Photo: Allegra Morgado.
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Poetry slam event at Café Alt features poet Sabrina Benaim

Spending a Saturday evening in the basement of Simard may not seem ideal to some, but for a group of students and local poetry fans there was no better place to be than at Café Alt to watch some of Ottawa’s best slam poets perform on Feb. 8.

The event, called Capital Slam, featured eight competing poets from Ottawa, as well as a featured guest poet. The competing poets were judged by five randomly chosen audience members based on the content of their poem and their performance of it.

Capital Slam takes place on every first and third Sunday of the month at Café Alt. Sarah Ruszala, who is a third-year second language teaching and English student at the University of Ottawa and the director of the Capital Poetry Collective, says that the spoken word event doesn’t have any official affiliation with the school, but that many of the volunteers involved are U of O students.

Ruszala says that the events used to take place at the Mercury Lounge, but they decided to move to an on-campus venue this season, making it easier for U of O students to attend.

The poets on Feb. 8 performed poems on a variety of topics, from consent, to social anxiety, to fat jokes. They competed in two rounds, with DMP, or Daniel Mark Patterson, a local actor, poet, and playwright being crowned winner at the end of the night.

Sabrina Benaim, most well-known for her poem, “Explaining My Depression to My Mother,” which has over 3,000,000 views on YouTube from her performance at the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Toronto, was the featured poet for the night. Benaim performed poems about anxiety, heartbreak, and one of her inspirations, Beyoncé.

Benaim also told stories about her poems in between performing them, many of which were to explain lines from her poems or stories behind the inspiration for them. After performing her poem “First Date”, Benaim explained how she sometimes checks comments after a video of her poem is posted on YouTube and finds it funny when people overanalyze the lines in her poem.

One particular line from “First Date” talks about her “thank(ing) the towel” after getting high in the shower and looking herself in the “third eye,” which Benaim said was literally about her getting high in the shower and thanking a towel, but a commenter took it to mean something deeper.

“This is why people think my poems are good, (they’re like) ‘this girl’s a genius!’” said Benaim.

Ruszala says that Benaim was invited to be the featured by the “Slammaster” Rusty Priske, as she is a well-known poet in the spoken word community in Canada, and Priske thought she would make a great guest at Capital Slam this season.

Ruszala also says that students who want to get involved are invited to come out to Capital Slam events, with the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam qualifiers happening on Feb. 13 at Café Alt.

“We’re a group of volunteers, we really like poetry, mostly we’re just really happy to share poetry,” says Ruszala.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper