A TOAST to 4 years

Phog Lounge, February 21, 2017

Windsor celebrated four years of bar-packed poetry last Tuesday and I couldn’t have picked a better time to visit.

I had lived Windsor for six years before I moved to Ottawa. TOAST, a monthly open-mic poetry night held in Windsor’s Phog Lounge, was a large piece of the community I fit into just south of Detroit.

And while giving anyone the ability to jump on stage, grab a mic, and spill their words to an audience is empowering—every month it completely fills a bar with people happy to hear poetry, to be inspired by the art of spoken word.

Again, this is a bar, on a Tuesday, in Windsor—much larger cities struggle to find such an appetite for poetry.

Benny Alexander reading at TOAST
Benny Alexander, TOAST host, reads at the TOAST birthday bash.

I remember attending Toast years ago in 2012, before Benny Alexander jumped in to host. I was a shy, second-year undergraduate at the time and even apologized at the time for reading—which you should never do. That was before I was able to drop some poems on a whim about my love of umbrellas and boots.

But then the dark days kicked in when the previous hosting party left town and TOAST crumbled. It wasn’t until 2013 that Benny fired it up again. And he has kept it going as a monthly shindig for a 4 full years. This is where I developed my speaking voice, my ability to stand in front of a crowd and sway them to be just as invested in my work as I am.

TOAST fourth year anniversary cupcake.
Delicious cupcakes were handed out at TOAST’s birthday bash.

Then, in 2015, Windsor received a new addition to the Phog poetry scene: the Windsor Poetry Slam. It was like an injection of adrenaline into the TOAST poetry crew and vice-versa. Originally, the slam was hosted on Wednesdays following TOAST and it was an eventful week of poetry—the TOAST crew flooded into the slam event, tasting the waters of this newish poetry competition. Then the slam started bringing out people just for the slam. Then the slam people started going to TOAST.

There was a lot of poetry. And it was awesome. But over time, having two poetry events side-by-side at a single venue—with alcohol—became exhausting.

But then the slam moved to a Tuesday, generally the week following TOAST. And now we’re only left with two weeks a month of the cold abyss of not having Phog poetry. And it’s bearable because for those two weeks that Windsor gets rowdy with their poetry, it’s magical. Because Windsor poets spit fire.

And I’ll TOAST to that.

P.S. The Windsor Poetry Slam is tonight (Feb. 28), 8 p.m. at Phog

by Jay Rankin

Follow Jay on Twitter: @_jay_rankin 

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