We have some amazing talents to share with you this week! Learn more about our feature artists and facilitators, ticket prices and pass options, check out the festival program and peruse the event descriptions below. To jump to a particular day, click the date here:

Accessibility Legend

For detailed venue accessibility information, please visit our accessibility page. For general information and a breakdown by event, please refer to the accessibility legend below.

  1. Barrier-free entry
  2. Barrier-free stage access
  3. Physically accessible bathroom
  4. Gender-neutral bathrooms
  5. All ages
  6. Dry/sober event

Sunday, October 13

CFSW Meet & Greet

6:30pm @ Sip Club

Join poets, artists, organizers and volunteers to celebrate the start of the 16th annual Canadian Festival of Spoken Word! Get to know new friends, ask questions, and get excited for all that is to come for the week! By donation.

Accessibility: 1/3/4/5

Last Chance Slam

8pm @ Sip Club

Didn't make a slam team? Weren't able to try out? Don't have a slam scene in your community? This is your LAST CHANCE to join a team for the 2019 National Poetry Slam Tournament at CFSW! Come and compete in a two round slam. Top four slam poets make the Wild Card Team and compete in CFSW. This is an open competition. Anyone can sign up to compete. Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Accessibility: 1/3/4/5

Monday, October 14

Competing Poet Orientation

1pm @ 10C

Come get all the details for the official competition rules, grab your swag bags, and hear other important information about your participation in the official slam competition. According to SPOCAN’s rules, poet orientation is mandatory for all competing teams.

Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Opening Ceremonies and Community Feast

5pm @ 10C

The theme of 'Discovery' seeks to stir conversation of our common place through this beloved art form to uncover alternate perspectives, ideas, and applications in our lives. This festival will invite patrons and artists to explore ‘the story within’ - offering a chance to revisit personal stories with a fresh perspective. Join us as we officially open the festival, share a community meal, and launch into a week of new experiences and discovery! By donation.

Feature Artist: Rene Meshake
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Preliminary Bout 1

8pm @ 10C

Four teams from across Canada compete in a four-round slam competition to vie for one of eight spots on semi-finals stage, and eventually, national championship! Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Competing Teams: Tonight It's Poetry, London Poetry Slam, UBCDEFG
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Pints and Poetry Social & BINGO

10pm @ NV Kitchen + Bar

Social event to catch-up, make new poet pals, and enjoy a pint of hoppy brew or fresh kombucha while starting this festival out right! Test your luck with Poetry Slam BINGO. Gather in the excitement of the festival. By Donation.

Accessibility: 1/3

Tuesday, October 15

Poetry as Knowledge Translation

Workshop with Inali Barger, 1pm @ 10C

This workshop will focus on writing poetry with the goal of translating emotions and events across many contexts and experiences. We will discuss writing as it relates to accessible language and individual experience, self- and world- awareness, and the role of research in writing. We will participate in a few writing exercises, and spend some time at the end to edit if time allows. Please bring writing materials (if you have extra, consider bringing some for your neighbour, as they might not have any). All ages and levels of experience are welcome.

Facilitator: Inali Barger
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Guelph Arts Council Logo

Fuck Perfect, Co-Presented with Guelph Arts Council

Workshop with Art Not Shame, 1pm @ 10C

“Fuck Perfect” begins with the premise that perfectionism is a barrier to artistic expression and community building. We'll work together to co-create a brave space for us to immerse ourselves in a creative process across mediums, scaffolding creative risk without the constraints of perfection/product. We'll end with time to reflect on the value of a "fuck perfect" process to our own art practices.

