The past and present are full of many great literary poets, but has one ever stopped to think about how these individuals got their start? Robert Frost, Margaret Attwood, and Shel Silverstein had their first pieces published in a high school magazine. On the contrary, modern day poets and spoken word artists such as Shane Koyczan had to prove oneself on the stage. Koyczan reached stardom after becoming the first Canadian to win the individual championship title at the National Poetry Slam.

The Mahtay Cafe in downtown St. Catharines is proud to host Poetry Slam, an evening of spoken word where artists showcase their talent in a supportive environment.

“The slam is a safe space to allow performers of all types to feel comfortable,”

Says Chris Lowes, owner of the Cafe. The recently expanded cafe offers a welcoming, community, and fair trade approach to food, drink, and fun.   

Established in 2013, the monthly event is open to all types of participants and all styles of poetry, “Performers of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and religions are welcome,” states Lowes.

The structure of the event allows for a unique variety of competitive and noncompetitive categories “There is an open mic poetry style to start off the night, where poetry of all styles are read,” explains Lowes. “In the actual slam the poetry is original. The open mic portion has no such rule.”

“In the competition portion of the poetry slam, each poem is supposed to be no more than three minutes and ten seconds,” explains Lowes. “If you move on to the next round you perform another original piece of poetry.”

Since the structure of the program is an open concept, there is no set amount of performers. “It can vary from four to fourteen,” says Lowes. “They come from all over, mainly drawing from Southern Ontario and Western New York. However, featured performers have come from across North America,” says Lowes.

Poetry Slam at the Mahtay Cafe is paving the way for the next generation of poets by showcasing their talents. For more information stop by the Mahtay Cafe on the first Friday of each month or visit 

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