The Speak Out against Oppression poetry event, held last Friday, was organized in conjunction with UTMSU. They recently rejected the poems I sent them, without justification, after having charged me the $10 application fee.
The event, dealing with spoken word poetry, is explicitly about oppression, yet the submission guidelines clearly state no vulgar language, profanity or sexual references. This prohibition is senseless because it withholds curse words, which illuminate and highlight specific points if used correctly in a poetic forum. Colloquial speech, sexual or not, is universal, and the organizers desire to be politically correct ends up ironically oppressing the participants. The guidelines also state an acceptance of all political, individual & religious viewpoints, yet ones poetry must value people of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. There is a contradiction in these two ideas of acceptance and value, because they exclude cultural criticism, meaning there is a supposition that all cultural backgrounds and ethnicities are flawless, which is far from the case. If all cultures were flawless, oppression wouldnt exist.
The point of speaking against oppression is to offer constructive criticism to enable ethical, social and political progress. This is the opposite of what the event can achieve due to the limiting of the freedom of speech.
My verses, needless to say, poke fun rather than harm. If they offend anyone, it is only by way of the questioning of oppressive practices. There is no use for poetry if I cannot find the small grain of hope that lies hidden in gang violence, or the comedy that surrounds a single mother abandoned by her partner late one evening.
And when it is discovered that those at UTMSU didn’t even read the poetry, it’ll be all the worse, since MY union, the one I help pay for, isn’t representing me or giving me a voice, the way it should.
UTM English and Philosophy student
EDITORS NOTE: As per Mr. Abes request, one of the two poems in question was printed in our last issue. We felt it was worthy of publication. Mr. Abes submitted the remaining poem to our own poetry contest.