Spoken word raises its voice

He's not quite Bieber but he certainly has the artist's moves! /image: KPush Studios

He’s not quite Bieber but he certainly has the artist’s moves! /image: KPush Studios

Slam Poet Patrick de Belen talks words

Article: Destiny Kaus – A&C Writer

On Sep. 27, poetry slam artists from across the country hit the stage during Regina’s Culture Days to take part in the Poetry Slam event. But, what is Poetry Slam? Patrick de Belen, a slam artist from Toronto, Ontario, explains.

“Well, slam poetry is spoken word poetry written and performed in a poetry slam competition. Spoken Word is pretty much an over encompassing term for any art form that involves you speaking.”

Marc Smith invented Poetry Slam in Chicago back in 1986. Though Patrick de Belen did not encounter much slam poetry during the years he was growing up, he became attracted to the art form through his peers.

“I grew up around a lot of Hip Hop kids…so, I guess that’s where my love for spoken word came from.”

De Belen began pursuing his Slam Poetry talent in his last year of high school and used this lyrical art to make his voice heard.

“[Slam Poetry] was interesting to me because it adhered to both my teen-angsty-wannabe-revolutionary character and my dreams of being a famous rapper. Really it was the idea of saying things, and people actually listening to these things.”

Artists such as Dwayne Morgan, Mos Def, Jack Johnson, and Brand New inspire De Belen to pursue his craft. He also draws inspiration from his parents, brother, and “lady friend.”

“I’m not quite the Justin Bieber of Spoken Word just yet, but I do have some people who believe in my success. Usually in my case, family, friends and fans are all the same thing.”

In 2012, Patrick de Belen attended the Canadian Spoken Word Festival (CFSW) in Saskatoon. In between his countrywide Poetry Slam competitions, De Belen finds time to promote Poetry Slam in his hometown.

“I host both the youth poetry slam in Toronto (BAM! Youth Slam) and the longest running adult slam in Toronto (The Roots Lounge).”

De Belen believes that people are attracted to slam poetry because of its storytelling aspect; it tells stories through a rhythmic, modern, oral delivery.

“It’s this spiritual, reciprocal, high-energy exchange with both the audience and the poet. Storytelling has always been a way to pass on history in a more interesting way than what’s in our high school textbooks. I think slam poetry is the contemporary form of that gathering.”

As for the future of slam poetry, Patrick de Belen has faith that it will continue to grow, especially in school culture.

“The future looks very bright. It has been one of my jobs to bring Spoken Word into schools and start some Spoken Word based extra-curricular groups, whether it is creative writing or poetry slam clubs. Educators are starting to catch on to the power this art form has, and more people are starting to use it as a form of artistic advocacy. In a time when people are so used to this 140-character, overwhelming avalanche of both useful and useless information, it’s good to know that people are still looking for creative ways to deliver and receive that information.”

De Belen, proud of how far he has come in the Poetry Slam world, discloses that he has “very big dreams” for his future in slam poetry. He wishes to take “baby steps” to get himself where he wants to go.

“I think if 18-year-old Patrick got to meet 21-year-old Patrick today, he’d be pretty damn impressed. Let’s just hope I can say the same thing about 25 year old Patrick one day.”

The Poetry Slam movement continues to grow across Canada, gaining popularity and attracting performers from all over the country. From the mountains to the prairies, Slam Poetry makes its mark on Canada’s lyrical art map.

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