Words Aloud Spoken Word Festival

June 25-27, 2004


POETRY IN ACTION and WORKSHOPS by Canada's BEST spoken word artists including CBC National Poetry Face-Off Winners; Sunday celebration showcasing new talent and live music


at the

Durham Art Gallery
251 George Street East

Durham, Ontario



JUNE 25-27, 2004, Durham, Ontario

(With Final Report

reproduced as the

second half of this web-page)

  JUNE 25 7:30 P.M.
  Segun Akinlolu, spins together original poems, folklore, and song in a unique configuration honouring the oral traditions of his Yoruba people.
  Based in Ottawa, he has performed in Africa, Canada, the U.S. and Britain with his acoustic guitar and African percussion instruments.  He has published three volumes of poetry, a novel, and two live poetry albums. Visit Segun at www.beautifulnubia.com.

  Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm
is from the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. In addition to numerous written publications and public performances, she recently released a spoken word CD entitled Standing Ground. She is now working on a performance piece with Mohawk choreographer Santee Smith and Maori hip hop artist Te Kupu. Kateri's
other interests include tracking with the Ndakinna Wilderness Project, learning the Anishnaabe language, studying dreams, and traditional gathering and harvesting.
  Visit Kateri at www.honouringwords.com.

  Sheri-D Wilson is an award winning ‘action poet,’ playwright and ‘Poet in Residence’ for CBC''s Sounds Like Canada. With five collections of published poetry and a poetry CD entitled sweet taste of lightning, Sheri-D Wilson has been featured on CBC
Canada and has written articles for the ‘‘Globe & Mail.’’ The San Francisco
Examiner describes her as ‘Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen . . . [with] a chromosome of Patti Smith and a double-helix strand from Jim Carroll.’
  Visit Sheri-D at www.sheridwilson.com

Click here for Photo

  During the day, Wendy Morton is an insurance investigator. During the night, she's a poet, with two books, Private Eye and Undercover published by Ekstasis Editions. Periodically, she boards WestJet flights, reads poems to the passengers, and writes them poems as ‘poet of the skies’. She loves to promote poetry anywhere and will stop strangers to read them poems, and otherwise commit random acts of poetry, sometimes in a PT (poetry travels) Cruiser, supplied by Chrysler.

  Visit Wendy at  www.poets.ca/linktext/direct/mortonw.htm

  Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) is an award-winning poet, radio show host and author of her debut collection, Motion In Poetry. This Toronto-born talent brings her movement from the stage to the page to the airwaves.
  Motion's recordings include appearances on Urbnet Hip Hop Vol. II, Breakin' Hingez, Wordlife: Tales of the Underground Griots, Rap Essentials and the Blu Magazine
Collection. ‘The Trilogy,’ her latest video collaborating with Tara Chase and Apani
B. Fly, has been rotated on Much Music and Vibe, and is featured in this year's Angela Davis Women's Film Festival.

  Visit Motion at www.motionlive.com

  Mary T. McDonald won the CBC National Poetry Face-Off in 2003 and writes poems to be posted in the transit buses of Edmonton. A retired school teacher, she belongs to the Stroll of Poets in Edmonton. She has three daughters and seven grand-children.

  Shane Koyczan is the 2004 CBC National Poetry Face Off winner and he will be performing at the Words Aloud festival...for more information visit www.koyczan.com

  Jon Radojkovic was initially a poet, then journalist, author and is now in the process of exploring visual poetry. He lives on a farm with his family near Chesley in Southern Ontario.  He'll be launching his debut poetry video, Going Fishin,' which is a visual representation of his poem about eco-consciousness as told through a men's camping trip.  Visit Jon at www.bmts.com/~brucedale/jon.htm.

WORDS ALOUD POETRY COOPERATIVE is a group of eight poets dedicated to building a local audience for regional and nationally known writers.

Performers for the Spoken Words Festival are chosen for their artistry, both on the page and on the stage.  The programming balances accessibility with the excitement of new adventures.  It always stops short (so far) of anything that would get us tar and feathered. 

The Words Aloud Spoken Word Festival is being coordinated by Dawna Proudman and Liz Zetlin.  A list of Words Aloud members is included at the end of this description.


Words Aloud Members:

Anne Duke Judd (port Elgin). A poet and short story writer, Anne is the owner of Brucedale Press, which specializes in the work of area writers.

