Fortunately, the videos of Jamie and I performing at the Vancouver Poetry Slam have finally been posted. Please check out the links below.
Of course, I cringe every time I watch these; I cannot stand watching myself on video, but please drop a comment and tell me what you think!
On another note, Jamie and I had our very first meeting with our spoken- word mentor, Jacob Gebrewold. We had arranged to meet at the public library to do a small 2-hour poetry ‘workshop’, and I was interested to see what he had planned for us, as the idea of ‘teaching’ poetry is a strange concept to me. But being the Jacob that I now know and admire, he had quite a few things in store.
First of all, Jacob is quite well-known in the Vancouver poetry community and regularly performs at Café Deux Soleils where Jamie and I performed for the first time. Like us, he became inspired by the many spoken-word artists on YouTube, but was first came into the world of poetry after he discovered his knack for rapping. Throughout his years in high school, he and one of his friends began a slam poetry club at their school to enter the Provincial Hullabaloo Poetry Slam (Jamie and I are also registered to compete at this slam). Jacob now continues to perform around the Vancouver area, but has also qualified and competed in some of the top national slams as well. He considers himself a ‘Social Poet’, someone who usually addresses world issues and social topics in his poetry, and he is definitely passionate about writing and performing. In addition to his poetic accomplishments, he is also a really charismatic and fun guy, and seems to be very excited to be mentoring us in our endeavors.
After meeting up with Jacob, he sat me and Jamie down and basically told us to make a chart of what we think are our strengths and ‘opportunities’ for growth’, in our poetry and in our lives in general. I honestly wasn’t expecting to have to ponder my entire life and character qualities on the first day, but like Jacob said, he cannot help us if we don’t know what we want to improve on. So Jamie and I wrote away and then shared what we had brainstormed. Doing this exercise made me realize that I am terrible at assessing myself (possible area of growth?) but Jacob offered some really helpful insight on how he will be able to guide and support us in our areas of desired improvement. Throughout all of this, Jacob also commented on some of his strengths and opportunities for growth, which helped me realize that poetry really is a life-time improvement thing, and even the pros are looking for more ways to make their poetry better and better.
Here are some of the things I want to improve on with my mentorship with Jacob:
- Confidence; I have been told that I look confident on stage, but I would say that I don’t necessarily feel confident. I want to work on stepping out of my comfort zone a bit and exploring different, dynamic body language, changing with the style of the poem.
- Humour; Jamie seems to have a good grip on this. Me, not so much. I want to try incorporating some humour into my poetry, as I have been inspired by a lot of really powerful and funny poetry.
After going through some of these things, we performed some of our poems again for him and individually talked about our performances. I found it extremely helpful to have a second perspective on my poetry, especially from someone as experienced as Jacob. Sometimes, just the way he says things really clicks with me, and I can really grasp all the little small details that make the delivery of a poem so captivating. For example, the simple act of letting the poem ‘breathe’ every once and a while, letting the words sit with the audience so they can soak up all of your poetic genius. You know, that deep, poetic type stuff.
I was very pleasantly surprised that Jacob has developed an entire curriculum surrounding poetry. Behold, the four pillars of poetry (one T, triple D).
We focused quite bit on Topic, and talked about the importance of having a goal or some sort of message in performing the poem. Without a topic, you will ramble on, and eventually the poem will fall apart and lose interest. I found out that I need to work on fully developing my topic, themes, and opinions in my poetry, as sometimes I write without a purpose. Opinions are very important actually, Jacob shared a lovely quote with us about it:
“Authors do not say love, they say something about love”
Sometimes you just need one of those kind of inspiring quotes to get you through those poetically frustrated nights (it’s like writer’s block, but worse).
Of course, there are many other aspects of poetry that we discussed in our workshop with Jacob, but far too much to fit into one post. I will continually be blogging more and more about the subjects we touch on.
I was very impressed with Jacob’s coaching and how he made it really easy for us to talk about poetry and what we hope to accomplish with our time with him. He seems to really understand what it is like to be a young, aspiring poet like Jamie and myself, and makes it very engaging and entertaining to work with him. As I move on in my educational and poetic career, I hope to remember the experiences I am having now to connect with others when I find myself in a mentoring position. As a mentor, I would like to give the mentee(s) choice in their own learning and the opportunity to explore a variety of different topics, just as Jacob has done with us. Jacob is very interested in giving back and keeping the youth community alive, which is something that I would hope to continue as I grow older.
As for our homework, Jamie and I are to obtain a copy of John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, which, although, has nothing to do with the writing of poetry, will help Jamie and I with the initiation of a poetry club at our school in the future. Jacob is really big on good leadership, which he points out is crucial in the running of a successful project of any kind. He read some passages to us, and I am already inspired. In Jacob’s words, it is gospel from cover to cover.
I am looking forward to meeting up with Jacob for our next meeting, which will come up in about a week. All of this mentoring has got me excited for exploring some of the topics we had been discussing and for my future performances. I am not quite sure if I could answer the question How do you teach poetry?, but it seems that we are gaining some momentum, and that is the important part.