Yesterday I met up for coffee with a friend and classmate from my university days. Suzanna and I share a love of writing and theatre, so we met up to chat about some of our latest creative pursuits. In addition to her work in theatre, Suzanna has started a spoken word project that includes live performance, audio recordings, and good old-fashioned written poetry.
One theme that kept coming up over our coffees was the total creative stagnation that can occur when you're in between gigs, or hunting for a book-deal, or waiting to hear back about that grant. But as Suzanna put it, "maybe I should just put my work out there." And so, her career as a spoken word poet was born.
When I read Suzanna's poems for the first time there were definitely a lot of lines that really struck home with me. Lines about living in Toronto, about being in rehearsal until 10pm, about tracking your online pageviews and social media follows to the point of obsession.
Always curious about the creative process, I asked Suzanna for some insight into her inspirations.
"My starting point is usually a specific image. Something that I see or feel that will later translate into a poem. So a lot of poems are about Toronto. And a lot of poems are about people I've cared about who aren't in my life anymore. That stuff has to come out in a way other than ending up drunk on your bedroom floor.
"People may say that art shouldn't be solely confessional or therapeutic, but I think so long as it's honest and saying something... That's important. It has to say something, it can't just be sentimental. I want the artist show me something of who they are. If you don't have a willingness to share, then what's the point?"
Suzanna has definitely got that essential desire to share her work with an audience. She is currently releasing one or two audio tracks of her poetry every month on her bandcamp. "I started collaborating with musicians to create these audio recordings and soundscapes for my poetry. It started from a collaboration with Pablo Martín from the band La 154 and now I've got upcoming collaborations with Colleen Dauncey and Brooklyn Doran."
In between audio releases, poetry enthusiasts can check out the written versions on her wordpress site.
"At first, I didn't want to post the text versions of my poems because they're really meant to be spoken. Then I felt like maybe I was cutting myself off from people who would rather read. And then, most importantly, I started to feel like I have to perform live to really get my work out there."
So far Suzanna's performed at the open mic as a part of showcases like Wordspell and Outrageous, and most recently competed at the famously challenging Drake Poetry Slam.
"The Drake was great because I met so many cool people, and so many poets from out of town," Suzanna said. But to hear her tell it, Outrageous at The Central definitely sounds like the most intense experience.
"They encourage provocative performances and want to provoke audience responses. 'Don't be polite', they said. 'If you like something, jump up and scream!'".
If you want to catch one of Suzanna's live performances, check out WORDS(ON)STAGES at the Central on Feb 19 where she will be a featured poet. (Details here.) And if you're a musician who'd like to collaborate on an audio track, contact her via bandcamp here.