Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CFSW Speaks Out: Zaccheus Jackson

He’s larger than life and twice as fast – Vancouver’s Zaccheus Jackson is a modern storyteller with a hiphop twist, and he’s featuring at CFSW 09.

We checked with him to get his take on spoken word in Canada, family storytelling and why poetry is like video games.

CFSW 09: You are known for 2 things: your mile-a-minute delivery and your crazy stories. How would YOU describe your work?

I've always considered my work to be real Life, w/ a little bit of rhythm. The majority of my writing is non-fiction, socially based, and opinionated - but also as universally appealing as possible. The years I spent on the streets of North America taught me that a person's time and energy is one of the most valuable things they can share w/ you; and as such I have always been of the opinion that if people are going to listen, then the performer has a responsibility to say something worth hearing.

As far as the mile-a-minute delivery, well, that I can only blame on the ADHD.

CFSW 09: You are an incredibly engaging storyteller. Who told you stories while you were growing up? Was there an influential storyteller in your life?

ZJ: Growing up on the Haisla Reserve in Kitima'at, BC, it was my Grandfather, Tom Nyce Sr., who would tell stories as he carved canoes in the yard; keeping the oral tradition of our people alive. He was already quite old by the time I started paying any attention to my Grandpa's stories, but my father had the presence of mind to haul 8-year-old me, along w/ one of those old classroom tape recorders, over to Baba's house every Sunday where we would spend three hours recording whatever stories the old carver wanted to tell. Sometimes my father would ask for specific stories and other times we would just sit there and let Grandpa speak.

I can't claim to remember many of the stories he told us in any great detail, but I know as a fact that sitting there listening to my Grandfather tell stories to my father and I - and my father collecting each and every one like some endangered species - taught me the importance and social benefit of story-telling.

CFSW 09: What's inspiring you these days? What is the next project on your plate?

ZJ: For the most part my inspiration comes from the immediate world around me. I try and stay as socially aware and informed as possible, and when I come across a topic that I feel needs to be addressed I will usually try and juxtapose it w/ a story from my own past. I have found that this helps me internalize the topic, while adding a layer of personal intimacy that appeals to the naturally voyeuristic edge of Humanity.

I just got back from the Individual World Poetry Slam and whenever I come back from a poet gathering I am always over-flowing w/ inspiration. My next release will be a 13-track disc called "Dimes, Elephants and Airplanes", composed of material I've written since the release of my first disc "huManifesto" in November 2007; but currently I'm working w/ JakubEvolved and a few other East Van cats on a Hip Hop project that should see the light of day in mid 2010.

CFSW 09: You're one of two Aboriginal features at CFSW Open Mic on Wednesday. Without giving too much away, what can people expect from your performance?

ZJ: Being one of the features at the Aboriginal Showcase is a great honour for me, and while I am obviously proud of my full-blooded heritage, Native issues have been a difficult subject for me to write on. As a Southern Albertan Blackfoot raised in Northern BC I have seen many aspects of my peoples existence, both negative and positive, and have seen the impact that reserve Live, apathy, and the systematic assimilation of our culture have had on my People.

Personally, I am a proponent of the repatriation of Tribal lands, but also the structured removal of any and all government support for Aboriginals; which is obviously not a popular opinion. Many of my people are set in their ways, and the removal of federal support is sure to result in the decimation of three generations of First Nations people; but I believe that after that - weak-kneed and unsure of ourselves, but full of destiny - the Aboriginal peoples of Canada will once more begin to stand, proud and strong.

CFSW 09: You've been to CFSW before as part of the Van Slam Team. What was that experience like? What advice would you give to first-time competitors?

ZJ: I have competed at CFSW three times since 2005 and every single year I have seen the event expand and develop. Canada has such a rich and storied past, and such a proud and varied population that we consistently pull together some of the greatest performers from across the greatest country on Earth, and spend a week together growing and adding to the terra firma of Canadian creationism.