Daniel Kolos (Priceville). A poet and short story writer and Egyptologist, Daniel is a former CBC Radio writer and is the author of two non-fiction books on Egypt as well as a poetry collection.

Judy Lowry (Williamsford). A poet and visual artists who works in clay, painting and drawing, Judy has taught art and poetry to publish school and college students.

Barbara MacKay (Artemesia). A poet and short story writer, Barbara is a former on-air contributor to CBC Radio, and a non-fiction magazine writer. She is president of Make Hay Communications & design, a marketing communications firm.

Dawna Proudman (Durham). A poet, short story writer and editor, Dawna is the facilitator of Just Write Workshops for adults and children. Before moving to Grey County, she was Events Coordinator for Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall (1990 to 1993).

Jon Radojkovic (Chesley). A poet and short story writer, Jon is a journalist with three regional newspapers and an organizer of the Sing Out and Song Bird Cafes.

David Sugarman (Durham). A poet and organizer of the Song Bird Café, David is a businessman as well as a board member of Project Canoe, a non-profit organization guiding youth through creative and natural outdoor experiences.

Liz Zetlin (Markdale). A Stephen Leacock award-winning poet, visual artist, editor, teacher and member of the League of Canadian Poets, Liz is also on the Advisory Board of Wild Ginger, a local poetry imprint publishing work by, for and about Grey/Bruce poets.


for your records, the following final report has been sent to the Canada Council, Fresh Start and the League of Canadian Poets with attached financial report, clippings, etc.









The Words Aloud Spoken Word Festival surpassed every expectation. The energy of the performers fed the energy of the audience which accelerated the energy of the performers which fed the energy of the workshop participants which fed the energy of the audience and so on. We not only created a market for spoken word poetry where none previously existed, but, the excellence of the programming has ensured that those who did not attend this year will be ready to take the plunge next year. For weeks after the event we were approached by people saying "I heard how good it was! I can’t believe I missed it! I am definitely coming next year!"



Funding provided by Fresh Start and the Canada Council was essential to the successful promotion of a hitherto unknown and untested art form in a rural area. The Words Aloud committee had to create a market for spoken word poetry through advance education and publicity. Media in Grey Bruce tend to provide significant support for those events which have also paid for advertising. Government support was essential to allowing Words Aloud to benefit from these mutually supportive interactions.

Mosaic, the monthly entertainment magazine for Grey and Bruce counties was a sponsor of this event. Numerous advance articles were printed (copies enclosed) educating readers about spoken word. In addition, the Sun Times, Owen Sound’s daily newspaper, ran an impressive spread in advance of the event (enclosed), CFOS Radio interviewed Liz Zetlin in advance and included numerous mentions. Weeklies picked up various media releases. There was an article reporting on the event in the Durham Chronicle.


Over sixty people attended each of the evening performances. (To put this into perspective, a free poetry reading attended by friends and relatives of eight local poets and featuring high calibre visiting artists might attract thirty people tops in Owen Sound if the weather is good and there is nothing else cultural taking place that week. On a bad night we have had as few as five people at a reading, including the four poets!)

The financial support of Fresh Start and The Canada Council enabled Words Aloud to present a program of sufficient interest to entice visitors from throughout southern Ontario to visit the town of Durham. Poets regaled the attributes of Durham from the stage. There has been talk, since the success of the first Words Aloud Festival, that down the road, Durham could become "The Eden Mills of Spoken Word Poetry"!



The funds provided by Fresh Start and The Canada Council enabled Words Aloud to offer workshops instructed by high calibre spoken word artists. As a result, local poets have developed greater skill and confidence in presenting their work. Three of the participants work with young people and intend to pass along the skills they learned at the Words Aloud workshops.

Twenty five people attended the spoken word workshops on Saturday. Responses to the workshops were enthusiastic. Participants ranged from twenty-something to seventy-something. At least three of the participants gave their debut performances at the Sunday event. In total, nine workshop participants performed at the Sunday event.


The financial support provided by Fresh Start!, the Canada Council and the League of Canadian Poets allowed Words Aloud to present performers guaranteed to introduce our fledgling spoken word audience to the best of this genre. Many people complimented the diversity of styles, ages, approaches, content and cultures represented by the various poets. All presenters were well received. One committee member noted that "everyone was someone’s favourite".


