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Is Love Present in Your Poem? And Other Questions For Poets

Nasra Adem was among the poets who attended the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word 2016. She competed in the Last Chance Slam to earn a spot on the Wildcard Team, which qualified for the semifinals. The following questions stem from her experience at CFSW this year.

  1. Is love present in your poem?
  2. If you are choosing to speak aloud, the poem is no longer for you. Who are you speaking to? Who is in the room?
  3. Have you created space for joy? For breath?
  4. In speaking of your trauma are you further traumatizing someone else?
  5. Who is afforded the privilege of trigger warnings? Who are you asking to make room for your feelings? Are you doing the same?
  6. If the poems are prayers, who besides yourself are you praying for?
  7. In what ways do our responsibilities as poets intersect with our responsibilities as humans? As craftspeople?
  8. How often and readily and urgently are we thinking about accessibility in these spaces?
  9. How deeply does our respect and consciousness of the stolen land we reside on seep into our poems?
  10. What does this acknowledgment look and feel and sound like in our bodies? In the way we share ourselves?
  11. Elders, how do you pass on your gifts without extinguishing your fire?
  12. New/younger poets, how are you taking care of your coaches/elders? Are you willing to learn how to hold them? You may need them, but they are human and imperfect and exhausted. Step up. Grow up. Share the load.
  13. How do we continue towards creating “safer spaces” while understanding this world may not ever be safe for some of us?
  14. When we ultimately fuck up, bad, who is there to call us in and help us grow? Are we open to this? Like for real?
  15. Can we agree to do better for each other? And the poetry?

What other questions do you ask yourself as an artist? As a community member? Comment with your thoughts below!

Nasra Adem is Edmonton’s current Youth Poet Laureate and Artistic Associate for Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre. Find more of Nasra’s thoughts and poems at

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