Tag Archives: Words to Live By

Creating spaces and showing up: my last Words to Live By show

25 Aug

I can’t believe it has been two years since I accidentally started Words to Live By! It was meant to be a five-part series over the summer, but there was a demand to continue a monthly show.

Several people said this kind of series was missing from Ottawa’s spoken word scene and there hadn’t been a show like this since the Oneness Poetry Showcase.

A beautiful and intimate atmosphere. (Rebecca Jones)

An intimate atmosphere at Pressed for our first show. (Rebecca Jones)

I really wanted to create a space to encourage first-time performers, up-and-coming poets and women. We’ve had many people courageously share their poetry for the first time, while others have had their first featured performance.

Artemysia Fragiskatos first poetry feature. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Artemysia Fragiskatos’ first poetry feature. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Benoit Christie performing during the open mic. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Benoit Christie performing during the open mic. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

It has been beautiful to see people step out of their comfort zone, and recognize the power of their voices and stories.

“Open mic with the bestest people in the world. Thank you for providing space for all those wonderful poets and incredible human beings. Learning to own my voice and be my kind of beautiful 🙂 Jenna, thank you for introducing me so lovingly into the stage…the warm feeling is still spreading from my chest to my smile. Thank you for being your awesome self and organizing the best show in town. I look forward to it every time.”

It has been such a pleasure showing up and creating a place for individuals to own their voices and be their kind of beautiful. Often, we just need the opportunity, encouragement and space to realize how awesome we are.

Many great memories at Words to Live By. (Artemysia Fragiskatos)

Many great memories at Words to Live By. (Artemysia Fragiskatos)

If you’re around tomorrow on Tuesday, August 26, it’d be awesome to see you for my last Words to Live By show at Pressed Cafe. I’m also excited to let you know that Artemysia Fragiskatos and Brad Morden will be continuing the show.

Doors and open mic sign-up are at 7pm. Come by, share some poetry and celebrate our two-year anniversary with us!


The power of writing down your fears

21 Nov

They’re real.
You have to deal with it.
They’re less scary.
It’s a relief and freeing.
They have less power.

These are some responses I heard when I asked participants to write out one of their fears in a recent spoken word poetry workshop. I hadn’t planned on doing this exercise, but it seemed fitting with how the discussions were going.

We were talking about the writing process and many people said they have many thoughts running through their heads, but rarely get them on paper. Some said their words never sounded very good on paper, while others were too afraid to acknowledge their thoughts and fears.

If they wrote down their fears, they would be real.

I suggested to the group they should write down one fear and put it in a hat. We could anonymously read them out loud or leave them in the hat. They opted for the second option.

After I collected the pieces of paper, some people said it wasn’t as scary as they thought it would be. One participant said it was a relief and she felt the freedom to share her fear with the group.

Another person said they wrote down the same fear. With her act of courage, a sense of connection was made and others  knew they weren’t alone in their experiences.

This activity really opened up the space and it was one of those beautiful moments you can never plan for. There was a sense of relief and release in the room, even if the fears weren’t read out loud.

Their worries were out there and it was powerful even if no one read them.

I was reminded of my fears and how I used to allow my worries to control me. It was paralyzing and lonely, and I believed I was the only one going through these experiences.

I’ve found so much healing and release by writing down my fears in my journals, poetry and songs, even if I was the only one reading them. Although writing made my fears real and I eventually had to deal with them, somehow my worries had less power over me.

Then, I moved to speaking my fears out loud. This was absolutely petrifying, but extremely powerful to regain my voice in many areas of my life. My fears had less power and control over me when I spoke them out loud, and I realized I wasn’t alone in my experiences.

Beautiful connections and community could be made.

Last year, I wrote a post about walking in the direction of our fears. Believe me, I know and understand how scary this act can be. But there’s potential to know we’re not the only ones who are going through these fears, uncertainties and experiences. We don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Sometimes you need a friend's helping hand. (Maria Arseniuk)

Sometimes you need a friend’s helping hand. (Maria Arseniuk)

Perhaps you’re going through some difficult experiences right now. Maybe your concerns are controlling you and you’re too afraid to tell anyone.

