Guest Post: Matt Loeb on Canadian Poetry

I’m a lot of things. The I statement making flesh machine, who’s finite consciousness my sense of self inhabits, defines itself in a lot of ways. I’m a Canadian by birth and a poet by stubborn insistence. Each has it’s own complicated definition and where the two overlap is different for everyone. So for me, what it means to be a Canadian poet is be an outsider, surrounded by other outsiders, arm in arm carving an important niche in the shadow of giants. The obvious shadow of America and the omnipresent shadow of the real world; because poets don’t like to live there. The real world is full of grant writing, admin work, rejection letters and more often than not, day jobs.

On top of all that I’m a spoken word poet. My work is meant to be heard, it is meant to be said by my voice and I very commonly bring this work to compete in poetry slams. These slams happen across Canada and all over the United States so national identity plays a large part in the work, it has to. So much of poetry is about expressing the finding of oneself and our identity, this includes national identity. Canadian culture tends to define itself in opposition to America but more often I see Canadian poets painting a canvas of immigrant stories and reconciliation with a bloody colonialist past.

There is a sense of freedom living unnoticed in the shadows. Most of the poets spinning, spitting and expressing all over the pages and stages in this country will never make a living doing what they love. So we can do whatever we want, away from judging eyes. This freedom in obscurity has let me experiment in tone, topic and expression. A lot of the exciting new Canadian poetry I see is poets doing just that, experimenting. I feel, dare I say, patriotic when Canadian spoken word poetry is called weird, different, or odd. I’ve always felt different, preferred to see something rough that I’d never seen before than something polished that was familiar and comfortable.

You can tell a person where you are from, where your family has come from or always been and they’ll understand you. Put that story in a poem, craft your words well and then they can feel what you feel. Being a Canadian and a poet is a privilege; even if it means sharing weird stuff in giant shadows, at least we all get to know how each other feel.


Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, where in 2015 he founded the Windsor Poetry Slam. Matt Loeb is a Spoken Word artist who’s poetry ranges from candid honesty to biting satire. A finalist at the 2014 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam he later went on to make semi-finals with a last minute “Wild Card” team at the 2014 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. A prolific writer Matt has performed almost 100 different poems in slam poetry competitions making him one of only a few poets in North America to achieve this. His nerd themed poetry has also been featured on popular sci-fi blog i09. Matt regularly hosts the Vancouver Poetry Slam, and writes the webcomic Brain Thought Word Say.




Slam Sunday: “Something You Might Not Know About Canada” by Ian Keteku

Nothing Gold Poetry.

Tongues sharper than genius, that put the punk back in punctuality that bite at whatever, whomever, who care

Welcome to Poetry Month! This month, I will be focusing on Canadian poets. This poem comes from the Strombo show, a talk show from the great white north. In this poem, Ian Keteku examines Canadian spoken word poetry in the way that only a Canadian spoken word poet can.

Poet’s website:

Poet’s twitter:

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My Poetry Journey

“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

-Audre Lorde

To extrapolate from Audre Lorde, I believe that to write poetry is to be an agent of change, and therefore to be a poet is to have little metamorphoses over time. Poetry is a journey, not a destination.

Last year I talked about my journey as a poet, starting from the very beginning. I’d like to continue talking about my journey as a poet. And it counts for Canadian Poetry Month because I’m Canadian and a poet. 


Prepare for geese. That is all.

Like most writing, with poetry one must read in their genre in order to improve. As I’ve grown as a poet, I’ve been reading more deeply into poetry. I have poems sent to my inbox every day, and I’ve been reading poetry books. My favourite has been Ariel by Sylvia Plath, who I will write about later this month. Ariel really opened my eyes on writing a collection of poetry, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to explore theme in poetry more closely.

“Taking poetry seriously”, as I mentioned last year, has involved sending out poetry to journals, and working towards a poetry goal. My goal has been the creation of a chapbook manuscript around the theme of Greek mythology. I want to have my chapbook completed (that is to say, written and edited) by June so I can send it out to contests and publishers.


Sending poetry out like a flock of birds.

