On Sept. 14, Café Nostalgica was filled by words of poetry. Photo: Parker Townes.
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Local performers hone poetry skills at Café Nostalgica

Being a poet in Ottawa can be tough—unless, you know where the community is. For some University of Ottawa students, the first step toward performing spoken word happens on the edge of campus.

On Sept. 14, U of O students joined community members at an open mic night hosted at Café Nostalgica. Speaking to a small crowd of around 20 attendees, poets took to the stage and shared their deepest thoughts to an attentive audience.

For performer, and U of O alumna, Pamela Twagriayezeu, her first performance took place a few years earlier on the same stage at Café Nostalgica. “I had a friend pass away in a car accident and, so, I really took the time to reflect on my emotions, and that’s how I really got into it. I wanted to be able to express those emotions kind of limitlessly.”

Twagriayezeu was one of five scheduled speakers at Café Nostalgica, and performed material on past heartbreaks, children’s mindsets, and what she hopes to see in her future daughter.

“One of (my poems) is … (an example of) a love story that you can’t seem to detach completely, but my other poems were more (of) a reflection about what happens when we come to university,” Twagriayezeu said.

“(It is) this idea that, we lose our innocence and we forget to stay in touch with who we were before the degrees, before the nine to fives, before the hecticness of adult life … It was just a reminder to stay in touch with that.”

Twagriayezeu was not the only performer that night to discuss the topic of childhood. Tarahissa Jean Baptiste, a fifth-year kinesiology and human kinetics student,  presented a similar poem titled “To My Future Daughter,” that discussed some of the societal injustices that she has felt.

“I write about social injustice as a black woman—as being black and a woman, I am subjected to a lot of that. So, being affected by it, it allows me to be inspired by my own reality,” said Jean Baptiste. “I just go for it.”

According to both performers, getting recognized in the city can be difficult, but can be possible once you bring yourself to start performing at local shows. “If you find the right community, it won’t be as hard because … you will get to know (people, and make) connections, but you have to know the right place to start,” said Jean Baptiste.

For most, that first step began at Café Nostalgica. “I can let you feel my pain, feel my anger, (and) feel my happiness … and still feel like I didn’t leave a part of me where I didn’t belong,” explained Twagriayezeu. “It’s really amazing having that.”

For students looking to get involved with poetry, Café Nostalgica hosts other spoken word events on the third Tuesday of every month. More details can be found here.