Try writing down one of your fears, and see what happens and how you feel in the process. You don’t even have to tell anyone, but there’s power and a sense of relief in knowing these thoughts are out there.


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

Tues. Nov. 26: Words to Live By poetry show feat. Brandon Wint at Pressed Cafe.
Wed. Nov. 27: Elimination of Violence Against Women poetry show at Carleton University. All proceeds go towards the women’s shelter, Interval House.
Fri. Dec. 6: I’ll be singing at the Dec. 6 vigil to commemorate all the women from our community who have been harmed or murdered over the year, as well as the 14 women of the Montreal massacre who died at the École Polytechnique in 1989.  The vigil will take place at the Women’s Monument at Minto Park.

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)

Life is like Tetris: sometimes, the pieces just don’t fit

24 Jul
Tetris! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Tetris! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

I was playing Tetris with some friends the other day when inspiration for a new post hit! Actually, my friend told me I should write a blog post about Tetris and it turned out to be a great idea.

At first, I laughed at her suggestion and made up cheesy lines about how Tetris relates to life. But the more I actually thought about it, the more lessons and ideas I discovered.

So I’m just going to get it out there – I love Tetris. I grew up playing Tetris with my brothers and cousins, and it was definitely one of my favourite video games growing up.

As I was playing against my friends and reliving my childhood, I had to be very strategic with where I put each piece. I don’t let competitive Jenna out often, but she makes appearances in sports and apparently Tetris.

Let’s just say, the games got pretty heated. Competitive Jenna aside, back to Tetris and how it relates to life.

Sometimes, you put the pieces in the right place and the game is simple and straightforward. Other times, the blocks just don’t seem to fit. One wrong move and everything can become convoluted and out of place.

And then there are times where you keep waiting for the perfect piece, i.e. the stick, to get a “Tetris” where you clear four lines and reduce your blocks. However, all you keep getting are triangles! You keep waiting and waiting, but the right piece never seems to come.

When the pieces aren’t lining up and your pile gets higher, you may get frustrated and end up making more of a mess with your blocks. If you wait too long, your pieces pile up until you lose and you have to start over.

So how is Tetris like life?

There are times when all the pieces seem to line up with work, school, passions relationships and many other areas of your life. Sometimes, you keep waiting for the perfect moment or opportunity, which may never actually come – at least not in the way you hope or imagine. Other times, you try to make certain pieces of your life fit that don’t actually work.

I can think of many experiences that relate to Tetris where various pieces of my life lined up and fit. However, there were also other times where I waited for certain opportunities that never played out the way I wanted.

When I tore my ACL more than 10 years ago, all I wanted was to get back to playing soccer and hockey competitively. That never happened and I eventually came to terms with that outcome.

I’ve also had experiences where I was trying to make certain parts of my life fit that didn’t actually work. It was frustrating, but you’re not always meant to fit with every job, person, passion and dream.

Maybe you’re not meant to be working in that career. Or perhaps that friendship is really draining you. Or maybe it’s time to let go of certain passions and people. Whatever your scenario may be, a little “game over” and reorientation may be just what you need.

How does your life relate to Tetris right now?

One more thing, I just wanted to let you know about some upcoming shows. I’ll be performing some spoken word poetry at ROCK N RHYME IX this Saturday, July 27 at 7pm at the Lunenburg Pub. I’ll also be on CKCU-FM’s WildWorks next Wednesday, July 31 at 11am with Lenny Wu.

Don’t miss the next Words to Live By on Tuesday, July 30 at 7pm to see the Ottawa Current (Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam team) at Pressed Cafe. They’re Ottawa’s first all-female slam poetry team and you’ll be blown away by these powerful young voices.

The Ottawa Current. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The Ottawa Current. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

5 fab things I love right now

2 Jul

I love connecting with people and sharing passions, thoughts, places and things I enjoy at the moment. When I really like something, I can’t stop raving about it – like my love for Kettleman’s bagels. My obsession even got me featured on the Kettleman’s website last year!

One of my favourite movies is Before Sunset and I’ve been waiting years to see Before Midnight. I’ve also been waiting a long time to ride a motorcycle. I recently did both of those last week and it was awesome. The motorcycle ride was such a rush and I hope my friend will take me out again!

