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Saskatoon Indigenous Poets Society online poetry slams reaching far-flung audiences

Kevin Wesaquate has been wanting to host online poetry slams for a few years. Zoom

Many people have been innovative in staying physically distanced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saskatoon Indigenous Poets Society is hosting its third online poetry slam on Friday.

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“We thought we would have to shut down shows, but I just found a new way to do it,” artist and poet Kevin Wesaquate said.

“I’ve been pushing for an online poetry slam for a few years now and the timing was right to do it now.”

The events are a celebration of Indigenous culture and language. Each one has a different theme for the poets competing. Friday’s theme will be Indigenous language reclamation.

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“Since we’re in Saskatchewan and the majority of people that I know are Cree-speaking … I’m going to have Cree-speaking judges and at the same time regular slam-type judges that have been to these sorts of things to keep it fair,” Wesaquate said.

The online poetry slams have a different feel than an in-person event. Wesaquate said it can be difficult for a poet to feel connected and respond to the reactions of the audience, but notes it might be a more comfortable setting for a beginner.

“They don’t have that daunting task of facing the audience and they can just do their piece as if they’re home comfortably,” Wesaquate explains.

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While the poetry slam is based out of Treaty 6 territory, poets can log in from anywhere around the world. People from across Canada, North Carolina, and even New Zealand and Australia have joined.

“It was fantastic. It’s reassuring that this specific art form of spoken word isn’t dying out anytime soon,” Wesaquate said.

Wesaquate hopes to host another poetry slam next month with a theme to celebrate graduates.

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