Congratulations to the winners of the inaugural LCP Spoken Word Award!
The League of Canadian Poets is proud to present the winners of the inaugural LCP Spoken Word Award, selected by Andrea Thompson and Eric Schmaltz: Adeena Karasick and Ian Keteku!
“Attuned to sound poetry’s domain, Adeena Karasick's homophonic translation Eicha: The Book of Lumenations unfolds as a dynamic interplay of acoustic and material expressions. Immersed in the intricacies of language's auditory, textural, and tonal dimensions, Karasick engages the original text, the Book of Lamentations, and brings it into dialogue with the multifaceted layers of our present. A simultaneous act of lamentation and ecstatic intertextual exploration, Karasick's performance traverses sonic texture and electroacoustic manipulation to resound with a symphony of hope and sorrow.”
—Eric Schmaltz, LCP Spoken Word Award juror
Listen to Eicha: The Book of Lumenations, by Adeena Karasick
“Ian Keteku is a master of spoken word. In a triptych of imagistically rich, sonically satisfying offerings, Keteku showcases his goosebump-inducing approach to language. With Mr. Tally Man, we witness the lyrical brilliance of a seasoned storyteller in action, while the space between is “a symphony of tenderness” exploring the art and artifice of human connection, and in The Light we see Keteku’s mesmerizing stage presence become magic manifest. With impeccable comedic timing and understated affect, Keteku’s performances are a triumph of wordplay and musicality, driven by wisdom and humanity – alive as a heartbeat.”
—Andrea Thompson, LCP Spoken Word Award juror
Listen to How to Kill a Poet, by Ian Keteku
From the winners
Adeena Karasick writes:
According to the Kabbalah, every time one speaks, one re-creates the world. With that said, I’m so thrilled to be a recipient of the League of Canadian Poets' inaugural Spoken Word Award, celebrating ways we can “re-create” the world one syllable at a time. This award means so very much to me, especially in that I’ve been a member of the League for 31 years, and am so utterly grateful for how you’ve nurtured me from the time I was just an emerging poet; affording me a robust and supportive community, crucial networking platforms, performing and publishing possibilities; giving me strength, courage, endurance; and perhaps most significantly, enabling me to tour and perform both throughout Canada and abroad, actively contributing to not only my own aesthetic trajectories, but the development, growth, and public profile of poetry.
The piece itself, a homophonic translation of The Book of Lamentations, which laments the 1st and 2nd Temples and the city of Jerusalem, yet written though Covid, speaks to the destruction of all our cities, bodies, politics, economies, ecosystems. And through reflection, deflection, refraction and the fracturing of language, re-situates the original text to the horrors and hope of the present moment. Moving through desolation ruin, prayer and recovery; it explores ways how in rupture there is rapture or how “darkness is a form of light, offering hope in an otherwise fraught time. And in this way, echoic of the League itself – offering hope and opportunity, support; both social, professional and economic to so many poets and Spoken Word Artists, I could not be more grateful for Eicha to be recognized in this way.
Also, thinking about how aesthetic currents come and go / through cycles of desire / of what’s hip or popular or en vogue at any particular moment, the League has steadfastly promoted, applauded and encouraged a huge range of poetic textures / genres / voices / forms -- all lexibly flexible, idiomatically delicious and socio-politically relevant, all swirling under the umbrella of “Spoken Word” – encouraging me throughout my career to explore a range of linguist textures, sonic possibilities // playing between acoustic and textual spaces and celebrating a spectrum of difference and otherness. All to say, I feel so blessed that this award exists not just for me but for all the poets who will come after me and know there’s a platform for their idiosyncratically textatic work.
I want to also thank Frank London, for composing the music that accompanies this piece, a shout out to bill bissett, bp Nichol, Lillian Allen, and all the poets who through their own work, taught me to be fearless; to trust my own mind --and, most of all to the judges, Andrea Thompson and Eric Schmaltz, and everyone at the LCP for the massive work you do to put Canadian Poetry on the world stage. May we all continue to be luminous, vigilant, powerful and in love with Spoken Word as a source of hope and solace, transformation and change.
Thank you so very much.
Adeena Karasick, Ph.D, is a New York based Canadian poet, performer, filmmaker, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of 14 books of poetry and poetics. Her Kabbalistically inflected, urban, Jewish feminist mashups have been described as “electricity in language” (Nicole Brossard), “proto-ecstatic jet-propulsive word torsion” (George Quasha), noted for their “cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” (Charles Bernstein) "a twined virtuosity of mind and ear which leaves the reader deliciously lost in Karasick's signature ‘syllabic labyrinth’” (Craig Dworkin); “demonstrating how desire flows through language, an unstoppable flood of allusion (both literary and pop-cultural), word-play, and extravagant and outrageous sound-work.” (Mark Scroggins). Massaging the Medium: 7 Pechakuchas, (The Institute of General Semantics Press: 2022), shortlisted for Outstanding Book of the Year Award (ICA, 2023) and winner of the 2023 Susanne K. Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Symbolic Form. (MEA), Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017), the libretto for her Spoken Word opera; Salomé: Woman of Valor CD, (NuJu Records, 2020), and Salomé Birangona, translation into Bengali (Boibhashik Prokashoni Press, Kolkata, 2020). Karasick teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is Poetry Editor for Explorations in Media Ecology, Associate International Editor of New Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication, 2021 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking, and has just been appointed Poet Laureate of the Institute of General Semantics. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” is established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University. Hot off the press is Ærotomania: The Book of Lumenations, Ouvert: Oeuvre: Openings, (Lavender Ink Press, 2023), and Eicha: The Book of Lumenations film, NuJu Films, NY, 2023.