Facilitator: Michelle Peek (Art Not Shame)
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Existence as Resistance

BIPOC Open Mic & Feature, 3:30pm @ 10C

An open mic for folks who self-identify as Black, Indigenous and people of colour. Allies are welcome to attend and support in the audience. The theme of this event will focus on existence as resistance, using storytelling to re-tell and re-story our identities. Any form of art is welcomed including music acts, comedy, dance, etc. And an exciting feature will also grace the stage. Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Host & Curator: Jennifer Alicia
Feature Artist: Maysam Ghani
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Preliminary Bouts

7 & 9pm @ eBar & 10C

Four teams from across Canada compete in a four-round slam competition to vie for one of eight spots on semi-finals stage, and eventually, national championship! Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Competing Teams
Bout 2: 7pm @ eBar: Winnipeg Poetry Slam, Indigenous Poets Society, Slamapalooza, VicSlam
Accessibility: 4/5

Bout 3: 7pm @ 10C: LiPS, Emotional Baggage (Wild Card 2), Peterborough Poetry Slam, The Recent Developments (Wild Card 1_
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Bout 4: 9pm @ eBar: Roots Lounge, London Poetry Slam, VanSlam, Toronto Poetry Slam
Accessibility: 4/5

Bout 5: 9pm @ 10C: Urban Legends Poetry Slam, Guelph Poetry Slam, Breath in Poetry, Tonight It's Poetry
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Bedtime Stories: Poerotica, Burlesque & Open Mic

11pm @ Sip Club

When the lights go down, the curtain goes up on this steamy variety show! Come experience Bedtime Stories with erotic poetry, quirky burlesque, and so much more! Bring your own (or others') steamy favourites to share on the open mic. Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Feature Artists: Victoria Grant, Lillith Lemons, Myna Wallin
Accessibility: 1/3/4

Wednesday, October 16

The Future Is Now: Youth Showcase & Open Mic

1pm @ 10C

Youth have always had their pen on the pulse of of the world, writing the meaningful and provocative. Their voices inspire the present to make way for a more hopeful tomorrow. Youth under 25 are invited to share their poetic thoughts on the open mic and everyone is encouraged to listen to their stories.  Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Feature Artists: Robyn Kaur Sidhu & Special Guests
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Exploring the Past

3:30pm @ 10C

Join feature artsists on a journey of discovering self-discovery through the lens of the past. This showcase will explore themes of family history, childhood dreams, learning and unlearning ourselves, and finding a place through an exploration of the past while redefining it on our own terms. Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Feature Artists: Billie the Kid, Wes Ryan, yes the poet
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Preliminary Bouts

7 & 9pm @ eBar & 10C

Four teams from across Canada compete in a four-round slam competition to vie for one of eight spots on semi-finals stage, and eventually, national championship! Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Competing Teams
Bout 6: 7pm @ eBar: UBCDEFG, Peterborough Poetry Slam, Guelph Poetry Slam, Winnipeg Poetry Slam
Accessibility: 4/5

Bout 7: 7pm @ 10C: Toronto Poetry Slam, Slamapalooza, LiPS
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Bout 8: 9pm @ eBar: VicSlam, VanSlam, Emotional Baggage (Wild Card 2), Urban Legends Poetry Slam
Accessibility: 4/5

Bout 9: 9pm @ 10C: The Recent Developments (Wild Card 1), Breath in Poetry, Indigenous Poets Society, Roots Lounge
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Humpday Party Co-presented with Guelph Pride

11pm @ Sip Club

It’s baaaaack. Get over this Hump Day with karaoke hosted by local drag queen Athena McQueen and DJ sets to keep you boppin’ all through the night. Co-presented with Guelph Pride. Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Feature Artists: Athena McQueen, DJ M'Damn D, Sofia Fly
Accessibility: 1/3/4

Thursday, October 17

SpoCan Talk Back Session

11am @ 10C

An opportunity to talk with Spoken Word Canada Board Members about the festival and propose amendments to the SpoCan Bylaws. Spoken Word Canada (SpoCan) is a national arts collative with a mission to nurture, develop, and advance spoken word artists, the professional spoken word community, and the art of spoken word in Canada.

The Anitafrika Method

Workshop with d'bi.young anitafrika, 2pm @ 10C

The Anitafrika Method is a critical and creative autoethnographic praxis inspired by the foundational work of Dub poet Anita Stewart. Devised by d’bi.young anitafrika, the method emerges from Jamaica’s socio-political Dub culture (music, poetry and theatre) and is informed by decolonial queer Black feminisms, intersectionality, pan-Africanisms and Black diaspora spiritualities. It aims at providing arts practitioners with a reflexive social justice framework to enact in art-making. Join d’bi.young in a two-hour intro workshop to the Anitafrika Method. Come prepared to go on a personal journey of self-reflection, self-recovery and performance poetry. Bring a notebook and a writing tool. Dress comfortably. Anitafrika Method Card Decks will be available for purchase, however, they are not mandatory for workshop participation.

