Created in 2009, Breath in Poetry (BIP) is a collective of poetry enthusiasts and performers who volunteer their time to promote spoken word within the city. There are three organizers: Ahmed “Knowmadic” Ali, Titilope Sonuga, and Reakash Walters. Together this trio facilitates weekly poetry nights at the Rouge Lounge on Jasper Ave, a locally owned and operated restaurant with a wonderful staff. Tuesday nights are open mic and anyone is welcomed to read their work. BIP also holds slam competitions where poets compete against one another to claim victory. There is an admission fee of five dollars for the slam but open mic nights are completely free. However, if you cannot afford the admission fee the facilitators urge you to support the lounge and staff instead. There is a special five-dollar menu for slam nights and the servers work hard to ensure every guest is enjoying themselves, so make sure to tip. If you want to compete in a slam show up, at least, an hour early to get your name on the list.
On February 16th, I attended my first Breath In Poetry slam at Rouge Lounge (commonly referred to as Rouge). It was amazing to experience so much talent thriving within Edmonton. Rouge was packed. As the night progressed and people continued to come, they had no choice but to stand as every seat was full. It was exciting to see such a huge turnout. Ahmed “Knowmadic” Ali hosted the slam. He is a Somali-born, Canadian-raised spoken word poet who has been writing and performing poetry for several years. He is also quite the stand-up comedian and couldn't resist slipping in jokes throughout the night. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first poetry reading I was truly blown away by every poet. Yes, it’s true you have to snap (clapping is also fine) but the energy and enthusiasm that fills the room is intense. The night was emotional as at least a dozen poets got up onto the stage and bared their soul. It was such an uplifting, inspiring, and enlightening three hours. The community is very welcoming and supportive. While you are free to explore any topic Knowmadic urges you to have respect for everyone in the room and not to discuss a subject you aren't knowledgeable about. Also, he warns that any violent or hateful behaviour will be dealt with immediately as this is meant to be a safe environment for expression. When a poet gets up onto the stage every member of the audience must raise a fist high into the air, count to three and yell “breath” to signal the poet to begin. Lady Vanessa was the winner of the slam that night. Her poems were raw and powerful, dealing with adversity and perseverance, and she is a dedicated artist within the city.
It’s amazing to see the arts, local business, and community flourishing from so much encouragement and ongoing support. Check it out for yourself at the next open mic night on March 1st! To stay updated on events and slams check out Breath In Poetry on Twitter and Facebook.
Disclaimer: All photos taken from Breath In Poetry's social media sites.