November 12, 2018

Winnipeg
-11° C, Light snow

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

Aging, bald rap fan battles slam-poet stereotypes in doc

Ian French, a.k.a. IF the Poet, onstage.

CBC

Ian French, a.k.a. IF the Poet, onstage.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/11/2015 (1098 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Middle-aged. Middle-class. White, bald, gainfully employed, happily married, proudly parental.

These aren't the attributes one would expect to attach to a slam-poetry performer whose work is fuelled by outrage at life's injustices. But in the case of Ian French, the subject of the new documentary IF the Poet, the idyllic day-to-day reality and the artistic onstage anger have found a way to fruitfully coexist.

IF the Poet, which was written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Kim Saltarski, offers a fascinating look inside the competitive world of slam poetry as it follows French, a 52-year-old Torontonian who has little in common with the art form's mostly young and often disenfranchised practitioners, as he rants and rhymes his way to the world championship of slam poetry.

The film, which has its TV première Thursday at 9 p.m. as part of CBC's new Firsthand documentary collection, opens with French expressing concern his relatively favourable position on the demographic hierarchy will lead to instant dismissal by the slam poets whose company he seeks to share.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/11/2015 (1098 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Middle-aged. Middle-class. White, bald, gainfully employed, happily married, proudly parental.

These aren't the attributes one would expect to attach to a slam-poetry performer whose work is fuelled by outrage at life's injustices. But in the case of Ian French, the subject of the new documentary IF the Poet, the idyllic day-to-day reality and the artistic onstage anger have found a way to fruitfully coexist.

IF the Poet, which was written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Kim Saltarski, offers a fascinating look inside the competitive world of slam poetry as it follows French, a 52-year-old Torontonian who has little in common with the art form's mostly young and often disenfranchised practitioners, as he rants and rhymes his way to the world championship of slam poetry.

The film, which has its TV première Thursday at 9 p.m. as part of CBC's new Firsthand documentary collection, opens with French expressing concern his relatively favourable position on the demographic hierarchy will lead to instant dismissal by the slam poets whose company he seeks to share.

French explains his unlikely journey into the slam-poetry world, which began with his teenage interest in writing and singing songs on his guitar and then shifted toward spoken-word expression when his son grew up and took an interest in hip-hop culture.

French describes his introduction to rap, motivated at first by a simple desire to understand his teenage son's inclination and perhaps cultivate a shared interest, as transformative; intrigued by the power of hip-hop lyrics, he began writing his own raps, but abandoned the effort after attempting to perform them and realizing he was a flat-out terrible rapper.

But then, quite by chance, French discovered slam poetry, which offered a free-form opportunity to express all the ideas his hip-hop dalliance had set spinning inside his head. His early concerns about not fitting in were quickly laid to rest; French had found his niche, and three years after entering his first slam-poetry competition, he qualified for the national championship in Vancouver.

French rehearses in a Paris cemetery, preparing for the World Cup of Slam Poetry.

CBC

French rehearses in a Paris cemetery, preparing for the World Cup of Slam Poetry.

Saltarski's camera accompanies French — who performs under the moniker IF the Poet — as he prepares for his big trip to the West Coast. In the weeks leading up to the contest, he meets regularly with former slam-poetry world champion Ian Keteku, who has become a friend, mentor and coach.

"IF is unique due to the fact he's not apologetic about who he is," says Keteku. "He's over 50, he's a father, he has a partner, he's a white guy with no hair. He believes in love as the paramount thing that will get us out of anything, and there's an eternal joy that he has about going about his life, which I've never seen before.

"He works the hardest that I've ever seen a poet work."

Indeed, poetry as performance art has become an all-consuming passion for French — while at home in Toronto, he walks to and from work each day, a stroll that takes an hour and 10 minutes, and spends the time creating, reciting and memorizing the poems he takes to the competition stage.

His range of subjects is wide, from surviving an ADHD-fuelled adolescence to trying to protect his son in a city where cops shoot teenagers in the street. The precision with which he prepares his performances is impressive to behold.

"At the end of the day," says French, "I write because there's something I want to say."

If you're inclined to think of poetry as a quaint reminder of a mostly forgotten literary past, IF the Poet will shake up your understanding of verse and meter and show you how, in one heated corner of the arts world, poetry is alive and well and angry and, in its most intensely competitive moments, maybe the most relevant thing in the entire universe.

And when that's true, IF proves he's a whole lot more than a middle-aged, middle-income, bald white guy with a job, a mortgage and a life that might be the target of those other, younger poets' wrath.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us