As I’ve matured as a poet, I’ve also started to experiment with form and with subject matter. Of course, I’ve written a lot about Greek mythology, but I’ve also written about events that happen around me, biblical figures and paid tribute to a favourite poem of mine. I used to write a lot of poetry about the infamous R., but as I’ve received treatment for PTSD my desire to write about him has lessened. I don’t want to waste any more energy writing about someone who has already taken so much of my life. My poetry is going to be a reflection of me, not of him.


Pictured: R.

I wrote last year about the forms that I’d been experimenting with, and that list has been steadily growing. I’ve been writing villanelle, and experimenting with traditional Irish forms. I’ve never published any of these pieces online, so I can’t show any examples of my work. I’ve also continued working in tanka and free verse.

Of course, the journey is never over. I will keep working on my poetry in order to become better and better. I will start and end with a quote:

I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was!

-Ash Ketchum

Canadian Poets in Focus: Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier (1).jpg

“Though I would never have believed it as a teenager, you do move past things, outgrow the person you were. Sometimes, just by staying alive, you find you have become someone who can live in the world after all.”

My first Canadian poet in feature this month is a fellow Saskie: Lorna Crozier. She was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and was educated at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Before becoming a poet, Lorna worked as a high school English teacher and a guidance counsellor.

Lorna’s first published poetry appeared in Grain magazine, and she went on to publish 16 books of poetry. That’s not the reason I want to spotlight her, however. I want to spotlight her for the work she does to mentor other Canadian poets.

Lorna has served as a writer in residence for the Regina Public Library, Cypress Hills Community College and the University of Toronto. She has taught writing at the Banff School of Fine Arts, the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts, and the Sechelt Summer Writing Festival. Lorna makes appearances at writing events around the country, and has received five honourary doctorates. Lorna Crozier is also passionate about social and environmental causes as well as poetry.
You can find Lorna’s poetry here on her cool as heck website.

Sylvia and Me: Or, the Myth of the Tragic Poet

“Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far so fast in such a small space; you’ve got to burn away all the peripherals.”- Sylvia Plath

I’ve spent half of my poetry career comparing myself to Sylvia Plath. For instance, when Sylvia Plath was eight, she lost her father and started writing poetry,  while I only lost my toys for a week because I forgot to put them away. When Sylvia Plath was in college, she edited a literary journal, attempted suicide and graduated with honours. I just graduated.

Clearly, I am not Sylvia Plath, no matter how hard I wanted to be her. I don’t know if there will ever be another Sylvia Plath. For the sake of my future poets, part of me hopes there never will be.

I read my first Sylvia Plath poem when I was thirteen. I knew that what I had been feeling since the summer I turned twelve wasn’t simple pre-teen angst, but I didn’t know how to tell anyone that. Instead of telling people, I just self-injured. I had to pick a poem to read for a class project, and I chose “Lady Lazarus” because I was intrigued by the title. As soon as I read the poem, I knew I was hooked. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading every single Sylvia Plath poem I could find online. I had always wanted to be a writer, but from that afternoon on, I wanted to be Sylvia Plath.

I tried my damndest to write like her. I really did. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t duplicate her work. I couldn’t get my own work to make me feel like I did when I read hers. I took hot baths, like she did. I cut myself, like she did. I was depressed, like she was.

When you’re young you don’t think about how your heroes can die. I thought about how my hero killed herself. Sylvia isn’t the only writer to take their own life; it seems like half of my favourite authors killed themselves, whether intentionally or unintentionally. There seems to be this pervading mythology that to be a writer, and especially to be a poet, your life must be tragic. There’s this idea about suffering for your art.

Research has proven that this idea is completely false. While female poets have been found to be more likely to have a mental illness or have experienced personal tragedy, the symptoms of most mental illnesses are actually counterintuitive to the creative process. This idea that creative people are more likely to be mentally ill comes from famous examples like Sylvia Plath.

As a young person you don’t see that research. You become used to your suffering because that’s how you become a better poet, the one thing that you want more than anything else. You learn to revel in it and assume that you’re not going to get better, because you, like Sylvia, are a depressed poet and there is only one way for this to end.

I don’t blame Sylvia Plath for my tragedy. It would be foolish to. What I do blame is this idea of glorifying tragedy and mental illness that’s pervasive in popular culture.

I’m done with the myth of the tragic poet.

