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  • Writer's pictureOmar Pusey

Slam this: Talking spoken word with Michelle Grove

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Let's see what you know about poetry!

Poetry is on the rise and if you didn't know, spoken word refers to an oral poetic performance commonly performed in front of an live audience. Spoken word includes events like open mic nights and poetry slam competitions.

Though Poetry Slams started in Chicago in the 1980s, there are deep roots of slam culture that dates back to the 1990s.

Since then, there are poetry slams across Canada, including the Vancouver Poetry Slam in 1996 and the Toronto Poetry slam in 2005.

So where slam community has the gone since?

The poetry slam community is something you have experience yourself, whether its an open mic night or competition.

But why listen to me when you can hear directly from someone that performed at the national level of poetry slam, Michelle Grove. competitions in Canada.

Michelle has written music and poetry throughout her whole life, but it was the spoken word club in high school that where she discovered her passion for poetry. Michelle has competed from Ontario to British Columbia and is looking to get back into competitions soon.

Read the action-packed interview below to learn more about Michelle and her passion for poetry and slam competitions.

The Intro questions

1. Tell us about yourself My name is Michelle Grove and I have been writing for the majority of my life. I’ve always been fascinated by the power of language. I went to college for Early Childhood Education and worked in the field for a couple years and recently stepped back to work for my family business. I love music, art, drama, travelling, the beach and being outdoors! Above all else I love spending time with family and friends.

2. Tell us a Fun Fact I have my first degree black belt in Karate and trained for 6 years.

3. Where did you grow up? I grew up here in the east end of London. My mother still lives in the house I was brought home from the hospital in!

4. Favourite rood My favorite food changes very frequently but at the moment I’d have to go with chicken dumplings!

5. Favourite Mantra you go by My mantra would have to be “be where you are”. A stranger once shared this with me in a time of struggle and it had never left my mind. Highlights the importance of the now.

Main Interview Questions

6. When did you start entering poetry slam competitions? How many have you competed in?

I began competing when I was in grade 10. I slammed almost every month for about a year and a half.

7. How does Slam Poetry compare to open mic nights?

It’s very similar! We had an open mic segment at the beginning of every slam where three poets could share their work without being scored. The main difference in competition is there are members of the audience scoring your poems.

8. Tell us about your time in the Spoken Word Club in High School. This is one of my fondest memories from high school. We met every week to share poems we’d written or found in a safe and inclusive space. This was where my love for spoken word was born. I owe every member of that club and especially our teacher Mr. Tompkins for allowing me to find my love for slam and my voice.

9. What was your favourite experience while competing? Why?

My favorite experience in slam was most definitely traveling to B.C (British Columbia) to represent London at nationals. I had the opportunity to meet poets from across the country and learn from them.

A close second for my favorite experience was when I was lucky enough to be on the London Poetry Slam team and compete in Peterborough. The team became so close and supported each other in so many ways outside of just poetry. We were a family determined to speak our truth and share our love with the world.

10. What does the term “Writers Block” mean to you?

Writers block has always been one of my greatest enemies and it has had a tight grip on me for almost a year and half throughout Covid. It is a feeling of defeat where you know you want to write and you know you can but you simply cannot produce either the quality you want or anything at all. For me personally it is often impacted by my mental health and outside factors of my environment.

11. What topics do you usually write about in your poems?

My poems are generally a range of topics. Of course I have written my fair share of love and heartbreak pieces. I often express my traumas and past experiences through poetry. I have also written political, comedic and statement pieces as well.

12. You mentioned that poetry is your passion, are you going to start competing again? I most definitely would like to start competing again in the near future but will need to travel to surrounding cities. My current goal is to complete a poetry book I have been working on and then hopefully dive back into the slam scene.

13. How would you describe the culture of the poetry slam community?

The slam community is one of the most inclusive spaces I ever had the honor of being a part of. They support each other whether they're best friends or strangers. They go out of their way to create a foundation of inclusivity, accessibility and love.

14. What role do you think social media plays in the world of poetry?

I think social media is a double edged sword in this community. On one hand it has allowed poets to share their art with the world on a grand scale. Spreading the word about the slam community and allowing so many poets to skyrocket their careers. On the other hand, we know social media can be harsh and I believe many poets are discouraged by the reaction of audiences or their posts not receiving the attention they anticipated. As someone who loves watching poetry videos on YouTube or TikTok; I will say it doesn’t come close to the in-person vibe and experience of being at a slam event.

15. Where do you think poetry slam competitions are headed? I truly wish I had a better answer to this question. I believe Slam is surviving well and has a strong community but I would love to see it thrive and grow into something even bigger. Poetry heals not only the poets but the audience.

16. What advice would you give to someone just starting their journey in poetry?

If I could give any piece of advice it would be to write everything. Every thought, every idea. Crowd your house with sticky notes and pile your journals to the ceiling . Not every piece has to be stage worthy. Not every piece has to be for others. Write for you and only you and you will come to see that by doing that you are helping and healing those around you. Words resonate in ways you could never imagine with people you’d never expect. Write authentically. Speak your truth. And never stop.

Learn more about Spoken word and poetry slams by visiting Toronto Poetry Slam and Vancouver Poetry house.


Coffee consumed while writing this post: 48 OZ

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