Going for a little bike ride! (Michel Lacroix)

Going for a little bike ride! (Michel Lacroix)

Do I look legit? (Michel Lacroix)

Do I look legit? (Michel Lacroix)

I get really excited about many things, and would like to share 5 fab things I love right now and think you should check out.

  1. Before Midnight. Before Midnight is the sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The three films focus on the lives of Jesse and Celine, and I’ve never been so engaged by two actors in a film. Before Midnight was definitely worth the long wait! It’s beautifully filmed and is rich in thoughtful conversations, chemistry and honesty. I highly recommend seeing it!

  1. Austra. Austra is one of my favourite bands and they recently came out with a new album, Olympia. Katie Stelmanis’ vocals, the lyrics and sound are once again beautiful. I’m very excited to see them again at Bluesfest.

  1. Pour Boy. My friend recently introduced me to a new pub, Pour Boy, in Centretown. It has an awesome atmosphere and the food is so cheap!
  1. Cats that play fetch. True story. My friend’s cat is amazing!

    Paquita playing fetch. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

    Paquita playing fetch with me. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

  1. Seeing people speak their voices. I co-host a poetry show, Words to Live By, and love opening spaces for people to share their voices. I’ve seen old friends, new friends, former students and random poetry lovers share their voices at the show. It has been an absolute pleasure to see people muster up the courage to share their thoughts and passions. A friend recently performed and wrote me this e-mail after she performed:

“I just wanted to say thanks again for last night. It’s been almost two years since I did those workshops with you and I can’t believe I finally got the courage to go up and perform. What a rush.

“Honestly, I’m an adrenaline junkie: bungee jumping, sky diving, rock climbing…few things get my blood pumping or make me nervous the way last night did, but I’m so glad I did it… 

“Thank you for your inspiration, for motivating me to do what I did last night and exposing me to this whole new world.”

What’s on your list of favourites right now?

Pecha Kucha photos and upcoming shows

24 Jun

I just wanted to share some photos from my Pecha Kucha talk last month. It was a great and creative experience to present my talk in 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This format definitely keeps you concise and focused!

I also enjoyed many of the other presentations and it was awesome to see what other creative people in Ottawa are doing. You can check out the rest of the photos here.

Encouraging others to use their voices. (Caro Ibrahim)

Encouraging others to speak their voices. (Caro Ibrahim)

You are awesome! (Caro Ibrahim)

Don’t forget! (Caro Ibrahim)

I’m also featuring at Words to Live By tomorrow on Tuesday, June 25 with Brad Morden. I’ve been writing a lot of music and poetry lately, so look out for some new work.

The open mic sign-up is at 6:45pm and the show starts at 7:30pm at Pressed Cafe. We had many new voices at our last show and would love to hear more.

I have other exciting events and opportunities coming up and will definitely keep you posted!

I’m presenting at Pecha Kucha and Congress in Victoria

27 May

This is a really exciting and busy week for me! I’m presenting at Pecha Kucha in Ottawa and Congress in Victoria, along with a few other events I’d like to share with you.

What’s Pecha Kucha, you may ask?

Pecha Kucha is an event for creative people to get together and share their ideas, thoughts and work. Each speaker presents 20 images, for 20 seconds each and talks along the visuals. Pecha Kucha first started in Tokyo 10 years ago and the events take place in more than 600 cities worldwide.

I’m incorporating some spoken word poetry into my presentation, so I hope people find my talk interesting. Pecha Kucha Ottawa Vol. 08 is happening on Wednesday, May 29 at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, and you can purchase your tickets here.

I was also invited to perform some spoken word at an event before Pecha Kucha at St. Alban’s Church, so it’ll definitely be a busy night.

Off to Victoria!

I’m presenting some of my research on slam poetry at Congress and giving a workshop. Congress is Canada’s largest humanities and social sciences conference. I’ve never been to Victoria, so I’m excited to share my work and to also explore the city. I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful there!

Words to Live By is back this Tuesday, May 28 at Pressed Cafe. We’ll be featuring Daniel Mark Patterson (DMP) who recently qualified for the Urban Legends poetry slam finals. We’re excited to hear his work and hopefully hear some new voices in the open mic. Open mic sign-up is at 6:30pm.

