Last Saturday, I joined a group of Edmontonians who appreciate the written and spoken word so much, they’ll ride around on a yellow schoolbus to get their fill.
We all attended the first ever Edmonton WordCrawl, hosted by Jason Norman and Kasia Gawlak of the Words with Friends collective. The whole event revolved around a Pubcrawl-style adventure through a few venues in Edmonton. As part of the event, Kathleen “Kikkiplanet” Smith, Madeleine Smith (no relation), and I were asked to participate as celebrity judges at the second venue, Kasbar. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
We all met up at Bohemia (on 97th street, right behind the Winspear Centre), got on a bus — after a drink — and headed to the first series of readings.
We were dropped off at Kasbar first, where in spite of extremely slow drinks service, we kicked things off first with a story from April’s Story Slam winner, Trevor Kjorlien. Trevor was the first of three competitors we would be judging, and he told an interesting and funny story about a festival he went to that was filled with psychedelics and a random assortment of would-be food vendors (or, you know, just a bunch of hippies cooking up food for everyone). It was a good story, but not enough to keep him in the running between him and the other two competitors.
Next up was Matt Prins, who told a story about his wang. I can’t do it justice. Check out his video below:
Matt’s story was followed by a story from Michael Hingston on the running dialogue of a staff of student journalists trying to decide whether or not to put a Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper (the one at the top of this post). This one really spoke to Madeleine and I (Madeleine is the Managing Editor at the Gateway, the newspaper I once worked at as Editor-in-Chief), and not just because Michael suggested that people who use Comic Sans should be classified as sex offenders.
In the end, after a hilarious series of ordeals between Michael and Matt — one of which involved a best-of-three Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots match — Mike emerged victorious.
Our next stop was Expressionz Cafe, near the Java Jive Coffee Roastery south of Whyte Ave, just off 99 Street. Here was, in my opinion, the best performance of the night by poet Patrick Swan. I’m not usually into poetry readings — other than a few excellent ones here and there, many have fallen flat for me. But Patrick poured himself into his performance, always engaging, energetic and just blow-your-mind excellent.
Patrick’s performance was followed by Mikey Maybe‘s rap show. Mikey raps on the same label as the Joe “The Joe” Gurba, Old Ugly Recordings. He was a great showman, and had the crowd laughing along with him, even when he had to restart a few of his songs. You can check Mikey’s performance, and most of the other peoples’ as well, on the Words With Friends YouTube Channel.
Our final stop was Audrey’s Books on 107 Street and Jasper Avenue. Open especially for WordCrawl, this final destination — before everyone was dropped off back at Bohemia — featured local writers and poets Jannie Edwards, Rebecca Traquair, Kasia Gawlak, and Jason Norman. All three were excellent — I own copies of both Kasia and Jason’s books — and the work they write absolutely comes to life when they read it.
Jason, whose writing I’ve enjoyed since I first saw him at Story Slam about a year ago, had me laughing out loud with this story about Panama (Jason’s book “Americas” contains a story for each country in the Americas, except for Cuba):
For a first-time event, I would absolutely call this a success. It was a great time, with an interesting mix of very engaged people. I followed-up with Jason over email this morning. Here’s what he had to say:
I thought the event couldn’t have gone smoother. Considering we were up against a Black Keys concert on a Saturday night, we did great! All the performers were top drawer. I owe them a lot. With some help from the Edmonton Arts Council and their Micro Grant program, we will definitely break even on the event. […] We never had a number in mind that was important to us. The main thing was that we tried to fill the bus and take those people on a great ride through the city with some wonderful performances mixed in there. I think we’ll definitely do this again. Once or twice a year might be the most we can do though, plus it will help maintain it as a special event that doesn’t come around every month or so. When we do it again it will be bigger and better. We can add more people and some larger venues but still keep things intimate and fun. I’ll also take twice as much time planning it this time so I only get half the anxiety. That math works, right?
Follow “YegWords” on Twitter for updates on the next “Words with Friends” event, and remember to check out the YegWords YouTube channel for a lot of the videos from the inaugural WordCrawl event You can also read Kasia’s event recap on the Words with Friends Website. Congrats to Jason, Kasia and everyone else who helped with this event. It’s great to see the arts community in Edmonton trying to reach people in new and unusual ways.