Throw! Poetry Collective hosts lively bilingual event

Trumpet solos, silent judges, and more at monthly slam

BeWyrd performs a poem. Courtesy CéZuRe.

On March 4, Throw! Poetry Collective held their monthly bilingual slam poetry event. Slammers with varying experience performed to a crowd of over 50 in the bar Le Basement.

The judges, randomly chosen audience members who understand French and English, wrote their scores on notepads and held them up after each performance. 

The night started with two non-judged open-mic readings followed by a sacrifice. The sacrifice, a performer who was judged only for the sake of calibrating the judges’ scores, was Marie-Ange Sanchez, the winner of the February slam.

The bar was solely illuminated by soft fairy lights, creating a welcoming atmosphere for migraine-prone audience members. 

“Higher!” chanted the audience when they disagreed with a score the judges granted.

“Judges, ignore the crowd. Crowd, keep disagreeing with the judges,” the host, Deanna Smith, replied on one occasion. 

An intermission followed the first round to give the organizers time to tally everyone’s scores and determine the finalists. During this intermission, Smith—who has been a part of Throw! since 2009—spoke to The Link

“I keep coming back because Throw! has been an integral part of my poetry journey,” Smith said. She added that slamming regularly encouraged her to write at least two poems per month; many of which are now compiled into a manuscript she is looking to publish.

Smith, who is the longest standing member of Throw!, stated that the collective is “in a better place now compared to before the ongoing pandemic. She attributed this to the dedication of the members who have continued volunteering and participating throughout lockdowns and restrictions. 

“The people who are here now have created a really good foundation for us to grow,” said Smith.

Michael Clarke, the president of Throw!, told The Link before the event that the collective has been organizing workshops that have received positive feedback from attendees.

Clarke added that workshops and events are open to people of all ages because “poetry thrives on a diversity of voices, opinions, cultures, perspectives.” He also hopes to one day coordinate a youth poetry slam to create space for younger voices within Throw!

When selecting performers for events, Clarke mentioned, Throw! tends to prioritize BIPOC poets “to even out a tilted floor."

Smith explained that workshops are good opportunities for new and mid-level poets to learn and get feedback from experienced slammers in a friendly environment without judges. 

“Something I tell students all the time when I do workshops [is] ‘tell your story,’” Smith said. “Because a story can touch a heart, a heart can change a mind, a mind can start a movement, and a movement can change everything.”

She added that people never know when they might say something on stage that will validate someone’s experience.

Marijke van den Hoeven, who has been volunteering and performing at Throw! for the past two years, told The Link that they’ve enjoyed meeting people who share similar interests.

“Being vulnerable is a big difficulty,” van den Hoeven said. “Talking to people after the show, you feel vulnerable after sharing something really personal, but it feels good at the same time to be vulnerable because that’s the only way you can get close to people.”

They added that they also struggle with stage fright.

Returning from the intermission, professional poet Jason Selman performed spoken word about the Sir George Williams Affair, playing trumpet solos on stage in between spoken pieces.

“Poetry saves lives; poetry allows us to be human in a world that continuously tries to rinse that out of us,” Selman told the audience.

Following Selman’s set, Smith announced the night’s finalists, who then performed and were judged independently on their second poem.

Clarke was one of these slammers, performing under the stage name BeWyrd. For the first round, he recited a piece entitled “This Poem is a Virus,” which he later described as being an “‘aural vaccine’ against online misinformation.” Clarke’s performance earned him a spot in the final round, where he recited his second poem, “fall out of love.” 

“I was trying to come to terms with a tough breakup that scarred me emotionally,” Clarke told The Link about the second piece.

At the end of the show, BeWyrd was announced as the winner.

Throw!’s next slam event will be on Saturday, April 1 at Le Basement (Montreal Improv). Tickets can be bought in advance for $8 here or at the door for $10 or PWYC.