Ian Keteku writes:
It’s an incredible honour to be one of the inaugural winners of the Spoken Word Award from the League of Canadian Poets. As much as my name is attached to the award, I stand on the shoulders of countless mentors and leaders in the genre of spoken word who have inspired me to pursue this artform, to give my life to it and show me how spoken word can be used as a tool for global change.
I first started performing spoken word in Ottawa. On certain nights, I would jump on the open mic amongst singers and songwriters, musicians, and poets, as we congregated in the incense filled hall at Umi Café. On weekends, I would stand in line, in hopes of ascending the narrow stairway leading to the Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market. There, I fell in love with the artform, and those who practice it. Where poets spoke with purpose, passion and power. I learned that spoken word is not just a form of entertainment but a means to inspire, to call for action, to evoke empathy.
Since then, I’ve been blessed to travel the world, sharing my words and embracing poetic messages of poets from diverse backgrounds. I am constantly amazed how this lesser known literary artform has galvanized so many people around the world.
Spoken word has offered me a life I could have only dreamed of. Still, I get imposter syndrome, feel like I am not doing enough. When such thoughts fester, I am reminded of an anecdote the legendary American poet Amir Sulaiman once told me. He said, God is the message and we poets are just the vessel. God is the song, and we are the radio frequency to broadcast to the world. These words have always stuck with me. It reminds me that spoken word ss a public service, a necessary function of a prosperous and critical society.Through spoken word, I learnt the value of speaking up, speaking out, and using our voices for more than noise. To be a megaphone for those whose voices are muffled by systemic and colonial structures.
I commend those who are responsible for facilitating this award. It shows the strides organizations are taking to include spoken word in their cannon of literary works. There is still a great deal of work to be done to give this African/Indigenous artform the recognition it deserves. For long as I am breathing, I’ll continue to be an ambassador and a fan of the spoken word, as I have seen it change the lives of so many, including mine.
Ian Keteku is an award-winning poet and multimedia artist. He is a national slam champion, and the 2010 World Poetry Slam Champion. In 2016, Keteku was awarded the Poet of Honour at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Keteku's art extends beyond poetry, as a writer and director, where he produces thought-provoking films and empowers people of all ages to embrace the power of their own voices. He has written and directed projects for TVO, CBC, PBS, Crave and Sesame Street. Keteku’s work is strongly influenced by journeys throughout Africa. His work follows in the lineage of ancient African storytellers by paying homage to the past and revisiting themes and lessons from previous generations. He has released two spoken word albums Lessons From Planet Earth (2011) and Love and Lumumba (2015). His debut collection of poetry Black Abacus was published in 2019 by Write Bloody North. Keteku teaches art-activism and creative writing at OCAD University in Toronto.
About the jurors
Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor and educator who has been publishing and performing her work for over twenty-five years. In 2005 her spoken word album, One, was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award and in 2009 she was the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word’s Poet of Honour. In 2019 Thompson’s spoken word album, Soulorations, earned her a Golden Beret Award and in 2021 she received the Pavlick Poetry Prize. Her collection, A Selected History of Soul Speak, was shortlisted for the Lowther and Souster awards and longlisted for the Robert Kroetsch award. Thompson currently teaches the first spoken word course to be offered through the University of Toronto’s English and Drama department. Her most recent album, The Good Word, is a critically acclaimed exploration of the intersection of Black history and faith. www.andreathompson.ca
Eric Schmaltz (he/him) is a poet, intermedia artist, editor, and academic. He is the author of the poetry book Surfaces (Invisible Publishing) and his intermedial artworks have been published, exhibited, and performed nationally and internationally and selected for inclusion in the 2020 anthology of Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University Press). He is also the author of Borderblur Poetics: Intermedia and Avant-Gardism in Canada, 1963–1988 (University of Calgary Press), editor of Another Order: Selected Works of Judith Copithorne (Talonbooks), and co-editor of the critical edition of I Want to Tell You Love by bill bissett and Milton Acorn (University of Calgary Press). Schmaltz holds a Ph.D. in English from York University and was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the English Department at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Tkaronto (Toronto), where he teaches creative writing and Canadian literature and works as Writer-on-the-Grounds at York University’s Glendon College. More at ericschmaltz.com
About the LCP Spoken Word Award
Launched in winter 2023, the LCP Spoken Word Award consists of two $1,000 awards, presented annually to two poets for a single poem or suite of poems up to 10 minutes in length.
With this award, the League celebrates the wide range of styles represented within the spoken word genre, from dub poetry to spoken word poetry to sound poetry and beyond. This award recognizes two poems or suites of poems that represent two distinct schools of spoken word poetry.
The League of Canadian Poets is Canada's only national professional poetry organization. The League serves the poetry community and promotes a high level of professional achievement through events, networking, projects, publications, mentoring and awards. We administer programs and funds for governments and private donors and encourage an appreciative readership and audience for poetry through educational partnerships and presentations to diverse groups. As the recognized voice of Canadian poets, we represents poets' concerns to governments, publishers, and society at large, and we maintain connections with similar organizations at home and abroad. The League strives to promote equal opportunities for poets from myriad literary traditions and cultural and demographic backgrounds.