Having represented Western Canada at iWPS for the last two years has also given me a larger appreciation of Canadian performance poetry as a whole. I find that our poets are very edgy and honest and willing to take chances that some of our American counterparts may not. I'm sure this has to do w/ the fact that (unless you're Dwayne Morgan, *grin*) it's damn near impossible to make a decent living off of Poetry in Canada, whereas in the States there is such a prevalence of mass media that damn near everyone is on a constant look-out for their 15 minutes.

I love being surrounded by hundreds of poets at national gatherings in the States, but be it Halifax or Victoria, CFSW has always felt like home.

CFSW 09: Finally, the Dating Game question: if you're performance was a video game, what kind of video game would it be?

ZJ: If my performance was a video game it would probably be Dance Dance Revolution, for centipedes.....

Zaccheus Jackson features 3:30pm, Wednesday November 11 at the Victoria Event Centre.

Monday, October 26, 2009

CFSW Speaks Out: Steve Thompson

The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word is two weeks away and Victoria is getting ready to host a mind-blowing week of spoken word, art, and inspiration.

But what is exactly IS CFSW 09? We sat down with festival director and former Victoria Slam Team member Steven J. Thompson to get the low-down.

CFSW 09: Ok, seriously - what's the difference between spoken word and poetry?
ST: Well for starters, Spoken Word can be much more than just a poem. Spoken Word can also be story telling, monologue and some people even consider some forms of stand-up comedy to be part of the genre.

However in comparing spoken word poetry to say traditional poetry; I'd say that the idea of spoken word is to find the best way to orally connect with the audience. Sometimes that can incorporate oral sounds and emphasis on cadence. Generally the voice plays a greater role.

CFSW: This is the 6th year of the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Can you explain exactly what happens at the festival?
ST: It varies from year to year. Each city puts their own spin on the production. However it has always been anchored by the National Slam competition.

This year there are twelve teams competing from cities across Canada. If you're going to get in to spoken word, that would be a good place to start. Furthermore, this year we have a ton of day events from open mics to showcases featuring Aboriginal performers, Female performers, Pan African performers and Queer/Transgender performers.

CFSW: You've said that this year's CFSW is West Coast vibe - what do you mean by that?
ST: We have performers coming from all across the country. Some have never even been to Victoria before. So we want to show them some of what the west coast is all about. For example one of the morning events that we are doing is called 'Yoga Poetry'. To me, that just screams west coast.

Also, whether it's deserved or not, the west coast has a reputation for being a bit more socially and environmentally conscious. This year we are setting new presidents with the festival by doing little things from not selling bottled water, to making ethical choices in terms of sponsorship.

CFSW: You've really beefed up activities and shows at the festival - what kinds of things are you doing at this year's festival that have never been done before?
ST: Again, I believe that we're setting many new presidents for the festival. For starters we have a slew of late evening events from the erotica show, to a poetry decathlon and finally a late night cabaret featuring spoken word/musical fusion group 'The Fugitives'. As far as I know the late night events have never been done before.

We also have a number of what we are calling 'value added' surprises. Without giving away the surprises let's just say that when your mind isn't being blown by what's on stage, it'll be blown by what's happening around you.

CFSW: You've been to CFSW twice as a competitor. Any advice for this year's teams?
ST: At the risk of giving the cliched athlete answers; Like any competition, play hard, but don't take it too seriously. The old slam adage is "The points are not the point, the point is poetry." And when you step up to that microphone...bring it!

CFSW: Finally, the Dating Game question: If this year's festival was a flavour of ice cream, what flavour would it be?
ST: What does adrenaline taste like?

To find out more about CFSW 09 and to view the full schedule visit

Tickets on sale at the Solstice Cafe and Lyle's Place.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vic Slam Team Brings the Verse

The Victoria Slam Team is featuring at Tongues of Fire October 22.

This is their last show before they compete in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word November 10-14.

So if you want a taste of Slam - come and check them out!