The following is a reflection by Jayme A., who travelled to Vancouver representing London at the 2015 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam (Indies) competition in April.
“What brings you to Vancouver?”
Fellow plane passengers, airport staff, taxi drivers and hotel managers across the city did not expect my answer to be poetry. Apparently flying across the country for a festival dedicated to poetry and storytelling is not common among everyday blue collars; though even less common was the likelihood of finding Vancouverites that knew about the festival and were not sporting manbuns. This wasn’t for a lack of interest in the arts, however. It was more like a desensitization.
Alongside all the artists who have stormed the city in flocks of dyed hair and ukuleles, I felt at home immediately- and my mind was already blown by the time I first sat down in orientation. I was only an unconsensual hug away from some of my biggest idols. Unfortunately, this sparked a deep anxiety in me, as I wanted so badly to gain their respect. I set my mind to doing so by placing well in the competition. I still had not completely come to understand that poetry is never about the points.
Then to my horror, I dropped both poems at my first bout in the competition. From that point I knew I would have to change my outlook in order to keep my sanity and enjoy the rest of the festival. I embraced the atmosphere instead, and the praise of fellow poets who had all been in my exact same place before. I became able to take my head out of the competition and plant myself firmly into the community.
As soon as I made the first step, I felt like I had found home in the voices of people from all across the country. It was comforting to know that we were all here for the same reason. Meeting one another felt like a reunion of old friends and saying goodbye seemed like a see-you-soon. I came to Vancouver for a competition, but in the end I was there for the poets and what they had to say.
Typically as my stubborn self, I have silently boiled around those who come to competitions with the “I’m just here to have fun” mentality. However, I understand now. Once I realized I did not need to prove myself in order to feel like I belonged, I knew that this is how it felt to be good enough. No amount of points was going to affect how I was seen here.
For the first time, I felt confidence in calling myself a poet. While listening to the beautifully crafted words of the others, I knew this title was something to be proud of. I knew being an artist meant a dedication to impacting others. I have seen art change lives and I couldn’t imagine anything I would rather be than an artist.
“So, what brings you to Vancouver?”
Poetry brought me, and I’m ready to follow it anywhere.