The news that Canadian poet Sheri-D Wilson is coming to Nanaimo usually leads to one of two reactions: utter excitement at the chance to work with her, or a puzzled look combined with a politely uttered, “who?”
With roots in Calgary, Wilson has taught all across Canada. Her specialty is the “intensive workshop,” usually running multiple days in a row, which gives creators the chance to create, edit, and finalize a piece to perform. She herself has performed countless times in Canada, the USA, England, France, Mexico, Belgium, and South Africa. With works of theatre, music, literature, and dance, Wilson uses any medium necessary to give life to her projects—whether a spontaneously improvised dance show, or her activism for women’s rights and environmentalism.
Wilson accredits her focus on activism through the arts to the beat poets of the 1960s, whose movement explored and focused on the change that spoken word and poetry could bring about. With that inspiration and motivation, Wilson has created pieces such as “OPEN LETTER: Woman Against Violence Against Women,” an improvised poetry collection that focuses on the violence experienced against women. Not one to shy away from trying new things, Wilson also published Canada’s first poetry collection that used QR codes in poems to add video, music, and speeches. That book, Goddess Gone Fishing for a Map of the Universe, was shortlisted for the CanLit Award.
Wilson also understands that the future of Canadian literature lies in youth and community. With that drive, she has founded the Calgary Spoken Word Festival, the Banff Centre Spoken Word Program, was a cofounder for the Vancouver Small Press Festival and the Commercial Street Art Festival, and was editor for The Spoken Word Workbook: Inspiration from Poets who Teach. With sections written by Shane Koyczan, Louise Bernice Halfe, Hilary Peach, and other Canadian and American spoken word artists, it is hailed as the go-to book for those who have questions on what slam poetry actually is.
As one explores more and more of what Wilson has contributed to the arts community in Canada, to the spoken word community across the world, and the learning opportunities she strives to create for others, it’s easy to see why she continues to be a sought-out voice. As the participants of Calgary Spoken Word Festival would say, “all hail Mama of Dada.”
Sheri-D Wilson will be at the VIU Nanaimo campus in bldg. 356, rm 109, February 24 from 7-10 pm. Information and tickets ($10 each) are available at <www.brownpapertickets.com>. A workshop event will be held before that time, but is currently at waitlist capacity.