Facilitator: d'bi.young anitafrika
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Supporting Indigenous Spaces Panel

4pm @ 10C

Do you know how to start or support the creation of spaces that are allied with Indigenous folks? In this panel we will hear from the Indigenous artists and organizers on how to start and support the creation of safe spaces. The tradition of oral storytelling is alive so let us guide you on helping create space for Indigenous folks in your homelands. Door Price: $10 or pay what you can.

Panelists: Kevin Wesaquate, Hope Engel, Jennifer Alicia, Zoey Roy
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

event photo for Words Worth Repeating

Words Worth Repeating: Poet of Honour Showcase & dubbin poetry Book Launch

7pm (venue TBA)

Each year, two spoken word artists are presented with the Poet of Honour award, for significant contributions to: creating and performing original works that are excellent and innovative; and organizing, mobilizing and developing the spoken word art form and community.

We are thrilled to present this year’s award to Patrick de Belen and Mahlikah Awe:ri. Their feature performances will be joined by globally renowned dub poet, performance artist and scholar, d’bi young anitafrika, in her book release of dubbin poetry. d’bi is committed to creating art that ritualises acts of recovery from violence inflicted upon the people and the planet. Prepare to be WOW-ed.

Feature Artists: d’bi.young anitafrika, Mahlikah Awe:ri, Patrick DeBelen
Tickets: $15 Adults, $10 Students, or free with a festival pass
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

dubbin poetry book cover

dubbin poetry

by d’bi young anitafrika

d’bi.young anitafrika’s performances and writings remember, celebrate, and interrogate enduring and plural black and caribbean radical traditions, while also dramatising a quest for courage and the strength to survive, love, struggle, and hold space in the midst of extraordinary violence. h[x]r work seeks out what is incomplete in past emancipation projects and rehearses ways of extending these — telling stories, amending experiences and inserting questions into the gaps and fissures of past struggles.

Buy the book

Friday, October 18

Indigenous Storytelling and protocols and Spoken Word

Workshop with Kevin Wesaquate, 2pm @ Guelph Little Theatre

This workshop engages participants to discover identity through the use of storytelling and protocols that exist with Indigenous storytelling concepts. I share my own experiences with discovery of storytelling and in-depth view of how storytelling has shaped my spoken word poetry. How both art forms compliment each other and strengthen each other. I also discuss the necessity of having spoken word available to Indigenous communities and how both practices are reflective of each other. The main ingredient to this is the oral tradition and once a participant starts to discover their own processes into writing, they empower themselves and build a sense of pride and ownership. This workshop bridges understanding through the Spoken Word scene community and all communities that practice storytelling.

Facilitator: Kevin Wesaquate
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Instigating Resilience Through Poetry & Verbatim Dance

Workshop with Wes Ryan, 2pm @ Guelph Little Theatre

Instigating Resilience Through Poetry & Verbatim Dance, is an accessible and integrated arts workshop combining poetry, theatre, dance, and physical comedy. The Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators defines Verbatim Theatre as, “involving the creation of theatre drawn word for word from interviews or conversations” (CODE, 2019). For this workshop, poems brought or created by the participants will act as “interviews” which participants will translate into movement. Emphasising consent and collaboration, the workshop uses simple exercises to develop complex and engaging performances and invites attendees to examine creative possibilities beyond the page or microphone. No dance experience is necessary: if you breath you dance; it’s impossible to remain static on a planet in motion.

*Accessibility Note: This workshop is designed with an emphasis on accessibility and inclusion. The methodology promotes safety, consent, and communication. Where there are limits (lack of ASL interpreter as an example), other forms of communication (written) are incorporated.

Facilitator: Wes Ryan
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

The Weird and the Wonderful

4pm @ Guelph Little Theatre

The beautiful wilds of RC Weslowski and friends take us on a journey into the gut rumbling laughter rooted in awkward embarrassing love. Or something completely different. Door price: $10 or pay what you can.

