Narrating the Slam

Storytellers and Poets Come Together at Shaika Café

  • Story Slam organizer John David Hickey

You have five minutes to tell a story. Come prepared to be judged.

NDG’s Shaika Café does a twist on the typical open poetry slam, putting a focus on the narrative weaved by performers.

Their monthly Story Slam is a competition allowing writers to share their stories while being judged and scored by five audience members.

The slam’s organizer John David Hickey decided to bring this new concept to Montreal after winning “Once upon a Slam”–an Ottawa-based competition–two years ago.

“Poetry slams and spoken word slams are pretty common, but it’s not the case for storytelling,” said Hickey.

Along with bringing novelty to the storytelling world, Hickey wants his event to be welcoming and inclusive. He only asks for a couple rules: a single story that has to last less than five minutes, and no reading. He wants the artists to focus on the performance.

“Storytelling is a particular form of spoken word. While spoken word is largely poetry-based, storytelling is a narrative. It is built around certain formulas, a beginning and an end.”

The event has also been a way to bring together the spoken word and storytelling communities that usually tend to stay apart from each other.

“I’ve been really surprised by how open the spoken word community is in Montreal,” said Hickey. “They’ve been pretty excited, and I’ve gotten some spoken words artists at it. The storytelling community seems interested too but I haven’t gotten as many storytellers, because of this fear of being scored, and the fact that there’s a winner.

“They’re not used to it and that makes them uncomfortable.”

Story Slam takes place the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m., and features eight performances per night.

“Anyone who shows up before 7 p.m. can put their name on the list. There’s no selection,” he added. “Get there early.”

Story Slam at Shaika Café (5526 Sherbrooke West) / Second Monday of every month / 7 p.m. / Free

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