The financial support provided by Fresh Start! and the Canada Council ensured that the Words Aloud Festival could afford a knowledgeable sound technician and equipment as well as some modest lighting. The architecture of the Durham Art Gallery presents a considerable challenge to providing good sound; by ensuring excellent sound, the stature of the gallery as a performance venue was greatly enhanced.


Volunteer Robyn Smith, a student at Grey Highlands Secondary School in Flesherton, organized a series of workshops in Owen Sound High Schools featuring spoken word poet Michael St. George from Toronto. A total of five workshops were held at the end of May. These workshops were jointly funded by participating schools and The League of Canadian Poets. Students and teachers participated enthusiastically in the workshops. Although none of the teenagers signed up for the workshops offered at the Words Aloud Festival, this is largely due to the festival being held just following final exams. We hope to hold the next festival in October 2005 to encourage greater youth involvement.


CKNX TV aired a 90-second segment of poet Wendy Morton performing Random Acts of Poetry at Tim Horton’s in Durham! The Friday afternoon before her reading at the festival, Wendy Morton stopped people in front of the post office, at the local health food co-op and at Tim Horton’s in Durham, offering them free books of poetry if they would listen to her first read a poem! (see photo accompanying Durham Chronicle article)


Several fledgling poets have joined a local writers group as a direct result of attending the Words Aloud event.

There is one new member of the Words Aloud Collective prepared to take on significant duties to ensure that the festival continues in the future.

It was the first time many people from surrounding communities and even people from Durham attended an event at the Durham Art Gallery. The gallery garnered several new members.

One workshop participant had not heard of Mosaic magazine prior to this event and she has subsequently had a poem published in this publication.

Two audience members from the festival have subsequently had poems published on the topic of the festival!

Local quilters hung quilts on the gallery walls to provide an attractive visual setting but also to enhance the sound!

David Barnard from CBC radio attended the festival, participated in a workshop and recorded the Saturday night performances. One poem by each of the three main performers from that evening was featured on CBC Radio’s summer festival program the following week.

The Metro Toronto Libraries agreed to distribute our brochures and posters and the Southern Ontario Libraries System provided an inexpensive courier system facilitating the inexpensive distribution of brochures throughout the region.

Connections were made with secondary schools throughout the region and Spoken Word workshops were hosted by two Owen Sound high schools.


At the Words Aloud Festival follow-up meeting, we agreed to the following changes for 2005:

By changing the dates to October we hope to be able to attract more teens to the event.

Next year we would like to expand the mandate to include storytellers and thereby further expand our market.

We would like to develop a standard contract for performers.

We would like to hire someone to manage the finances, including devising a better system for recording book and CD sales.

We may need a larger venue for next year’s event.

We would like to continue to expand our network of actively supportive organizations and individuals.

We intend to set up a more intensive lobby for municipal government for support.




"I just got back from a poetry festival in Vancouver, which was way too big, poets who went way over their time( twice the time) and delayed the schedule. I read in a big dark hall at Simon Fraser University, couldn't see the audience, and had to work hard to get a response. And I stayed for hours listening to the other poets, got burned out, I think. I kept wishing it was Durham, which is my ideal for festivals now." Wendy Morton, poet, B.C.

"I was transformed this weekend...it was incredible. I feel so inspired...I just want to dance out of the office and out into the street." Rhya Tamasauskas, poet, book and fibre artist, Toronto

"Bravo!  What a wonderful weekend!  Thank you for all your hard work and commitment to an incredible opportunity.  I loved it.  And the chance to meet with some neat people too.  Well done."  Lynn Wyville, poet, Markdale

"It changed my life. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to bring this event back next year." Joan Van Der Meer, Wingham

"I knew poetry could be profound, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d laugh!" Katie Rutledge-Taylor, Ottawa

"This was the best event of any kind to ever take place anywhere at any time." Geoffrey Shea, West-Grey Councillor, Durham

"We really needed something like this here." Paul Neilsen, Durham




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Check out what we did this time last year

Words Aloud poets published in the 2003 Dialogue Poetry –World Poetry Day Anthology:  local copy

PDF format e-book: http://www.dialoguepoetry.org/anthology_2003.htm