Haneen Alhassoun was 9 years old when she began writing poetry, in Arabic, about her homeland of Palestine. She wrote so many poems that her mother used to tease her, calling her names of Palestinian politicians. For Haneen, poetry was a means of expression that, at that young age, she wasn’t taking seriously and, eventually, she stopped writing.
Inspired by having seen Apollo the Child perform his poems at her elementary school, Haneen began writing poetry again. And in the 8th grade, her teacher Shauna Pollock invited two spoken word poets to run a two-day workshop at her school. When they heard Haneen recite her poems, they were both impressed by her potential. This inspired Haneen to try her hand at slamming.
The Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam series was just beginning when Haneen made her slamming debut in 2011. She quickly became a regular slammer and at the end of her first year, she had already been a finalist for the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam team. She was a finalist again in 2012 and, in 2013, she secured herself a spot on the first ever all female Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam team.
Haneen also began competing at Urban Legends in 2011. In 2014, Haneen made the Urban Legends Slam Team and travelled to Victoria, BC to compete nationally at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.
Many refer to Haneen as a political poet, as the focus of her poetry is on politics and social issues. She often performs her poems at protests or vigils, for causes she feels passionately about. Community events have recently become the focus of Haneen’s performances since taking a break from slamming upon her return from competing nationally.
Haneen believes that the Ottawa spoken word scene has helped her shape her identity as a Muslim living in Canada and, because of this, she wishes to introduce other Muslim Canadians to the art of spoken word. She performs at many Muslim community events and is currently organizing a spoken word workshop series to be held at a mosque in Kanata.
Haneen would really like to see the Ottawa spoken word scene grow with the introduction of new, young poets. To support new poets, Haneen is working on creating a blog, which will help promote and grow young artists in the Ottawa poetry scene.