Ian Keteku and Michael Dennis are both accomplished poets,
but that is where their similarities stop. One is a slam poet champion, the
other is a scribe who sees value in poetry still making its way to the written
page. But both believe strongly that poetry was exactly what they were meant to
The two Vanier poets will be
performing at Ottawa’s
first Verse Fest, a poetry festival that celebrates the many different faces
poetry can have. Keteku, a world champion slam poet, will be opening the event.
“When I first saw slam poetry performed, it seemed to
encompass everything I wanted to do,” Keteku said.
Keteku found slam poetry through the invitation of another
poet. He was immediately enthralled by the performances and jumped right in.
Since he has had opportunities throughout Canada and the world and believes
that this format of poetry offers struggle and contest.
“There are some poems that belong on the page, others that
need to be performed, but slam poetry gives a poet the thrill of competition,”
The poet is also an actor and journalist and feels that slam
poetry gives him the best outlet. Slam poetry, Keteku explains, brings hip hop
and poetry together. There are no rules to this form of poetry and the format
is indeed free to use any literary styles.
“It lets me be a storyteller and an entertainer,” Keteku
The inaugural year for Verse Fest, the festival will be
offering a wide variety of poets in the span of six days. There will be performances,
workshops and readings. Fourteen Ottawa
poetry groups will participate with a wide variety of talent.
One of those talented individuals is Dennis, who has been
performing and writing poetry since the early 1980s.
Dennis’ poems are inspired by day to day occurrences and his
words hit the old fashioned page instead of the computer screen.
Dennis has seen a lot of the changes in the community of
poets, with a strong presence from those who perform and publish online.
“When I talk to young poets now, they all hope to be
appearing online. I am not saying it was better in my day – it was just
different,” Dennis said.
Dennis lived through a time when poems were judged and chosen
by peers, before you got the nod of published work.
When it comes to performances, he believes that slam poetry
offers quite the show, but is unsure at the level of poetry being delivered.
“To me slam poetry doesn’t compare to poetry on the page,” he
Not that Dennis believes his poems are any more powerful than
what younger poets are writing these days, just that it is different.
Dennis is a poet who always believed he got better with age.
His romantic life with poetry has never given him the freedom of life without a
regular job, but Dennis always knew that was part of the choice he made.
“I am happy with the choice I made, but it has been
difficult. I haven’t worked at any one place to be able to retire, I never
saved enough money, but I knew that was the life I was choosing.”
Keteku’s life is a bit different, with the career of a slam poet;
he has travelled the world at his young age. But he too is seeking a support
beyond poems, with an education in journalism, Keteku hopes to fulfill many
more of his dreams.
And when it comes to performing at this latest festival,
Keteku said nothing compares to performing at home.
“Ottawa is a great place for
inspiration and I think it is time that Ottawa
gets to know their poets,” he said.
Ottawa this Week -East