Post by Stephen Cook. Stephen is a son of YEG and new to YOW. He currently studies journalism at Carleton University. Find him Twitter @stephencooked
Sundays are usually quiet for Bar Robo. But one Sunday late last January, the Chinatown café had to turn people away at the door because of a new kind of karaoke: one without any songs. Trade in Bonnie Tyler for Robbie Burns and make way for poetry karaoke – happening again this March 11.
Poetry karaoke – or PoeKa – is organized by local poet Daniel Toth, better known in poetry circles by the moniker Colo Toth.
During the event’s first show, Toth explained that PoeKa is for poetry lovers of all levels.
“The idea with karaoke is you don’t have to be a poet to read,” he said. Just like traditional karaoke, it’s not necessarily about skill.
“Generally speaking a good chunk of the people performing are all enthusiasts who just love the work and want to have some fun with their friends.”
Taline Banbassadian is one such enthusiast. She recently moved from Montreal and wanted to see the local poetry scene.
All performers at PoeKa must recite work they haven’t written themselves. Banbassadian recited poetry by London, ON teacher and poet Najwa Zebian.
“It speaks to me a lot in a sense where she has gone through a lot in her life and I appreciate her words,” she said.
“By getting people who are just enthusiastic about poetry,” said Toth, “they can also engage with the poetry community more.”
The karaoke platform allows for a wide variety of genres, bringing together adepts from many different corners of Ottawa’s poetry community.
During the premiere night in January, the audience heard recitations ranging from Victorian epic to Andrea Gibson.
Joshua Heymans recited poems from Cree/Metis poet Marilyn Dumont’s A Really Good Brown Girl. He was inspired by the recent Women’s March
“I just felt prompted to read some female work,” he said. “She was one that I had in my library.”
The most important thing to remember, said Toth, is that everyone who comes out to read is inspired by something.
“What we really want to capture in all poetry communities is people’s inspiration.”
PoeKa will run again at Bar Robo this Sunday, March 11 beginning at 7:30pm. There is no cover. Prepare to arrive early as space is limited. More information can be found on the Facebook event page.