Feature Artists: RC Weslowski, Queerwax Improv Troupe
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Semi Finals Bouts 1 & 2

7 & 9pm @ Guelph Little Theatre

The top eight teams move on to semi-finals stage, competing for one of only four spots at finals. Follow along on social media to find out which teams made the cut. Door price: $15, or $20 for semi-finals AND Stage a Coup Double Feature.

Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Stage a Coup Double Feature

11pm @ Guelph Little Theatre

Nerd out with theatre pals Charlie Petch and Janice Jo Lee as we enjoy excerpts from their one-person shows Mel Melarkey Gets the Bum's Rush (Petch) and Will You Be My Friend (Lee). Door price: $15, or $20 for semi-finals AND Stage a Coup Double Feature.

Feature Artists: Charlie Petch, Janice Jo Lee
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Janice on stage performing Will You Be My Friend

Will You Be My Friend

A Musical Satire by Janice Jo Lee

Dr. West, Pluto's leading Friendiologist, presents a program just for People of Colour (POC) to make friends and find happiness. His secret: become White! Janice, a lonely artist, enthusiastically enrolls and gets paired up with Mike. He's a super well-meaning guy. Observe as she navigates love, friendship and the fun times pretending not to be "ethnic."

Originally titled: Janice Lee and the White Supremacy Smackdown, Will You Be My Friend is a sharply funny and brutally honest musical comedy about the everyday challenges when loving white people. Written by and starring award-winning Korean-Canadian artist, Janice Jo Lee. Through stories and fifteen original songs the award-winning performer challenges audiences to examine their privileges and reconsider the different ways we act in day-to-day life.

Originally developed and premiered by Green Light Arts, 2017, Kitchener. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille 2018. Written & Performed by Janice Jo Lee. Directed and Developed by Matt White. Set & Costume Design by Julia Kim. Lighting Design by Paul Cegys. Piano Arrangements by Joni Nehrita. Original Music by Janice Jo Lee.

Mel Melarkey Gets the Bum's Rush

Written and performed by Charlie Petch

Is it a show about the last night in Mel's Vaudeville theatre before it becomes a cinema house? A wild and zany night of ridiculous acts? A queer propoganda piece about a trans man called Victor in 1931? Why yes, yes it is. Don't be a wet blanket, it's all jake, Kittens. Come see why it got "Best of 2017" from Electric City Magazine. Original score, Gigolo acts, Donkeys, and the heart wringing "Ode to an Elegant Elephant Lady". Written and performed by spoken word playwright Charlie Petch

Saturday, October 19

SpoCan AGM

10am @ 10C

Spoken Word Canada (SpoCan) is a national arts collective with a mission to nurture, develop, and advance spoken word artists, the professional spoken word community, and the art of spoken word in Canada. Join us for the AGM where they will provide updates and new business will be voted on by member series representatives.

Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

The Art of Nonsense: Discovering New Language to Heal Trauma

Workshop with RC Weslowski, 1pm @ 10C

Stories live inside every-body, but we don't always have the language to bring those stories to spoken word stages. In this workshop we will explore ways to articulate and bring rhythm to, the sometimes ineffable trauma histories that live inside so many of us.

Using "nonsense" language, rhyme, humour and sound poetry, participants will explore how to express their own unspoken stories and hold space in a safe way for the stories of others. We will discover new ways to voice lived experience using absurdity and play to communicate honestly, accurately and with an authentic and powerful voice that moves the audience.

This workshop is for anyone who is interested in accessing the language that already lives inside them and to move beyond the limitations of traditional trauma narratives in an empathic and supportive environment.

Facilitator: RC Weslowski
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Ensemble Play

Workshop with Janice Jo Lee, 1pm @ 10C

How can you break out of your usual habits as an artist and performer? How can we listen to our fellow storytellers to each contribute our piece of the performance puzzle? Let’s return to the joy of words, remove the goal of a perfect performance, and collaborate to play with art. Through ensemble-building and improvisation, we will come out with a performance piece unlike anything you’ve repeated before. You will leave with new tools to create, and an increased confidence in improvisation and collaboration. We will be doing some light physical activity (ie. walking in the room, sitting on the floor.) Dress in clothes you can move in. All bodies and abilities are welcome and will be accommodated.