A few weeks ago, I also acted in a short film by my friend, Caro Ibrahim. The film will be shown at the Digi60 Spring Festival on Thursday, May 30 at the Bytowne Cinema. I’ve seen the final version of the short, and the visuals and script came together beautifully.

I’m a bit nervous to see my face on a big screen, but I hope you enjoy the film and my acting!

Smelling the flowers. (Caro Ibrahim)

Smelling pretty flowers in Between You & Me. (Caro Ibrahim)

(Caro Ibrahim)

I approve! (Caro Ibrahim)

Haikus, random adventures and upcoming shows

22 Apr

I went for another early wander this past weekend and it was just as peaceful, inspiring and full of wonder as the last time. I think I need to do this on a weekly basis!

As I walked down the tree-lined streets and visited one of my favourite spots in Ottawa, I once again felt inspired to write. This time, I wrote a few haikus. It has been years since I wrote a haiku and I’d love to share them with you.

At peace. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

A peaceful moment. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Walking empty streets

As the sun beams on my face

A moment of peace.

So beautiful. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

My favourite trees. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

It droops with sorrow

Weeping an unknown story

But still standing strong.

I can’t wait until this spot is filled with water again. But since it wasn’t, I decided to walk across the empty pond to the other side, which I had never travelled before. It was neat to see the few other footprints who wandered here and to also leave my own.

Waiting for the water. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

An adventure calling me. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

When I crossed, I saw beautiful streets and spots I had never seen before. I continued to wander and ended up at one of my favourite places – Kettleman’s bagels! I got to chat with my favourite bagel maker, and it was great to see him and hear how he was doing.

Delicious! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Delicious! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

I also wanted to let you know about some upcoming shows. This Tuesday, April 23, Words to Live By will be featuring a beautiful poet, writer and person, Mia Morgan. I’m excited she will get to perform her first feature at our show at Pressed Cafe. Open mic sign-up and doors open at 6:30pm, so it would be fabulous to see you there.

I’m also performing this Thursday, April 25 at Raw Sugar Cafe with some amazing musicians, including Claude Munson and Andrew Johnson. I’ve been inspired to write lately, so you may hear some new music and poetry. Doors open at 8pm.

There are a lot of exciting thoughts and dreams happening in my life right now. I can’t wait to see where my wander and adventure take me!

Words to Live By poetry show has a blog!

20 Mar
Sense-Say performing at Words to Live By. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Sense-Say performing at Words to Live By. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Despite another snowstorm, we had some great performances at Words to Live By last night. Brad Morden and I will be writing recaps and posting photos of the shows.

Check out Brad’s recap of Words to Live By last night featuring former Capital Slam champion, Sense-Say: Words to Live By feat. Sense-Say.

Upcoming poetry, music and bowling events

18 Mar

I just wanted to update you on some upcoming poetry, music and bowling events.

On Tuesday, March 19 (tomorrow!), former 2011 Capital Slam Champion, Sense-Say, will be featuring at Words to Live By at Pressed Cafe. He’s an incredible poet, so you don’t want to miss seeing his powerful words. Doors open at 6:30pm and the open mic starts at 7pm.

I’m also performing some music and spoken word poetry at the Mercury Lounge’s Foreplay event on Wednesday, March 20. I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with some talented female musicians, including Sarah Bradley of FEVERS and Erin Saoirse Adair of Three Little Birds. Doors open at 7pm.

I’ll be giving a free spoken word workshop at the University of Ottawa on Tuesday, March 26, so come check it out if you’re free!

Thank you to everyone who has supported my team, the Crayolas, for the Ten Oaks Project’s Bowl-A-Thon on Saturday, March 23. The Ten Oaks Project is a volunteer-driven organization that supports and connects children and youth from LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer) communities. Ten Oaks runs two camps, Camp Ten Oaks and Project Acorn.

There is still time to donate, so please help my team send LGBTQ children and youth to camp this summer. You can do that here!

Oh, and this is my friend, Gus. Isn’t he absolutely adorable?

Gus takes dancing very seriously. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Gus takes dancing very seriously. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

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