Axel Jay isn’t lost.
The Nelson poet is in her early twenties, and still isn’t quite sure what she’s going to do with her life — but she’s getting more comfortable with that. And in her chapbook Not Lost, she explores her experiences as a queer femme poet who “spends a lot of time staring at the sky”.
“I want to write a poem about how to adult, but this poem is really about how not to fall apart when you come of age in a capitalist patriarchy,” Jay writes in her poem “Self Portrait”, which she shared with the audience gathered at John Ward Coffee for the monthly poetry slam on Sunday evening.
“So this is a poem about falling apart with grace.”
Much of Jay’s work is intensely personal, exploring subjects as diverse as sexual longing, environmentalism and forest fires. And during the evening she was joined by fellow poets who bared their souls and shared their words, including the night’s winners Ellen Burt, Laforge and Dazza.
Jay loves the Nelson poetry scene’s unique vibe.
“I find that Nelson isn’t constrained by the same conventions. In general slam culture, it can be pretty homogenous. Poets see things that score well and they try to duplicate that, whereas here people are pretty much doing their own thing,” she told the Star.
The end result: “I always leave wanting to write a million poems.”
“There’s people who are traditionally writing for the page, and sharing their work out loud, but then you have hip hop-inspired rap-style slam and everything in between. And everyone is inspired by each other.”
The night was hosted by Kelsey Kliparchuk, and judges from the audience were given the opportunity to rate the performers out of 10 on small chalkboards. And though there’s a small cash prize for the top three competitors, the vibe is meant to be inclusive and non-competitive.
“It’s about the poetry, not the points,” said Kliparchuk.
Some of the topics broached on Sunday included suicide, substance abuse, aging and — of course — Donald Trump. Local poet Douglas Wilton encouraged the audience to practice selflessness and to turn their minds away from “the unholy trinity of I, me and mine.”
“We’re all here to connect with the life force beneath all this concrete,” said Kliparchuck, encouraging those who hadn’t yet performed to consider taking the stage next time. She thanked all the contributors, including Annie Valentine, Kelly Farrell, Becca Jean and Andrew McGregor, for their words.
“We’re here to celebrate each other.”
At the end of Jay’s poem “Self Portrait”, she expresses hope that “one day I will wake up and want to be awake”, telling herself “it is okay to do nothing, that I am not defined by the things I produce.”
“This isn’t a fairytale, it is a series of hoped truths I have been repeating, and it is making up my life.”