Facilitator: Janice Jo Lee
Tickets: $20 at Eventbrite
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Discovering Literature Book Launch

4pm @ 10C

Celebrate the talent among us with readings from THREE established poets: local writer and performer Lisa Baird, youth organizer and advocate Kay Kassirer, and recently named Uganada’s best-selling author, Mugabi Byenka. Hear readings from and grab your own copies of Winter's Cold Girls (Baird), A Whore’s Manifesto (Kassirer) and Dear Philomena (Byenka). Door price: $10 or pay what you can.

Feature Artists: Lisa Baird, Kay Kassirer, Mugabi Byenka
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Book cover for Winter's Cold Girls. Blue background with a cracked mason jar

Winter’s Cold Girls

By Lisa Baird

My first book of poetry, "Winter's Cold Girls" is scheduled for release on October 4 2019. I'm proposing that I read/perform material from this book. This poetry collection explores themes of trauma and recovery, everyday violence and queerness from a personal point of view as well as a wider political scope, shifting in poetic style from lyric to deeply personal to fantastical: an old woman plants broken light bulbs and harvests dark flowers; two sisters grow feathers in a nest in the backyard maple; a mother turns into a deer and escapes the unspeakable through a kitchen window. These are poems of disruption, discovery, and witness, balancing brutal honesty with a welcoming intensity. These poems could give listeners a new way "in" to their most difficult moments, how we tell and re-tell the stories within us to build something fresh and wild out of the rubble.

A whore's manifesto book cover. black words on a grey background. a red umbrella on top of the book title

A Whore's Manifesto

By Kay Kassirer

The red umbrella is wide and covers so many: escorts, sugar babies, strippers, session wrestlers, cam performers, fetish models, DIY queer porn stars, and the full range of gender, race, and ability. Our work and our identities are as vast and variable as the spectrum of sexuality itself.

We do the work. In the streets, in the clubs, in hotel rooms and in play party dungeons. We make dreams come true so we can afford a place to sleep. We do business in a marketplace that politicians and police are constantly burning down for our “own safety and dignity.” We have high heels and higher anxiety.

This isn’t a collection of sob stories of heartbroken whores. This is a testament of life at ground zero of sexual discourse, the songs of canaries in the coal mines of sex, gender, class, race and disability. We may dance on the table, but we still demand our seat at it.

Sex workers of the world unite. This is A Whore’s Manifesto. 

Dear Philomena book cover. Photo of Mugabi's head split in half vertically with postcards floating in between

Dear Philomena

By Mugabi Byenka

Dear Philomena, is the story of two strokes, one boy, one girl and a whole lot of magical realism. July 1991, Leocardia Byenkya underwent an ultrasound that informed her to expect a baby girl. She chose the name Philomena. January 16 1992, her baby was born as a boy. Filled with shock and surprise, Leocardia named her baby boy Mugabi. December 2014, Mugabi suffered from two strokes within a week of each other. Mugabi was 22 years old. 'Dear Philomena,' is a series of thoughts and conversations between Mugabi and Philomena (the girl he was supposed to be) about the year he was supposed to die but somehow lived through.

Poetry Slam Finals

7pm @ River Run

The CFSW 2019 Slam Finals will be an epic night of poetry and competition. You decide this year’s slam team champions! The four best slam teams in the country compete in the last slam bout of the year. After 4 rounds we will crowd our new National Champions. Follow along on social media to find out which teams made the cut.

Tickets: $25, or free with a festival pass or slam
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

Let yourself be motivated! After Party with The Soul Motivators

10pm @ Red Papaya

Get ready to shake your booty as we round out the 2019 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word with a boppin' show by The Soul Motivators! Enjoy the show while having all of those last opportunity chats and connections before we hit the road till next year.

Feature Artists: The Soul Motivators, DJ M'Damn D

Tickets: $15 advance/$20 door, Festival Passholders get $10 off advance or door price (competing poets FREE)
Accessibility: 1/2/3/4/5

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