After reviewing my portfolio, one of my writing teachers gave me powerful advice: “you don’t have to be Sylvia Plath”. I had never realised that not being her was an option. As I continued to grow as a poet, I started to develop my own style and stray away from the formula I’d been following. I started to read other poets. I started to write about things other than my personal life.

In addition, I sought help for my mental health problems. I haven’t had to experience electroconvulsive therapy like Sylvia, but I dare say that the world is more equipped to handle people like Sylvia and I now than it was then. The advances in mental health and the reduction of stigma are staggering, even if there is still a long way to go.

I’ve spent half of my poetry career comparing myself to Sylvia Plath. I will always admire her, but I no longer want to be her.

Bunnies, Foxes and Why You Have to See “Zootopia”

I interrupt poetry month to bring you my opinion on a movie.

To paraphrase Bryan Singer, science fiction is a great medium for storytelling because it allows the creative minds behind it to tell a human story from an alien perspective, and in my opinion that allows the audience to learn something about themselves and society. No media accomplishes this as well as science fiction except for one: children’s films.

Today I watched Zootopia in the theaters. It was a darn good movie, possibly one of the best talking animal movies I’ve ever seen. For those of you who haven’t seen it or haven’t heard of it, here is a brief synopsis from IMDB:

“From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde, a wily fox who makes her job even harder.”

It’s a movie about a bunny cop and a con artist fox. It’s also about discrimination and racism.

Here, there be spoilers.

You read that right. Disney, the company responsible for Peter Pan’s Tiger Lily and Songs of the South, made a movie about discrimination and racism.

I don’t know whether or not I can comment on the portrayal of racism, given that I’m so white I glow in the dark. In some ways I come from a place of privilege, but I can say that the movie did point out that everyone has little prejudices that they must work to overcome. I can comment on it’s portrayal of discrimination, however.

“But Kelsey, you’re white, what do you mean “discrimination?””

Well, I may have white privilege, but I lack straight privilege.

Have I come out on the blog yet? Nope. Well, consider this my coming out.

I’m bisexual. I’ve always been bisexual. I’m in a long term monogamous relationship with a man, but that doesn’t make me any less bi. And being bi hasn’t been easy.

There’s a scene in Zootopia which I found here:

In case you can’t watch the video, Nick the fox wants to be a Junior Trooper, but is the only predator in the group. The other kids don’t take well to this, and humiliate him and drive him out of the troopers. Nick vows two things after this; never to let them see that it gets to you, and that if the world thinks he’s something, that’s what he’s going to be.

That scene really hit home for me.

I’ve never told this story publicly before. When I came out none of my friends cared, even though a couple teachers treated me differently. I thought that my school was full of caring, open-minded people and that I would get through high school without any trouble.

I volunteered to help out with the school musical. My job was to help get costumes on and get makeup done. At first, it was going okay. A couple of the guys were squeemish about makeup but we got it done. Then, when it was time to do the girl’s makeup and costumes, it started. One girl took issue to me being in the room while the girls were changing. She started talking, whispering “behind my back”–just low enough that she thought I couldn’t hear her, even though I was in the room. Like I was some sort of pervert who couldn’t control myself. I could feel the looks burning into my back. I left the room, and didn’t come back.

It spread to the change rooms in gym class. Eventually, I started changing in the bathroom stalls. The bathroom cleared when I walked in.

I may not be a visible minority, but I know what prejudice looks like.

Zootopia captured the feeling of being that fifteen year old girl who didn’t understand why the other kids didn’t want her around.

Zootopia’s biggest flaw in dissecting discrimination, as pointed out by Nico Lang, is that it focuses primarily on individuals holding bigotted views and not on systematic racism, and suggesting that racism is solved by individuals simply not being racist anymore.  I don’t know how a film intended for children could tackle racist systems of power  (and if you know of any please tell me in the comments) but I think that Zootopia did a decent job of at least attempting it. I think that focusing on individual worldviews works better for children, who psycholgically see the world through an individualistic lens until they develop empathy. I have to wonder if the movie succeeds in teaching children about prejudice, and if it shows adults that they have a long way to go to eliminate prejudice from their lives.

I have to wonder if those girls from high school saw this movie, and thought of me.