Jan. 27, 2010 - Issue #745: AGA
Rouge Poetry: The city in verse
Rouge Poetry set to give local poets an open stageBy day, they are mild-mannered citizens. A substitute teacher, an engineer, a psychology major student at Grant MacEwan University. But by night, they are the Breath in Poetry Collective, and they have taken it upon themselves to give other local poets a stage to share their creative work with others.
The Breath in Poetry Collective is the driving force behind Rouge Poetry, a weekly open-mic poetry night every Tuesday at Rouge Lounge. After taking a few weeks off to reorganize the massive response they have been getting from the audience and poets, they are ready to kick off their new season of spoken word.
Consisting of Nick Reilly, Titilope Sonuga, Ahmed Ali and Bert Richards, they first came together in May of 2009 to offer the city a consistent poetry night that was rare to find in Edmonton.
"We are one of the few cities in all of Canada who hasn't really tapped into this spoken word scene," Sonuga says. She explains she was surrounded with the spoken word when she lived in Nigeria, but not nearly as much when she came to Canada at the age of 13. "There's a voice of this young generation ... and they have a bunch of things to say, but no place to say it."
Sonuga originally started Rouge Poetry night on her own in January 2009, but now has the help of the Breath in Poetry Collective to reach out to local poets and give them an outlet.
"People write poems and they never get the actual opportunity to express it," says Richards, better known as Dirt Gritie of Edmonton-based rap group Politic Live. "So what we are really offering is a good opportunity to express your poetry."
Ali, another group member and Grant MacEwan student, said he believes Edmonton needs Rouge Poetry because it is much more than just a performing stage. Originally from Somalia, he came to Canada at age eight, and since than has used these open-mics as a developing tool.
"It's also a good learning atmosphere," Ali says. "To hear other people's poetry, you get better yourself. You learn new ideas and new ways to put your poems together."
So as the audience members and participants have flocked to Rouge Lounge every Tuesday night to learn, listen and share, the Breath in Poetry Collective members saw this as an opportunity to grow.
"We are trying to make it more than just a poetry night in Edmonton," Sonuga says. "We really want to reach out to the masses and explore different avenues."
This search for growth has led to the Rouge Poetry Slam, which is the chance for Edmonton poets to get national recognition for their works. It will start when Rouge Poetry makes its return at the start of February, as a contest held on the last Tuesday of each month, with winners getting the honour of representing Edmonton for the first time this October at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word 2010 in Ottawa. The festival been held in major cities across the nation since 2004.
Those who wish to compete are asked to bring three poems to be performed in less than three minutes each. Judges will be chosen from the crowd, and the winner will be invited to come back until the team is created of four poets plus one alternate.
Breath in Poetry Collective member and Rouge Poetry night host, Reilly, realizes that the first night out can be intimidating for some poets, but is assuring that the environment is actually very inviting.
"We try really hard to be inclusive," says Reilly. A elementary and junior high substitute teacher, he is often referred to as Notebook Nick by his fellow poets, due to the fact that he can often be seen carrying his poetry notebook. "So if we get near people to come in, we try hard to keep them, bring them back, and let them perform their stuff."
The group suggests bringing some material already worked on in, because you will probably feel comfortable enough to try the stage on the first night. V
Tue, Feb 2 (every tuesday thereafter)
Presented by the Breath in Poetry Collective
Rouge Lounge (10111 - 117 St)
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