What is Spoken Word? Background Board
The Calgary Spoken Word Society was created in November 2003 by poet Sheri-D Wilson, and received its charitable tax status in 2006. Influenced by its founder’s passion, the Society’s vision is to develop a forum for the dissemination and promotion of Spoken Word Poetry locally, provincially, nationally and internationally, through performance and education.
Held in 2004, the 1st annual Calgary International Spoken Word Festival was a rousing success, consisting of 4 events and artists from across Canada: J Alary, Lillian Allen, Christopher Blais, Jason Christie, George Elliott Clarke, Ivan E. Coyote, T. Crane, Lorna Crozier, Myra Davies, Carmen Derksen, Diane di Prima, Emily Elder, ryan fitzpatrick, Jill Hartman, Paul Kennett, Kirk Miles, Dwayne Morgan, Ali Riley, Andre Rodrigues, Jem Rolls, Gregory Scofield, Natalie Simpson, Bob Stallworthy and Sheri-D Wilson.
The 2005 Calgary International Spoken Word Festival expanded to include 28 artists in 4 events: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Lillian Allen, David Bateman, Jill Battson, Möe Clark, Ian Ferrier, ryan fitzpatrick, Vivian Hansen, Jill Hartman, Bob Holman, Fred Holliss, D. Kimm, frances kruk, Kevin Matthews, Sean McGarragle, Kirk Miles, Ken Mitchell, Dwayne Morgan, Orunamamu, Andre Rodrigues, Jem Rolls, Andrea Thompson, Quincy Troupe, Anne Waldman, Natalie Walschots, Andrew Wedderburn, RC Weslowski, Jonathan Wilcke and Sheri-D Wilson.
Also in 2005, the Calgary Spoken Word Society initiated a Spoken Word Summit Meeting at the Banff Centre, which brought together 16 artists and presenters from across North America to network and collaborate. This was the first meeting of its kind, and led to the creation of the Spoken Word Arts Network (SWAN).
In 2006, the Calgary Spoken Word Society exploded with activity! The 2006 Calgary International Spoken Word Festival was the biggest yet, with 8 fabulous events and a wild variety of readers: Shone Abet, bill bissett, Christian Bök, George Bowering, Wakefield Brewster, Jason Christie, Xstine Cook, T.L. Cowan, Ivan E. Coyote, T. Crane, Emily Elder, jon paul fiorentino, Catherine Kidd, Shane Koyczan, Dale Lee Kwong, Suzette Mayr, Sean McGarragle, Motion, Billeh Nickerson, Robert Priest, angela rawlings and Gregory Scofield.
In February 2006, the Calgary Spoken Word Society launched the monthly Calgary Poetry Slam, giving up-and-coming poets the opportunity to perform their art. This led to the creation of the first Calgary Slam Team, which traveled to Toronto in October 2006 to compete in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.
In November 2006, we held th spektacular tribute 2 the brilliant bill bissett dansing in a hurricane uv stars, an extravagant multi-media tribute to the hugely influential Canadian artist, bill bissett! There were two events, featuring bill bissett, Christian Bök, Seth-Adrian Harris, Adeena Karasick, Steve McCaffery, Susan Musgrave, Jamie Reid, Linda Rogers and Sheri-D Wilson, performing tribute poems to bissett and excerpts of their own work. There was also a guerilla postering campaign, in which bissett’s famous poem, “inkorrect thots”, was plastered in inkorrect places across Calgary and internationally, and a special bill bissett blog where bissett was able to share his thoughts and dialogue with the general public.
At the 2007 Calgary International Spoken Word Festival we produced 8 events featuring 35 Spoken Word Artists which included: Fortner Anderson, John Barton, David Bateman, Klyde Broox, Murdoch Burnett, Möe Clark, Ivan E. Coyote, Kris Demeanor, Dymphny Dronyk, Ian Ferrier, Tchitala Nyota Kamba, Kaie Kellough, Alexis Kienlen, D. Kimm, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Raine Maida, Shannon Maguire, Brendan McLeod, Dwayne Morgan, Wendy Morton, Billeh Nickerson, Orunamamu, evalyn parry, Hilary Peach, Bill Richardson, Patria Rivera, Shane Rhodes, Ali Riley, Geneviève Robichaud, Caroline Szpak, Michael V. Smith, Andrea Thompson, RC Weslowski, Sheri-D Wilson, d’bi young, Gisèle Villeneuve. In 2007 we addressed the issue of under-represented voices which led us to new partnerships and event directions, with an event for queer voices, a francophone event, a women’s circle.
The society organized and co-produced the second 2007 SWAN meeting at/with The Banff Centre. We invited twenty artists to participate in the first Spoken Word Pilot program, which lasted seven days, and included nine workshops. And the actual SWAN meeting which took place over three days.
Another Society initiative is the Word Travels program, created in 2005, a poets-in-schools initiative that brings an innovative approach the literacy to Calgary & area high schools. The dynamic and accessible nature of Spoken Word makes it ideal for connecting with students and introducing them to the world of living literature.
We created a BLOG on our website in 2006 to help create a dialogue and a debate in the community.
Over the years, the Calgary Spoken Word Society has collaborated with countless individuals and organizations to make its events happen. Collaborators have included the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Allan Markin, Arsenal Pulp Press, the Art Gallery of Calgary, the Auburn Saloon, the Banff Centre, the Beat Niq Jazz & Social Club, Big Rock Brewery, Bravo!FACT, Bubonic Tourist, Calgary Arts Development Authority, the Canada Council for the Arts, CJSW, Coach House Books, dANDelion Magazine, Egg Press, FFWD Weekly, filling Station magazine, the Glenbow Museum, Hotel Arts, ING Direct, the League of Canadian Poets, One Yellow Rabbit, OutFest, RAFA, the Sandman Inn, Single Onion, the TD Canada Trust Calgary Jazz Festival, terminus1525.ca and WordFest.
We are eternally grateful for the ongoing support from the community!