Urban Legends teams
Date: Friday, September 28
Location: Mercury Lounge
Time: 7:15pm

Capital Slam feat. the Capital Slam team
Date: Saturday, October 6
Location: Mercury Lounge
Time: 6:30pm

Voices of Venus feat. Lady Katalyst
Date: Wednesday, October 10
Location: Venus Envy
Time: 8pm

Urban Legends Poetry Slam feat. Cannon 2x
Date: Friday, October 12
Location: Carleton University Architecture Building
Time: 7:17pm

Spoken Word at Pressed features El Jones

16 Jul

Boy, are you in for a treat! We have the talented and renowned Halifax poet, El Jones, coming to Pressed.

Spoken Word at Pressed is collaborating with Voices of Venus to present a VERSeFest fundraiser featuring, El.

El captained the Halifax Slam Team to back-to-back Canadian Festival of Spoken Word national championships in 2007 and 2008, and has featured at When Sisters Speak and Rock Paper Sistahz. Not only is she a spoken word artist, but she is also an activist, teacher, academic and a member of the Word Iz Bond spoken word artists’ collective.

Her work forces her audiences to get vulnerable, and recognize aspects of themselves and their cultures that are often rendered invisible. Some themes of her poetry include racial and gender violence.

Open mic sign-up is at 7:30pm and the show starts at 8pm.

It has been really exciting to start this poetry series at Pressed. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I’ve received some great feedback on the warm and intimate environment of the show.

Some new voices have hit the stage in our open mics and we’ve had great features by Sean O’Gorman and Elle P. I hope more people feel the freedom and openness to share their voices and stories.

Sharrae Lyon of the Media Co-op wrote about the series, Embracing Voices, Creating Personal Landscapes.

There are also some awesome features coming up:

Thursday, July 26: Danielle Grégoire is a veteran of Ottawa’s spoken word scene and helped to start the Capital Slam and Lanark County Slam series. This will also be a fundraiser for other spoken word series around Ottawa, and a going-away party for Danielle who will be moving to Seattle next month.

Wednesday, August 2: V is the first female poet to make the Capital Slam team since 2007 and this will be her first feature. How exciting!

Here are some powerful words by El and I hope you can come out to the show on Wednesday.

Where my girls at: Ottawa’s slam poetry scene

19 Jun

The Ottawa Capital Slam finals were this past Saturday and it was a creative, thought-provoking and entertaining night of spoken word poetry. Some poems were intense and personal, some political and funny, and others uplifting. My favourite stories are the ones you connect with, the kinds that leave you thinking and desiring change in your own life as well as in the communities around you.

The most exciting part of the night for me was seeing V, CapSlam’s rookie of the year, finish in second place. “Team V” could be heard throughout the night and the crowd roared as her name was announced. She is the first female poet to make the CapSlam team since 2007, and was also the only female out of eight poets competing in the finals.

As a female poet in Ottawa’s slam scene, I have seen male poets dominate the CapSlam stage since I got introduced to slam three years ago. I have spoken to many poets in the city and they have told me this trend was occurring before I started.

Despite this issue, I have met many talented female poets who have powerful, beautiful and unique voices. I have also seen an abundance of them performing at open mics and Voices of Venus, a monthly, all-women’s poetry show in the city. I find it interesting that many of these poets have never shared on the slam stage, which raises many questions for me.

What are the politics and barriers – perceived or not – that may be preventing women from performing and doing well in Ottawa’s slam scene?

The dominance of male poets has been recognized here and was one of the catalysts for the creation of Ottawa’s first Women’s Slam Championship this past January. VERSe Ottawa, the organizers of VERSeFest, wanted to create a higher profile for women in slam and spoken word around the city.

They also hoped to showcase the breadth of talent among female voices and encourage more women to get involved. I participated in the women’s slam, and it was beautiful to see so many female poets in Ottawa’s slam history speak their voices and stories.

Ottawa’s first Women’s Slam Championship. (Photo via Mia Morgan)

I wonder if having a women’s slam will inspire more women to perform and share their work. I’ve spoken to many women who write poetry and I ask them why they’re not interested in participating in slam. I’ve heard a number of responses, but the most prevalent ones seem to be the competition, being scored and not having the “right” style  whatever that means.

As I saw the crowd get behind V on Saturday night and the power that came from the women’s slam in January, I see a craving for more female voices in Ottawa’s slam scene. There are also a number of talented up-and-coming female poets, so I hope this is the start of many new stories, voices and perspectives to hit the mic.

A full recap of Saturday’s finals can be found on the Capital Slam blog. There will be many ways to support the 2012 CapSlam team made up of Open Secret, V, Sir Realist, PrufRock and Just Jamaal.

This post would not be complete without some 702. Enjoy!

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