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Apr 7, 2014

Review of Spoken Word Workshop

Erin Dingle’s Spoken Word Workshop

Review by Caritas Longman 


            Erin Dingle’s spoken word workshop, hosted by LimeLighter, allowed participants an excellent opportunity to learn from one of Calgary’s strongest and most distinct poetic voices. The winner of Calgary’s slam poetry finals for the second year in a row, Erin’s work covers such diverse themes as illness, identity, gender, family, and carbohydrate cravings. Slam is defined as “anything under three minutes, no nudity, no props,” and is generally personal, visceral, and concrete. Audience usually associate slam poetry with emotional intensity, first person point of view, and calls for social action. The performance aspect adds to the emotional impact of the poetry, and slam poems can be especially heartbreaking or hilarious. What sets Erin’s work apart is her ability to work masterfully with each of these diverse modes. Her poems are funny, sad, witty, political, compassionate, and genuinely moving – often all at once. This workshop demonstrated Erin’s awareness of her craft, and allowed her to share these techniques with an appreciative audience.


The workshop provided a diverse range of writers with helpful and supportive advice. Participants varied greatly in age, confidence level, and their amount of experience with writing and with spoken word in particular. Erin began by asking each person their relationship to writing, and used this to structure the workshop around what attendants most wished to know – how to get involved in the slam scene, how to emphasize a poem most effectively, and even how to find the confidence to write. Erin is as open in person as she is in her poetry, and shared her own story of taking a chance on writing after a battle with cancer. Erin was considerate and encouraging while still offering solid and specific guidance for editing one’s work and how to present confidently onstage. Her skill for reading audience mood shows in both her poems and her teaching, as she helped quieter participants to feel comfortable and provided outgoing writers with a positive space in which to share their work and receive helpful feedback. No one was pressured to do anything they were not comfortable with. Erin encouraged everyone to write for their own enjoyment, and anyone who wished to read the writing they produced during the workshop was welcome to do so. These poems spanned an impressive range of themes and emotions, and Erin and workshop participants welcomed each poem with encouragement and constructive feedback.


            Erin was an excellent speaker. The workshop was lively, fun, and intellectually stimulating, never becoming vague or dry. Her advice was both practical and inspirational, as she explained her processes for memorization (writing out poems, recording herself speaking in mp3s format), being productive (a daily writing practice), editing (she related the process to Michelangelo carving away stone to reveal the statue inside, and talked of how she replaces abstracts and adverbs with memorable imagery), and the difficult but rewarding process of creativity in general. To Erin, poetry is a way of “gifting to everyone what you already feel,” and this shows in the passion and honesty she brings to each reading. “Believe your poem,” she said. “Deliver it with the passion you wrote it with… Speaking your own voice and your own truth is what matters.” Like spoken word itself, Erin’s workshop was an open, moving, and liberating examination of creativity.